Do you ever find yourself looking at your tattoos in the mirror as you're getting ready for a date? You wonder if she'll like what she sees. You'd date someone with tats, but will she?
Or perhaps you're considering getting a tattoo and you want to know whether women find them attractive.
In this article, I answer the questions:
- Are tattoos attractive on men?
- What tattoo designs do women love?
- What is the best placement for a tattoo?
- Experiment: how women perceive men with tattoos
Are Tattoos Attractive On Men? – The Research
According to a Polish study published in the Personality and Individual Differences journal, women don’t find tattooed men more (or less) attractive. They do think men with tattoos are healthier, more masculine, dominant, and aggressive, but that they make worse partners and parents.
MEN think tattooed men look more attractive to women, and also more masculine, dominant, and aggressive. The study hypothesized that this was because braving the physical cost of getting a tattoo signaled higher testosterone.
What's the takeaway, are tattoos attractive on men?
While a tattoo may get you more respect from other men, it tends to tell women you’re more fling material than husband material. We'll leave you to decide for yourself whether that’s a good thing.
What Tattoos Women Find Sexy On Men
A few years ago, women in a small survey by GQ magazine ranked male tattoos from the biggest turn-on to the biggest turn-OFF. Here are the results:
#1 Minimalist tattoos
These are usually small with just a few crisp lines, often in plain black. When deciding on yours, consider the size of the pattern on a tacky novelty tie vs. one you’d wear on a date.
The same principle applies when the pattern’s on your skin. In other words, keep it small and subtle. An understated tattoo also reassures her that you’re not compensating for anything.
#2 Foreign language tattoos
Only get this tattoo in language that you actually speak. Steer clear of any kanji characters unless you know SIGNIFICANTLY more Japanese than ‘kawaii desu’.
#3 Fierce animal tattoos
Signals power, aggression, and the possibility that you’re a tiger in the bedroom.
#4 Men's bird tattoos
Suggest a free and aspiring spirit. Nautical swallows can also symbolize love and loyalty or a successful voyage since they always return home.
#5 Nautical anchor tattoos
Represents what (or who) keeps you steady and grounded. Can be a subtle statement of Christian faith, or simply remind her of rugged, sex-hungry sailors.
#6 Tattoos of skulls
Reminders of death: not a good choice unless you're John Donne.
#7 Flower tattoos on men
Doesn't look very masculine. Why not just buy flowers for her instead? Women genuinely love flowers.
#8 Sexy lady tattoos
Not sexy to a real lady.
#9 Tattoos of a dagger
Maybe it makes her worry that you’d hurt her, maybe it’s just cheesy.
#10 Mom heart tattoos
Respecting your mom is attractive. Implying that she’ll always be the number 1 lady in your life is NOT.
Best Tattoo Placements For Men
These are the results of the GQ survey from best to worst. Note that some of these, e.g. those visible when you're wearing business attire, are more office-appropriate than others.
#1 Men's forearm tattoos
Some ladies specified the underside. A safe bet if you don't plan on wearing short sleeves at work.
#2 Full-sleeve arm tattoos
Tattoos of this size are a big commitment, and not one to make just because a survey says they're sexy.
#3 Male back tattoos
These are acceptable with one caveat: “Just not wings. Never get wings on your back. You are not an angel or a bird.”
#4 Underside of wrist tattoos
These can be very visible when you want them to be, and easily covered with a bracelet or watch when you don’t. Go for the wrist you wear your watch on if you don’t want to get stuck wearing a bracelet. Go for the opposite wrist if you want to show off your tat and your watch at the same time.
#5 Men's chest tattoos
Go for the upper chest – not too close to the belly.
#6 Tattoos on knuckles
A terrible idea if you want the option of hiding them.
#7 Ankle tattoos on men
A bit too dainty.
#8 Back-of-calf tattoos
Women tend to like male tattoo placements that highlight your strength. Most of your extra muscle is in the upper body, so inked legs are less impressive.
#9 Full leg tattoos
Designs she has to peer at through a forest of leg hair aren't too impressive either.
#10 Male belly tattoos
Even if you have washboard abs now, please do your older self a favor and skip this one.
Summary – Are Tattoos Attractive On Men?
The tattoo research this article is grounded in shows there's more to this than first meets the eye. In my opinion, the best tattoo for the stylish professional man is a minimalist tattoo on your back (if you want to look more attractive to women you know well) or inside wrist (if you want to display it to rivals and potential dates.)
Why not double up the sex appeal? Some of the other tattoos that were highly rated by women would also work well as minimalist tattoos: a foreign language you speak, birds, anchors.
For something unique, why not invent your own symbol to represent the things, people, or values that are most important to you. Be ready to answer questions about it if anyone asks, but don't be afraid to. Bonus: Good-looking tattoos make great conversation starters, so yours might help you break the ice in social situations if you're a bit shy.
Experiment: How Women Perceive Men with Tattoos
Q: I’m thinking about getting a tattoo. Will women find me more attractive?
A: There’s a lot of individual differences of course, but there’s evidence that, overall, women will not find you more attractive with a tattoo. Additionally, women find men with tattoos to be healthier, more masculine, dominant, and aggressive, but as worse partners and parents. The researchers also found that tattoos are also about competition to other men – men rated men with tattoos as more attractive to women.
- A Polish study published in the journal Personality and Individual Differences sought to examine whether tattoos made men attractive to women, and how tattoos shaped how men are perceived by other men.
- Being an attractive man isn’t just about appearing attractive to women. You’re also competing with a field of other men. This study sought to see how tattoos influenced both sides of this competition.
- The researchers wanted to make sure to control for the possibility of a wide variety of influences of attractiveness, so they took photographs of nine shirtless, non-tattooed men from the waist up.
- The average age of the models was 25.
- Lighting and background were the same.
- The men had a neutral facial expression.
- Then, the researchers digitally altered the photographs to create a tattooed version, and the regular (natural) version.
- The tattoo was a black, abstract design on the upper right arm.
- The photographs were shown to a group of 2369 heterosexual women and 215 heterosexual men.
- Each participant viewed each of the 9 models once, randomly, with or without a tattoo.
- The raters were asked to rate the photographs on the following characteristics:
Good potential partner
Good potential father
- Women rated the tattooed men as:
- More aggressive
- More dominant
- More masculine
- Worse potential partners
- Worse potential fathers
- Men rated the tattooed men as:
- More attractive
- More masculine
- More dominant
- More aggressive
- What’s the take away from this study?
- Having a tattoo isn’t just about being attractive to women. It’s also a signal to other males.
- Tattoos didn’t affect whether a woman thought a man was attractive.
- However, it caused a man to appear more attractive to his (male) competition.
- If you’re thinking about getting a tattoo to send a signal, you’ll be telling women that you’re healthier, more dominant, aggressive, and masculine, but not really the partner/father type.
- On the other hand, tattoos send a message to other men that you’re attractive, dominant, masculine, and aggressive – it’s telling them, in a sense, to “back off” and that you’re in charge.
- Men also didn’t seem interested in whether the tattoos made a person a better father or partner (the tattoos didn’t influence the ratings on these for men)
- The researchers also sought to explain why tattoos signaled these things.
- They hypothesized that tattoos are a signal of higher levels of testosterone. Since there is a physical cost to getting a tattoo, and testosterone somewhat suppresses the immune system, individuals with healthier immune systems get a tattoo.
- This explains why tattoos signal dominance, aggression, health, and masculinity (it’s all about testosterone).
- Should you get a tattoo then? It’s all about what signal you’re trying to send!
Galbarczyk, A., & Ziomkiewicz, A. (2017). Tattooed men: Healthy bad boys and good-looking competitors. Personality and Individual Differences, 106, 122-125. Link: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S019188691631087X
Click below to watch the video – Are Tattoos Really Attractive?