Tattoos have always been a way for people to express themselves, and gang tattoos are no different. Members of certain criminal gangs and mafia, both in and out of prison, are notorious for having tattoos with meanings relating to them. Often they have symbols that are intricate and well-thought-out. Whether that is to represent their lifestyle, what they have done or their ranking within their specific gang.
Gang tattoos are an important part of gang culture. They signify loyalty, strength, and unity. Some gangs will even use ink to mark their territory or claim new turf by marking up surfaces with graffiti—words or pictures spray painted onto walls or buildings that only those in the know can understand. Gang tattoos are usually easy to recognise because they’re typically large and elaborate, sometimes with multiple colours.
Many criminal groups however are secretive about their markings, especially when it comes to rival gangs identifying them. That is why they sometimes replace individual letters in a word with the letter’s number in the alphabet. Here are some of the most famous criminal tattoos that you might recognise-
Five dots tattoos signify a group of friends and the protection that comes with being in a gang. This symbol originates from Vietnam and is usually associated with gang members of the Bloods, gangster disciples and asian triads. Commonly found on hands, the five dots can also represent time served in prison.
The number 13—the letter “C” with three lines through it
This is often associated with the Crips gang. The Crips commonly use code in a lot of their tattoos. This symbol is usually found on clothing, jewellery, or tattoos. In other contexts of prison gang culture, this number may represent rebellion or free will.
The number 941—a stylized “U” with three dots above it
This is most commonly used by the Bloods gang; however, it can also be found on other gangs’ clothing and jewellery as an indicator of affiliation with that particular gang.
A pointed crown with five points
Usually used by the Latin Kings gang, the pointed crown tattoos represent Latin King philosophy to symbolise the meanings of the five points- love, respect, sacrifice, honour and obedience. Many members also have the letters ‘ALKN’ (Almighty Latin Kings Nation) tattooed nearby to show their alliance with the gang.
This is another common symbol used by many gangs throughout history. It represents death and destruction but also rebirth after death. Skulls can represent power over others or self-sacrifice in order to protect those you care about most deeply.
Skull tattoos are extremely popular amongst biker gangs. Although there are different meanings attached, the majority get a skill tattoo to show that they are willing to live dangerously.
A spider web tattoo can mean many different things depending on the context in which it is worn. It can represent being trapped within a gang and its culture. However, spider web tattoos also link to prison tattoos and the notion of being caught for their crimes and their time spent in prison.
If you are getting a gang inspired tattoo
It is important to research meanings of tattoos before you get one and although you’re not part of a gang , you may want to get a tattoo in the style of gang art or incorporate elements into your tattoos. If you don’t want the pain that comes with getting a tattoo, using Official TKTX numbing cream is an ideal solution. For a strong deep numb, we recommend using the Yellow TKTX cream.
The cream penetrates deep into the skin to manipulate the nerve endings and blood vessels. We advise applying the cream in advance as it takes 1.5-2 hours to numb. Once applied following the instructions on the application leaflet, the affected area should be numbed for between 3-5 hours.