When it comes to outing basics, tattoos are just as effective as pumpkin spice lattes, Coldplay, a golden retriever named Bo and the presence of an interminably utilitarian, yet sartorially sad North Face fleece atop yoga-sculpted shoulders.

There are many basic tattoos to chose from, but regardless of the individual shapes they take, they all serve a singular purpose: to let the world know that — even though your name's Brady and you grew up in white, Midwestern suburbia — you don't take no shit! You know the difference between crack and cocaine and you're not afraid to tell mom and dad to buzz off! You wrote a dissertation!

If you have any of these tattoos or that description fits your life perfect, don't panic. Just mention how much you like Neutral Milk Hotel next time someone asks you what time it is, and no one will know your name is Brady.

Nautical stars

Intended meaning:  A symbol of protection and guidance. Also, sailors would nautical stars tattooed on their forearms as a good luck symbol in hopes of returning home safely.

Actual meaning: I love Jimmy Eat World!

Maori style tribals, because the Maori tribe is so near and dear to all our hearts

Intended meaning: Tattooing in the Maori culture was a very important process that involved both men and women in the tribe. These tattoos weren't for body art or beautification. Every single pattern tattooed on the Maori would tell a story and hold deep symbolic meaning. These tattoos were their life's story.

Actual meaning: You peaked in high school after making the winning touchdown against rival Forest Lawn High, but now you work at Sprint and have to take your nipple piercings out before you go to work. You think baseball caps are meant to be worn with the brim in the back, and you love working out so much that it's shrunken your genitals.


Intended meaning: Health, wealth, loyalty, and the rigors of long-distance travel.

Actual meaning: You went to a tattoo shop and were like, "Whaa?!" and pointed at something and it was a sparrow.


Intended meaning: Transformation, freedom, beauty.

Actual meaning: A butterfly landed on your head at the butterfly museum in 1998 and it was the best fucking moment of your life.

Kanji (Chinese symbols)

Intended meaning: Any word in Chinese.

Actual meaning: You have so, so many feelings and you don't know how to express them pictorially or verbally, so here they are in Chinese!  And you're not Chinese.


Intended meaning: Love, beauty, balance, in memoriam of someone, elegance, virtue.

Actual meaning: It's a cover up of that tattoo you got of a dolphin smoking a joint back when The Offspring were your favorite band.

Little understated heart thing

Intended meaning: Love, giggle!

Actual meaning: You needed a cutesy way to describe your unbridled optimism and love for all things tiny, and you're too skeered to get normal-size tattoo. Are you hiding it from your dying conservative grandfather? Yes, yes you are.


Intended meaning: That you embody all the characteristics of a particular zodiac sign.

Actual meaning: You think other people know what those characteristics are. Just because you have a centaur chasing an invisible enemy on your tramp stamp doesn't mean we know how to handle you. Maybe if you added a few Chinese symbols …


Intended meaning: Stability, loyalty, commitment, perseverence.

Actual meaning: You really just like how anchors look. They do look pretty cool.

Barbed wire

Intended meaning: You're guarded, you were in prison, something to do with a Jesus-y crown of thorns, that you shouldn't be crossed.

Actual meaning: Although you try your hardest to look tough on the outside and own pitbulls named Killer and Murder Killer, inside you're about as soft and cuddly as a teddy bear stuffed with marsh mellows.

Flaming eight ball

Intended meaning: Man’s ruin, partying, alcohol, gambling, unfaithful women risk, good luck vs. misfortune.

Actual meaning: You know magic. No, screw that. You know magick with a "k." Also you married a very sweet hooker in Vegas and you were happy 'till you find out she had the clap, and now your paying alimony because blah blah blah difficult life story blah blah blah.


Intended meaning: Balancing the light and darkness.

Actual meaning: If we were to look in your fridge right now we'd find tofu. So. Much. Tofu. And gluten-free bread. And like, 12 prescription pill cases filled with weed. Party on.


Intended meaning: Change, illuminati, and OMG, just about everything. The triangle has so many meanings, it's basically meaningless.

Actual meaning: You're basic, but aspire to be a hipster one day. And you will, young tadpole. Just as soon as your stop receiving email blasts from H&M.

An arrow whose meaning has been thoroughly over-analyzed

Intended meaning: Love, friendship, direction, motivation, goals.

Actual meaning: To be honest, this one doesn't say a whole lot about you … everyone just has one.

Inspirational cursive script

Intended meaning: To show how influential a particular string of words is to someone.

Actual meaning: The Starbucks barista spells your name like Britney but really it's Brittney.

Names of things or people or general nouns

Intended meaning: To convey dedication for a noun.

Actual meaning: One time, you got drunk. Very, very drunk.


And now, for your continued enjoyment, please look at this:

On point!


As for everyone else considering a non-basic tattoo? What do you think about this?