Slops or sneakers? Beach or bush? Swimshorts or Speedo? These are important questions summer lovers must ask themselves if they’re looking to have a sizzlin’ season this year. But many of these critical decisions are informed by the latest, largest and loudest, you guessed it - trends.
Trends come and go. Some trends last a lifetime - like Chuck Taylors, moustaches and freaking ninjas. Others are over in a flash, like your first time or a boyband in the 90s. But when it comes to tattoo trends, things are a little more permanent than a teenage crush.
We look at the hottest summer tattoo ideas and trends this 2023/2024 season and, based on the most popular summer tattoos we’ve seen at our studio, discuss the ones that will likely stick around for a while.
Why summer tattoos rock
Summer is many people’s favourite time of the year – especially in SA. With holiday vibes in full swing and the weather taking vibes up a couple of notches, what better time than summertime to show off some fresh body art?
‘Tis the season to flash some flesh
Forget the perfect beach body, the best tattoos don’t discriminate. No matter who you are or where you’re headed this summer, when temps hit the high 20s, it’s time to shed those clothes and give your skin a little vitamin D.
Nothing beats the envious glances and polite requests for a “closer look” than a brand new tattoo on display. With summer party vibes comes an amazing opportunity to break out the swimwear (or go full birthday suit, if you're into that sort of thing) and show off your new summer tattoo ideas.
Here’s a great guide on what to wear this summer with your tattoos.
Because tattoos make sweet gifts
If you’re already tattoo-satisfied, and are looking for the perfect Christmas pressie for someone, tattoos are the ideal gift. Buying a tattoo for someone means gifting them something they’ll likely keep for life, and you get to let them choose what they want.
Simply buy a tattoo voucher or commission an artist to put a classic design together and make somebody’s summer an even better one. Check out this article on gifting a tattoo to a loved one this festive season.
But be careful when it’s cooking outside
Remember, though, that summer can be rough. As the sun beats down, new summer tattoos are at risk from those dangerous UV rays. You can get popular summer tattoos anytime, but those fresh summer tats can get compromised if they’re not taken care of. Of course, you don’t need to wait until March for your next tattoo; just be careful if you’re getting yours before the end of the year.
Click here to learn more about your tattoo healing options and why you should take extra special care of your ink this summer.
Previous summer tattoo trends
Tattoo styles, tastes and designs change over time. From the insufferable digital-inspired artwork of the early 2000s to more recent COVID-inspired inkwork (yes, we know, why?), tattoos, like fashion and music, are susceptible to changing mainstream tastes. But while you can always swap out the dated skirt for a later-model pair of jeans or simply download Taylor Swift’s newest tune-puke to fit in with the crowd, tattoos are different.
The best tattoos last a long time, so picking the right styles and designs matters if you aren’t planning on getting them covered up in six months or being forced to wear long sleeves through December and January every year.
Here are some examples of tattoo trends that have (and haven’t exactly) worked out over the years.
Timeless tattoo trends that work every summer
Some summer tattoo ideas and trends last for a season or two, while others are still making people jealous decades after they first hit the body art scene. These tattoo trends have stood the test of time, with many of them no longer considered trends anymore but have evolved into their own tattoo styles altogether.
- Blackwork Tribal– Yes, we know. Tribal body art has been done over, and over and over. But the fact that the classic yet simple style is still going strong means that this trend isn’t going anywhere soon. Just watch out and avoid offending anyone or unintentionally “culturally appropriating” anything in today’s ultra-sensitive world.
- Minimalist designs– Less is more, or so they say. Minimalist tattoos first hit the body art scene decades ago, with fineline inkwork emerging in the 70s and smaller, simpler and neater artwork really taking hold recently.
- Greenery & nature– This trend has evolved over thousands of years, from ancient depictions of animals and the world around us to more contemporary representations of iconic landscapes, plants and even the stars. Greenery and nature tattoo trends are currently sitting pretty in the popularity stakes.
Tattoo trends to avoid like working on Christmas
Ever seen a tattoo that was once a popular option but left you thinking years later: Thank God I skipped on that? That’s right, from Pamela Anderson’s barbwire tattoo (1995) that inspired a movie to the just-don’t-do-it “In God We Trust” shoulder-to-shoulder script, some tattoo trends should never have begun in the first place.
- Naked people– No, not tasteful semi-nude tattoos (those are OK); we mean those crass, people-baring-their-junk tattoos. Unless you’re planning on trying to live a GTA VI life, joining a hardcore gang or never dating again, getting rude tattoos is always going to be a bad idea. No matter how well-concealed or tasteful you think it is, even the most detailed, best tattoos of fully naked people in compromising positions don’t work. Oh, and good luck finding the artist willing to let you sit for it.
- Future-ex’s names or portraits– From Johnny Depp’s “Winona-becomes-Wino” to considering cutting your arm off after that nasty breakup, getting an image of your partner’s face or their name tattooed onto your skin only to regret it after splitting up is a trend that always seems to keep popping up, and then disappearing - like exes. Tattoos require more of a commitment than most relationships, or even marriages do, so think before you ink.
Script with swearing or bad quotes – Don’t complain if you get turned down for that job you were sure you’d land. It may have been your lack of experience, or – bear with us here - possibly the “Thug Life” in army stencil font inked across your throat. Swearing, unoriginal quotes or any type of joke are tattoo trends that give tattoo trends a bad rap.
2023/2024 Summer tattoo ideas and trends to look out for
Here are some of the hottest popular summer tattoos and trends emerging that are sure to last long after the fun in the sun comes to an end.
The Unalome is a Buddhist and Hindu symbol that signifies a path or journey, usually to enlightenment, but also through your spiritual life. This unique symbol consists of a spiral – representing emotional direction, swirls or loops – which contracts, signifying your steps towards gaining enlightenment, and a straight line culminating in a series of dots.
Unalomes are increasingly popular as tattoo trends this summer, owing to their spiritual significance and simple design - especially if you're keen on spiritual or religious tattoos.
Floral body artwork
Roses, sunflowers, tulips, daffodils, and the classic hibiscus have always featured prominently in many popular summer tattoos, adding splashes of colour and vibrancy to many pieces of body art.
Recently, flowers have seen a bump in their popularity, especially for less-contemporary, more unique flowers like the local protea, high-detail orchards and various arrangements of rare or fantasy blossoms.
Honeybees have long been a favourite tattoo idea for many people, with the relative size of the insect allowing artistic representations to go pretty much anywhere on the body.
Nature's little helpers are great summer tattoo ideas that you can do a lot with. While some people are getting these tiny black and yellow insects tattooed on them to raise awareness about their plight, as a trend, bee tattoos are pretty popular right now.
Tattoo Writing & Script
Messaging is all the rage at the moment. Whether trying to convey a social statement, script a beautiful line of poetry or music, or pay homage to someone, the right writing can have a significant impact.
While script tattoos have always been around, the trend is growing owing to artists’ creativity and ability to master complex, high-detail fonts and design styles. Script tattoos are getting more complicated, too – in a good way – allowing artists to experiment and get more and more creative with their work.
Snakes are beautiful creatures that are even more stunning when inked into our flesh with care and precision. Snake tattoos have long been frowned upon in more conservative cultures, with many religious groups associating them with the not-so-nice aspects of faith.
Thankfully, most people have come to see snakes (and the best tattoos of them) as a part of our natural world and not a bad omen or evil symbol. Snake tattoo trends are booming with the ability to wrap writhing, colourful bodies around arms, legs and even necks.
The perfect lion tattoo can be a tricky one to get right. With so much detail involved in nailing that classic Mufasa look, and so many different options to choose from, most people often opt for simpler, less-impactful big cats.
Lately, however, the King of the Jungle is making a comeback, with many influencers and celebrities going big with popular summer tattoos of lions that look like the real thing. The trend is seeing people choosing between the iconic lion head and mane profile and the more expansive full lion tattoo.
Trends come and go – The best tattoos last forever
Tattoo trends are always changing. Some hang around for a while, others are over in a matter of weeks, but some tattoo trends become a part of the tattoo universe, going on to become iconic designs that people can say they were the first to get.
This summer, join the masses and get in on the latest, hottest summer tattoo ideas and trending action by popping into True Blue Tattoo Studio and asking about what’s working for people right now. Or don’t and come on over anyway for some body art nobody’s ever thought of, a long-overdue piercing, or simply to hang out with your favourite Pretoria neighbourhood tattoo crew.
Who knows? You may just start a whole new trend.