With tattoos, you can get creative and self-expressive really easily. But sometimes, your lifestyle doesn't match up to the level of boldness you want to reach with your ink design. Whether it's because of your workplace, your family, or something else, sometimes more understated tattoos can be better. But, when searching for
subtle tattoo ideas, it's still important to find a design that means something to you. And it's not impossible.
What it means to get something meaningful is up to you, but a variety of artists all over the world are
creating beautiful ink that for an increasingly tattoo-friendly world. So whether you want to honor a loved one, a memory, or a belief you hold dear, it's now totally possible to get a tattoo that honors that thought and can stay appropriate across social settings.
Any criticism of tattoos as a whole both polices bodily autonomy and minimizes the hard work and artistry that tattoo artists put in. These meaningful tattoos can, and should, be worn with pride. Remember: these are all hard-working artists with original designs. So if anything in particular strikes your fancy, keep that in mind. That being said, enjoy some inspiration.
Here are 12 meaningful tattoos that can make a statement, regardless of the social setting.
1 Be Overtly Feminist
a femme with a message, this one's for you. This little message is small enough and in a good enough spot to be covered if necessary, but it's also got the kind of vibe that can start a conversation at the beach or at a pool party. Plus, how unreal will this look as you get older, rocking that divine feminine in the later stages of your life? 2 Get Nature-Inspired
It's hard to argue with something that looks like a beautiful pen-and-ink doodle. Plus, there's a lovely meaning in having a little cactus to protect you and always be by your side. For practical reasons, the location on the back of your ankle makes this little succulent look like it's growing out of the earth beneath you. While
easy to hide with socks and shoes, it's also unlikely to get you booted from even the most buttoned-up job interview. 3 Do Something Small & Simple
A rose and it's thorns can signify a lot of things to a lot of different people. And, for a tattoo, the beauty in that is that it can mean something very specific to you, but people likely won't pester you (as much) about what it means.
Plus, this rose's location is particularly suitable for a variety of occasions, because it sits on an often-overlooked part of your back.
4 Make A Personal Tribute
hand-poked piece can inspire all sorts of different meaningful insignia. But the idea of getting a heart with a letter in it comes from one specific place: it doesn't draw too much attention (which is appropriate if that's what you're going for), but it can be of deep personal value. Whether it's your initial, or someone else's, or both, a little letter on your ankle is a good bet for someone looking for something subtle but meaningful. 5 Design A Hidden Gem
Behind your ear, you can tattoo almost anything you want, and still be able to navigate all sorts of social situations. This little script-and-sunflower piece tells a story for its owner, while staying subtle and gentle.
In a setting where you really want it hidden, you can likely cover a little behind-the-ear flower with your hair if it's longer. But if you're ready to display it for a while, you can make it stand out by getting an
undercut. It's a win-win, really. 6 Be Hard To Argue With
Honestly, if anyone is offended by this tattoo, that's on them. Everyone needs more self love, and the handwriting-like script is a great way to make the tattoo appear even more casual.
Plus (and this will be a theme), a tattoo by the elbow is a great midway point between one you can keep pretty hidden, and one that's always on display.
7 Make A Subtle Activist Nod
A little equals sign is a great way to represent your fight for equality without inadvertently creating a constant conversation-starter with everyone you meet. Some people might think it's just two decorative lines, but you'll know it means much, much more.
And the finger tattoo is both trendy and practical. It's one of the harder places to cover up with makeup (because of sweat and hand-washing), but it's easy enough to keep out of view if you want to.
8 Use A Loved One's Handwriting
For this tattoo, the artist drew in the signature of the client's grandmother, who had recently passed away. Every letter she'd sent her granddaughter had ended with this signature, and it looks absolutely beautiful on the skin.
Your meaningful relationships, and grandmother's handwriting, will likely vary from this, but the idea of getting a loved one's sentiments as a tattoo is really sweet. Bonus points: this little spot near the under arm is great for covering up when you need to.
9 Make It A Nod At A Deeper Meaning
The combination of a simple letter and the inner-elbow location is a sure-fire hit when it comes to getting something both meaningful and appropriate for all occasions.
So whether M means "mom," "moon," or "move on, your ex is a jerk," you can keep it with you forever. Or, if you are feeling cheeky, you can spell a word out by tattooing little letters on different places around you body.
10 Nod To Your Love Of Travel
This is one of the bolder of the potential options, but it's still pretty innocuous. It doesn't matter whether the airplane indicates places you have been, or places you want to go, but the little design with it's dotted trail is gorgeous.
Airplanes themselves aren't that glamorous at all, but the ideas of traveling, leaving home, or changing for the better, are all really valuable.
11 Keep A Nice Reminder On Your Sleeve
In an ideal world, everyone would carry the message of peace with them. But it's our world, and maybe it's just up to you. With this tattoo, it's your job to walk the walk, but you should find no shame displaying your ink. Truly, who would complain about "peace?" Likely not someone you'd want to be around.
12 Decorate With A Beautiful Memory
When it comes to searching
meaningful tattoos, oftentimes lettering completely outshines any illustration or imagery. But if you think hard enough, you can surely find an image in your mind that means something to you.
For this person, it was a mountain range. For you it might be a childhood home, a favorite tree, or something else. But those are all things that you can carry with you across contexts, without creating too much of a stir, and always keeping the meaning by your side.
Regardless of what others think of tattoos, it's your choice what you do with your body. If you really want to get inked, but also know that the people and places around you aren't always understanding, there is the option of a middle ground. Let your imagination run free.