Knuckle Tattoos

One of the oldest and most widely prejudiced against tattoos ever, has to be the old fashioned knuckle tattoos which are now making something of a comeback with a fresh and more modern attitude. You have no doubt seen the words “love” and “hate” tattooed across the knuckles of someone’s hands many times before as it used to be a relatively common placement for a fairly common phrase. However, in decades past this type of body art was often associated with street gangs and the criminal fraternity so it often had very negative connotations. These allowed for eight characters, one on each of the fingers of the hands, excluding the thumbs, which generally comprised of two four letter words expressing some sentiment that the wearer represented his philosophical take on life.

It is believed that merchant sailors may have tattooed the words “hold” and “fast” on their knuckles as a charm against being swept overboard, but it is unknown how far back this practice started. Some evidence suggest it may have begun as far back as the 17th century, while there are also claims it originated during the first or second World war.  In our modern society there is a new fad for tattoos that use words instead of images so this may be in part why knuckle tattoos are seeing a revival although many designs recently only use the knuckles on one had rather than both. This helps eliminate past prejudices and the words used tend to be more positive and inspirational than those depicted in the older versions. These may also include names or initials, of one’s partner or children however if you like the idea of the former make sure your relationship is set to last as you do not want a permanent reminder in such a permanent place if it goes wrong!

In the mid fifties there was a popular film noir named The Night of the Hunter which starred Robert Mitchum, a popular movie star at the time. His character had the words “love” and “hate” tattooed on the knuckles, which started a trend in the latter half of the 20th century. Celebrities are usually among the first to get in on the latest tattooing trend and singer Robbie Williams and rocker Ozzy Osbourne both sport knuckle tattoos as do many others. Robbie’s quite simply says LOVE while Ozzy’s is his name. Others choose to use the eight characters over both hands so that when joined it reads as one word. Popular examples of this nature include: reckless, careless, infinite, obsessed and goodness. Favourite four letter words now include the likes of Game Over, Baby Doll, and Head Case as well as more positive pairings such as Live Life, True Love and Stay Cool.