These Are Our Favorite Tattoo Stories, Just In Case You Need Some Inspiration
Tattoos can be a very personal thing. Sometimes there's a hilarious (and deeply embarrassing) story about a late-night stint involving alcohol. Then there are those really touching tales representative of tear-jerking experiences. Finally, there are the in-between ones that make you smile and feel completely inspired to be a better person (#namaste). You'll find a little bit of everything below (and even a few tattoo tips) when 20 women revealed their ink and the awesome stories behind them. There's a hodgepodge of examples below, from Harry Potter fandom to a Steve Jobs quote. The good news is that most of these tattoos are office-appropriate. The bad news? You'll be running out ASAP to get a brand of your own. Make sure to also check out these celebrity tattoos before you head to the nearest parlor.
"Love Who You Are"
Location: Left side of back
The story: I have a vintage dress-form mannequin with Edgar Allan Poe's handwriting along the side, which reads, "Love who you are." I got it for a few reasons: because I love fashion/design and wanted to commemorate it, as an ode to one of my favorite literary time periods/authors, and as a reminder never to change myself as a way of keeping up with (or attempting to please) other people.
— Brinton Parker, editorial assistant
Location: Inner right ankle
The story: When I was 9 months old, I swallowed an open safety pin. My parents took me to the hospital because I wouldn't eat, and the doctors put an IV in my ankle (not in my arm, because a confused baby would rip that out). They thought that they would have to do surgery. Thankfully, they brainstormed a genius solution: they stuck a very strong magnet down my throat and used it to close the safety pin and pull it out. I always thought it was cool that the IV scar grew in proportion to my body, so I got the tattoo right above the scar.
— Nancy Einhart, executive editor
"Love Always, Your Friend"
Location: Inner left arm
The story: It's my only tattoo, and it says, "love always, your friend." It's a sentiment from a book that my wife and I read together before we were married, while we were dating long distance. It's about two friends (and later spouses) who write each other letters over the course of 20 years, hence the sign-off.
— Emelie Burnette, copy editor
Location: Upper left shoulder
The story: This tattoo is based on a wooden carving of an owl that my grandmother gave me from her collection of owls, which she began as a girl. When she passed away, I got this on my back, and I have continued adding owls to the collection she started!
— Hilary White, editorial assistant
"Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish."
Location: Upper back
The story: I got this tattoo on my 21st birthday (coincidentally it's also 21 letters!), and the quote is taken from Steve Jobs's 2005 commencement speech to Stanford. As a college student, I could really relate to everything he said, and the meaning behind his speech is universal. The phrase "Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish." has become my personal philosophy because it reminds me to always have a burning passion for the things I do in life and to never lose that youthful spontaneity.
— Marina Liao, editorial intern
Location: Inner forearm
The story: My older brother passed away about six years ago, so I got this tattoo as a way to remember him. The circle shape in the middle of the cross is divided into eight segments representing my parents, my older brother's family, and my younger brother's family — all the people closest to me. The center of the circle represents my older brother.
— Jeff Williams, designer
Location: Inside wrist
The story: I have my family's initials tattooed on the inside of my wrist. I wanted my first tattoo to be meaningful and in a size and location that could easily be covered up. My mom was majorly against me getting any tattoos, but even she teared up a little when she saw it (I'm telling myself they were happy tears). My younger sister got the same tattoo on her leg, and a few years ago, my dad got it on his back. Eight years later and I still get a kick out of drunk guys in bars asking me if I'm a Gemini.
— Mary White, copy chief
A Budding Bloom
Location: Upper right shoulder
The story: This chrysanthemum tattoo was inspired by the lyrics of Arthur Russell's song "Oh Fernanda Why." He sings, "I stood in the grass in my shoes/Like a foreigner/In the nature I loved/It's so, so hard to tell/If it's really, really true."
— Marisa Lehnert, design director
"Love Will Thaw"
Location: Ribs, right side
The story: I'm very close with my younger sister, and I've always wanted a tattoo that suggested our friendship is stronger than a romantic bond could ever be. When we watched Disney's Frozen together for the first time and came to the scene where Elsa realizes her own embrace will thaw her sister's frozen body (instead of a kiss from Anna's love interest, Kristoff), she says, "Love will thaw." Instantly, we knew how meaningful those three words were to our own relationship.
— Sarah Wasilak, fashion editorial assistant
Location: Inner arm
The story: I really like to knit. I think I found the design on a Pin or something. I got it done by an apprentice at a random shop that I walked into in Huntington Beach, CA. Now I know better about getting tattoos — be really wary of places with a lot of walk-ins, and don't use an apprentice unless you have seen their work. Most good tattoo artists have a waiting list that is at least a few weeks long and will work with you to make the perfect tattoo. Yes, tattoos from apprentices are supercheap, but this is something that will be on your body forever!
— Maria Mercedes Lara, entertainment associate editor
Location: Right outer forearm
The story: I love to paint, write, and draw, and my tattoo is a reminder that turning to these forms of expression is the best way for me to feel centered and at peace. The design has three triangles pointing into my right hand, which is what I use to create. The three triangles are glyphs, and each have a different meaning — create, express, and transcend. I tend to struggle with communicating my deepest emotions and find that expressing myself through art is when I am happiest.
— Emily Oyster, marketing assistant
Location: Forearm and top wrist
The story: With the horse tattoo, my friend literally illustrated a horse pattern, and I was, like, "I need that on my body." With the triangle tattoo, I just wanted all the Harry Potter fans out there to know that I feel them, I love them, and I want to ride into the sunset on Buckbeak's back with them.
— Rachael Clemmons, visual designer
Location: Upper left shoulder
The story: My parents paid for me to get this tattoo for my 18th birthday. My older sister and I went to get tattooed together, and the design is an image that I drew myself. It's my only one, and I love it as much today as I did the day I got it done.
— Allison Shedlock, project manager
Location: Inside left wrist
The story: I have wanted a tattoo since I was 16, but I waited a long time because I felt a tattoo had to be extremely personal to me before I would put it on me forever. They aren't colorful — because that's not me — but they are highly important. I've been writing this on my hand since I was 10, and it means many things to me: "Don't give up. Ever." And "Don't forget to tell my children I love them and wanted them."
— Sandy Rogers, quality assurance
Location: Middle back
The story: I got my tattoo when I was 17 and had just gotten to college. Coming from Massachusetts, LA seemed like a pretty glamorous place to get some ink. So when my LA-native friend (who was the most Hollywood person I had ever met) suggested we go get tattoos, I was in. We found a place and a tattoo artist who didn't ask too many questions about our ages, which in retrospect doesn't speak very highly of the parlor.
I found the design I wanted on the Internet — it meant something to me at the time, but I don't really speak about it because it's so lame (regret number one). I chose the location in the middle of my back because I wanted it to be visible (regret number two). I'm pretty happy I don't have to see it often, and yes, it was fully visible in my wedding dress. I'll probably get it removed when the process becomes less painful and more effective. I will say this, though: I fully believe the legal age to get tattoos should be 30.
— Molly Goodson, VP of content
Wave and Anchor
Location: Inner heel on both feet
The story: I grew up in Long Island, NY, and the beach is my favorite place to be. I wanted something simple that represented happiness and home to me, so I got the wave. My grandfather, who I was very close with, had an anchor tattoo from when he served in the Navy. My younger brother also just joined the Navy, so it's a family connection for me. I also liked how it worked with the nautical theme of my first tattoo.
— Kerry McManus, designer
"A Thing of Beauty Is a Joy Forever"
Location: Right shoulder
The story: I have "A thing of beauty is a joy forever" written in Jane Austen's handwriting. It's actually a line from John Keats's "Endymion," but he had pretty terrible handwriting . . . so I went with Ms. Austen's instead. John Keats is one of my favorite poets, and the quote has always resonated with me. The tattoo needs touching up (thanks, backpack straps, bras, and sunburns!), but I still really like it.
— Brinton Parker, editorial assistant
Location: Lower back, right side
The story: In an act of rebellion, I got this tattoo on my 18th birthday. It's my name in Armenian letters, written in my own handwriting. I was really happy with it and am relieved that my teenage self thought to get it in a place that is easily concealed.
I kept it a secret from my parents for months until one day I was bending to pick something up in a pair of low-rise jeans, and my mom spotted it. She grabbed a towel, then me, and started rubbing it, hoping it'd come off. One of my forms of punishment was having to tell my grandmother that I had gotten permanently inked. Lucky for me, she thought my appreciation for my Armenian heritage was impressive and gave me her seal of approval!
— Kate Schweitzer, fashion editor
Location: Side of torso
The story: Nikola Tesla was one of the most famous Serbians, so I grew up admiring his work. I identify with his beautifully tragic "mad scientist" imagery, so I had to get his death ray invention on my body.
— Katarina Blagojevic, software engineer
The story: It's two hummingbirds, which my parents love. I have so many childhood memories sitting in the backyard with them and waiting for a hummingbird to show up. So I got two, one for each of my parents.
And then the flowers are very specific. I got violets, which are the flower for February, the month my dad was born, and chrysanthemums, which are the flower for November, the month my mom was born. And then the third flower is a stargazer lily, which means ambition, because my parents always taught me to be ambitious and get everything out of life that I can.
— Hedy Phillips, copy editor