It’s just like going to the barbershop: When you head into a tattoo parlor, you need to be able to communicate what you want. Otherwise, you’re coming out with something other than what you were looking for. If you’re new to tattooing, however, you might not have the slightest idea what you’re looking for. Here are five of the most popular tattoo styles for men.


1. American Traditional 

American Traditional tattoos

This is also known as “old school.” What you’ve got here are thick black lines, lots of heavy black shading and bold colors. The good news on these is that, even allowing for fading, you’re still going to have a killer tattoo when you turn 80.


2. Black and gray


Wizards, dragons, clowns, skulls, portraits of Marilyn Monroe… that’s the type of thing a lot of guys get in black and gray. These can be great for men with darker complexions, but they also require insane amounts of skill to get right the first time, so make sure that you shop around. These are either great or appalling.


3. Japanese Traditional

Japanese Traditional tattoos

Tattooing boomed in different places at different times, leading to different traditions. Case in point: Japanese Traditional, which is just as bold and awesome as American Traditional, with some different techniques and different artistic themes.


4. Tribal


It might scream ’90s to you, but people are still getting tribal tattoos—and the work is looking better than ever. Whether you want the type of neo-tribal that’ll make you look like a cage fighter or you want to nod to your own heritage, a good tribal design is something that never goes out of style, haters notwithstanding. Look for a tattoo artist whose black will really hold over time, and don’t be afraid to ask for pictures of decade-plus-old work.


5. New school


New school is a more international and contemporary style than American Traditional. It uses Am Trad as a base, with influences from Japanese Traditional, Mexican Traditional, graffiti art and anime. It’s still colorful and bold and will hold up over time, but you’ll look way more like a rock star than an inmate.