Although not restricted to men, a full arm sleeve tattoo is not very common among women. It was back in the mid 1990s that sleeves became popular as a result of the Japanese mafia, or Yakuza. Full arm tattoos were a way to designate a member of this organization, rank, and how many “stripes” each had earned. It soon became popular in several subcultures, particularly grunge musicians. There are also half sleeves which completely cover either the upper or lower arm.
Photo by “armchairdj” on Flickr
With its modern origins in Japan, it certainly is no surprise that the most common type of design for a full sleeve is of Oriental art. Sleeve tattoos often feature a large, changing landscape of koi fish, cherry blossoms, dragons, tigers, lotus flowers, and other iconic symbols of Japan and China inked in a multitude of bright hues.
Photo by “s.bann” on Flickr
Of course tribal art is the number one design for tattoos located nearly anywhere on the body and the arm is no exception. Maori art covering the arm is usually quite bold, with thick lines and large patterns, but some people opt for very fine and intricate designs that obscure most of the skin. Often sleeve tattoos tell a story and include a large variety of interconnected images.
Photo by “SoulRider.222″ on Flickr
If you live in a warm climate, the opportunities for covering a sleeve tattoo will be rare. No one wears long sleeved shirts all the time, so this type of body art will be highly visible at least during summer months. If you are concerned about future employment possibilities, a full sleeve tattoo is probably not the best choice.