Tough, But Loving: The Mom Tattoo | Painful Pleasures Community

Tough, But Loving: The Mom Tattoo

The mom tattoo is an enduring symbol of love and appreciation, one that has remained popular for decades.

by amber Last Updated: May 27, 2021

mom tattoos, family tattoos, traditional tattoos, Craig Blankley tattoo

Though moms deserve to feel appreciated every day of the year, Mother’s Day encourages us to set aside a specific time to show appreciation for everything they do for us. Because they juggle so many responsibilities, the typical Mother’s Day gift urges moms to indulge and relax; flowers, chocolates, and spa days take center stage. However, while the typical Mother’s Day gift is temporary, some opt for illustrating their love and appreciation with a permanent commemoration on skin. Just as mothers have a special place in our hearts, the tattooed tribute to mom has an unrivaled place in tattoo history. The mom tattoo, a tattered banner with the word mom draped across a vibrant red heart, is a permanent fixture in the American Traditional world.

This iconic tattoo is one of the most recognizable images in tattoo history. In fact, the design is such a quintessential aspect of tattoo history that it frequently gets used in comics and cartoons as a symbol illustrating a character’s tough nature. When cartoons and comics incorporate tattoos into a character’s design, it’s almost always meant to designate them as rugged and mature. From cartoons like Spongebob Squarepants to The Simpsons, the mom tattoo has made an appearance. The almost universally recognizable image is a popular symbol in the tattoo industry and the media in general, because not only is it familiar, it also communicates a lot about a character’s personality. The design is also easy to incorporate into the already complicated designs of comics and cartoons. The simplicity of the design along with the duality of its message make this tattoo an essential part of traditional tattoo history and a perfect fit for character composition in comics and cartoons.

Though the exact origins of the quintessential mom design are not totally clear, it was popularized alongside the pinup girls, nautical symbols, and swallows of the Sailor Jerry tradition. Sailors in the early 20th century had a crucial hand in transporting tattoo styles from one culture to another. They also frequently sought tattoos that commemorated their struggles overseas—experiencing unfamiliar cultures and longing for loved ones. Immersing themselves in cultures with different tattoo histories than our own allowed them to experience art and turn their own bodies into a history of global tattoo culture. As they returned from overseas with foreign ink, American artists gained new inspirations, paving the way for artists like the mind behind Sailor Jerry, Norman Collins, who developed unique designs influenced by his travels.

Tattoos are inextricably linked with toughness since the process is painful. However, because the mom tattoo is a tribute, it represents an emotional sensitivity in addition to a physical toughness. Below are loving and tough mom tattoos, illustrating how mom tattoos have evolved.

mom tattoos, traditional tattoos, AJ Trillo tattoo
Though there is no heart or banner in sight, the essence of the traditional mom tattoo remains in this design.


mom tattoos, traditional tattoos, Craig Blankley tattoo
This tattoo is a black and grey take on the familiar design.


mom tattoos, traditional tattoos, Campos Tattoo
Small and simple, this tattoo incorporates the same elements as the traditional mom tattoo, but it represents a contemporary, minimalist interpretation.


mom tattoos, traditional tattoos, Matt Gutierrez tattoo
Many American traditional elements combine in this familiar design.


mom tattoos, traditional tattoos, Chelsea Holdsworth tattoo
A teacup takes the place of the traditional cartoon heart in this tribute.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect the official position of PainfulPleasures.


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