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Gang Tattoos Around The World


10 Women In Barrio 18: Gang M-18

Women in the M-18 street gangs of Central America: Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador serve a dual role. They take on “male” traits in perpetrating and withstanding violence, while performing in the stereotypical “female” roles of cooking, caring for the men, children and the sick. In some ways, one might say they’re tougher than the men, and getting a tat on the face that shows a gang affiliation, proves just that!

9 La Mara Salvatrucha: AKA MS-13

If you see someone with a tat that reads: MS13, MS or just 13, you’re likely facing a member of the La Mara Salvatrucha gang. Some of the members originated in Los Angeles as El Salvadoran immigrants who had associations to guerrilla fighters in the El Salvadoran civil war. Now their chapter is 60,000+ strong and spans the U.S., Canada, Mexico and Central America. The U.S. Treasury has even listed them as a Transnational Criminal Organization, which translates into being a mafia!

8 The Notorious Dot Symbols

One of the most common U.S. prison tattoos include the 3 dots on the upper cheek. The triangle of dots stand for Mi vida loca or “My crazy life”, and associates with the MS-13 gang, but also is representative of the Los Vatos Locos, “The Crazy Dudes or Guys” gang originating from 1940s Los Angeles. Sometimes individual dots reveal how many people one has killed or has lost in life. In Europe, the three dot symbol means, “death to police”, and can be found on the hand between the thumb and index finger. For British gangsters, dots are located between the knuckle and first joint of each finger.

7 Māori Gangs Of New Zealand

The largest gangs on the South Pacific island are the Mongrel Mob, Black Power and the Nomads. Significant Māori membership tattoos are traditionally “tribal” but also contain words and symbols unique to their gang affiliation. Gangs are similar in structure to the U.S. Hell’s Angels: a president, vice-president, etc. Also women are excluded, and these guys do appear like a motorcycle motley crew!

6 Cobwebs Signifiers

Black cobweb tattoos have to do with prison life and the gang members who are “trapped” there. Cobwebs inked on the elbow or the neck represent someone who’s spent a lot of hard time behind bars. It’s kind of like the person hasn’t moved in so long, that a spider has built a web on them.. creepy, but a big web could gain a gang member respect once they’re out of prison.

5 British Isle Mafia & Gangs

In Ireland there are parts of Limerick City where the alliance of violent criminal families known as the Dundon-McCarthy faction rein, and “soldiers” of these gangs show tattoo tributes in respect to fallen comrades. Meanwhile down south in the United Kingdom, British mafia members are often found inked with the initials: ACAB, which stand for “All Coppers Are Bastards”. The acronym is sometimes integrated with other prison tattoos or found plainly on the knuckles of each finger.

4 Yakuza Mafia In Japan

Did you know the Yakuza tattoos were first placed on criminals as a punishment? Now the tattoo aesthetic is a popular trend amongst tattoo enthusiast around the world. The body tattoos or “body suits” worn by Yakuza mafia members are illegal when seen in public in many areas of Japan, but at the Sanja Matsuri Festival, the designs are a celebrated spectacle. The extensive size of the tattoos not only show the wearers’ affiliation, but also their ability to endure pain.

3 Russian Mobsters

Perhaps this photo by Sergei Vasiliev is “posed”, as the cello almost seems out of place in the arm of this fellow sporting hardcore Russian mafia prison tats! Each tattoo symbol has a long-storied gang history. For instance, stars on the knees means, “the bearer will bow down to no man.” Remember the film, ‘Eastern Promises’? Director, David Cronenberg went all out to vicariously bring the you into this Russian crime subculture.

2 White Supremacist Skinhead

This guy is loaded with white nationalist supremacist philosophy. Here’s a few representations of these symbols: Swastikas are a WWII Nazis emblem, adopted by most white supremacists today. The #14 is a rally slogan, “We must secure the existence of our people and a future for white children”. The word, “Hatebreed” is the name of a heavy metal band, whose albums are, ‘Supremacy and ‘The Rise of Brutality’. Yikes!!

1 Five-Point Crown: Latin Kings Gang

Crown tats are a favorite by many ordinary folk, but the “five royal point” crown is for the Latin Kings gang, originally started in Chicago. Today they’re one of the largest hispanic gangs in and outside of U.S. prisons. The “five points” represent their affiliate to the People Nation gang, while other details of the crown, such as the colors of the jewels in the points carry other levels of hidden meanings.