Tale Of The Tribute Tattoo

 Tribute Tattoos - ancient JapanTattoos are an ancient practice, dating back as far as 5000 years ago.
(Photo by Chris Tse)

Why do people get tribute tattoos?

Some people find them repulsive, while others get addicted to them. Some people think they’re stupid, while others find them intrinsic. I’ve come to discover that tattoos all have different meanings because each person’s tattoos tell a story. I’ve learned that tattoo stories range from the happiest to the saddest moments in peoples’ lives.

Some people get tribute tattoos or memorial tattoos in honor of a moment or person in their life they like to think back on. Others get funny or meaningful tattoos that allow the person to express themselves with their tattoo stories. Regardless, tattoos allow you to tell your story, representing it on your body for the rest of your life.

Having had this realization, I got intrigued by each person’s story. If someone had tattoos in memory of someone, I wanted to know about the person and why they decided to get “in loving memory” tattoos. What if someone has a tattoo inspired by a living person? I want to know the story.

This interest sparked an idea to go actually interview and ask people about their tattoo ideas, taking me to the streets of Tallahassee, where I found people with different tattoos telling completely different stories.

What are some tattoo ideas?

1) David: Great Blue Heron Tribute Tattoo on Ribcage

Tribute Tattoos - DavidFirst is David. When I met him, I didn’t know he had a tattoo, but my questions sparked a debate on tattoos. He showed me his tattoo and told me his story.

David’s rib cage tattoo: he got it when he was 20 years old. He explained to me that his mom told him he could never get a tattoo, but he wanted one anyway. Finally, in college he decided he was going to get it.

When I asked him what the tattoo was and what it meant to him he explained:



“The Great Blue Heron is a native bird to Tampa where I grew up. It was also one of my Dad’s favorite animals, and I have memories associated with him and the bird. Now that my father has passed away the bird has become like a guardian angel to me, watching over me.”

David was very down to earth, and his tattoo stories about his tribute tattoos were really interesting to hear. He would elaborate about how tattoos were a way for a person to express themselves on their body, if the person had not liked the way their body looked before. He explained how the tattoo gave him his own self-image, which allows him to look at his body differently. I thought that was moving.

2) Marc Inspirational Tattoo: Lens of Truth Tattoo on Ankle

Tribute Tattoos - MarcThen, I met Marc, who was so captivated by my research on tattoo stories that he literally took his shoe and socks off to show me his tattoo.

He thoroughly explained that he loved this tattoo because it reminded him of his childhood. This is how he described it:

“The lens of truth is originally from the Zelda video game. The lens is used for you to see what is truly in front of you. Without it, you see a mountain, but with the lens, you see the stairway path to the top. So the symbolism in having it near my foot is to truly see the path that I take, to see where I want to go.”

Marc’s tattoo story is pretty elaborate. A free spirit, he said the reason he wanted a tattoo was as a daily reminder to just follow the road ahead. I respect that.

3) Paula’s Tribute Tattoo: Angel Wings “In Loving Memory” Tattoo on Ankle

Paula got her tribute tattoo a year after her sister, Jamie, died. Emotional, she told me that she was glad to share her story with the world. After losing her sister to cancer, Paula wanted to get this tattoo on her foot, close to her Achilles tendon. She described her sister’s meaning in her life.

“This tattoo,” Paul said, “is in loving memory of my sister, who fought and battled through a terrible disease. She is now the angel looking over me at all times of everyday.”

Describing Jamie as her “little sis,” Paula always looked down to her, which is part of the reason she got the tattoo on her foot. She said she likes to look down everyday to be reminded of her sister and the memories they walked through together.

Paula’s tribute to loss hit home the hardest of all my tribute tattoo conversations. Tattoo stories often remind us that our bodies change along with our lives, but her love for her sister remains the same.

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Next time, our touching tribute tattoo stories will include video!

About Brandon Plotnick

Brandon Plotnick is a student at Florida State University, majoring in the Editing, Writing, and Media program in the English department, with a focus on sports journalism and media production. He has written for Florida State’s student newspaper, The FSView, as well as a Greek Life newsletter, The Odyssey, in his time at Florida State University. His dream is to cover South Florida professional athletics as a sports writer. Brandon was born and raised in Weston, Florida, and currently has a residence in South Florida.

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