We’ve all seen them before, countless of times again. As a matter of fact it seems that more and more these days you’ll see someone walking down the street sporting a spider-web tattoo on their elbow, hand, neck or other part of the body. But what does the spider-web tat really mean? Besides, “I’ve been to prison”.
One of the most common places to see this piece of ink is usually on the elbow. And the most common explanation for this is that its rooted in deep racism. As noted by the Anti-Defamation League, this particular area of where the web tat rests was worn by convicts in prison to symbolize the killing of minorities just to be able to wear it. White supremacy gangs would wear this tattoo as basic proof that had killed a minority. Which would also explain the stereotype that white men that have been to jail have this tattoo for that reason.
Many people also believe that this tattoo represents jail time in general however, and that the rings are numbers of years spent in prison, and has also been known to mean murdering an enemy or being associated with drugs. One worn on the left elbow specifically means “stay away” and warns the passerby that this person is most likely packing a gun with them. The Russian Prison System also has a set of meaning for this tattoo. Usually in this culture it is placed in between the thumb and index or “pointer” finger, indicating drug addiction. It can also mean theif.
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Many people now a days, especially famous entertainers like musicians or even actors, have been known to sport this tattoo simply because they like the look of it. The spider-web does have an intricate beauty to it, and most times people will get one inked somewhere on their body because they genuinely appreciate the look of it, or think its “cool”.
No matter what the spider-web tattoo has been famous for before, its clear that its meaning has evolved over the decades, and is determined by the person who wears it just like any other tattoo.*