The History of Tribal Armband Tattoos

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The History of Tribal Armband Tattoos
Modern tribal armband tattoos rose in popularity in the 1990s. (fist over wrist tattoo of Greek key pattern image by nextrecord from

Armband tattoos have grown in popularity due to their stark expressiveness and ease of hiding under a shirt sleeve. Tribal tattoos exist in many cultures, and these bold designs are easy to fit to individual style.

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For thousands of years, tribal armband tattoos have been used for a variety of cultural reasons. They frequently signified the wearer's relationship with his god. In many tribes, armband tattoos were used as a rite of passage. Armband tattoos were often used as a means of tribal identification or an indicator of social status.


Tribes whose tattoos influence modern tribal body art include the Borneo and Haida tribes, Native Americans, Celtic and Maori tribes. Polynesian influence is heavy in tribal armband tattoo design.


Historically, these tattoos were administered through primitive methods, such as bone needles used to apply plant or animal dye. Today, many opt for the more sterile tattoo gun in a hygienic parlour; but there are still those who prefer to have their tribal artwork done in more traditional ways, considering it an integral part of the process.


Tribal artwork works particularly well for armband tattoos given its bold, interlocking design. The use of black ink also means that the colour is not as likely to fade. Individual style is also easier with the more free form tribal design.


Because of the boldness of the design and the stark, black colour it can be harder to remove or cover a tribal armband tattoo. There are also some tribes that associate their identity so closely with the design that removing it could be considered an insult.

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