I don't know about you, but I vividly remember the moment that I understood why people were into tattoos. I was in second or third grade. A new family was moving into our boring suburban neighborhood outside of Oakland, California. I wandered over to their house to see what was happening because I was a precocious youngster, a real pain-in-the-ass. And that's where I saw it. One of the movers had an enormous, black panther tattooed on his forearm.
It wasn't the first tattoo I'd ever seen, far from it. When I saw the sleek, powerful cat crawling up this man's arm, something inside of me clicked. I knew right then that many years later my own body would be tattooed.
Panthers are a staple of American Traditional tattooing, simply because they look so damn tough. There is something about looking at a panther tattoo clawing someone's skin as if it needs to hold on that is unspeakably cool. Or a fierce panther head, all crazy eyes and sharp teeth.
Of course, panther tattoos are about a whole lot more than just their timeless style. I don't know if you ever noticed this before, but panthers are black. Do you know what black ink is really good at doing? Covering up your ex's name. Panther tattoos, particularly back in the day, were a the go-to for people who needed a cover-up.
In the gallery below you'll find a whole bunch of different takes on the classic panther motif. Each artist has taken the panther and made it something of their own, but one thing remains a constant—they look so fucking cool.
It's impossible to put together an article celebrating panther tattoos without including the OG—the Sucky Panther. If you're doing a panther tattoo, please make sure it doesn't look like this. Unless, you get crazy and do something like this: