Playing cards are one of the most fashionable tattoo subjects—and with good reason. They not only carry deep symbolism, but also look dazzling and mysterious.
The Joker card, in particular, has grown in popularity recently thanks to movies like The Joker. And despite its relatively simple appearance, it carries surprisingly complex meanings.
Tattoos of Joker cards generally symbolize mischievousness, chaos, and defiance against authority. They can also represent a cunning personality that loves playing tricks and pranks.
Additionally, gamblers may get the ink for good luck because the Joker is often a wild card.
What is the History of Joker Card Tattoos?
The history of this tattoo design goes further back than you might realize—even before playing cards were invented!
Modern-day playing cards came from the much older Tarot deck. The Joker, in particular, is based in part on the Fool from Tarot.
Major arcana Tarot cards have been the subject of tattoos for centuries. And over time, the Joker began replacing the Fool due to its similar design and less magical connotations.
However, the design didn’t launch into the mainstream until around the 2000s.
Movies such as The Dark Knight featured the Joker as a captivating (and terrifying) villain. And in the films, he would use a card of the same name to taunt Batman.
Because of that, it’s also common to see imagery related to Batman in these tattoos.
Another reason the card grew in prevalence was the rise of true crime documentaries. Many stories tell of criminals famously leaving “calling cards” to take credit for evildoing.
Because of that, many people have gotten the ink to show interest in the morbid and macabre.
What Do Joker Card Tattoos Symbolize?
Initially, most places and cultures viewed the Joker card as representing mischief. Or even foolishness.
But over time, this perception has evolved into more complex (and often darker) symbolism.
Thanks to films like The Joker, many now relate the card to crime and chaos. Particularly when those actions target figures of authority.
Here are some examples of what tattoos of the card can symbolize around the world:
- The USA – The Joker is a wildcard in many U.S. playing card games. As a result, many associated it with randomness, chaos, and surprise.
- Hong Kong – Protestors in Hong Kong have repeatedly used imagery related to the Joker card and villain. To them, it generally represents defiance against the government.
- Russia – The card is tied to revolutionary and anti-classist attitudes in Russia. Some also view it as a symbol of rising against oppression.
- The U.K. – In the popular card game Old Maid, the player left with the Joker has to pay for drinks. Many see it as a symbol of rotten luck in a humorous sense.
Some places may also consider the card to represent the occult. This perception is mainly due to its roots in the Tarot deck.
What Do Joker Card Tattoos Mean?
Part of what makes Joker card tattoos so appealing is the wide range of meanings they can impart.
Firstly, getting the ink can represent having a carefree and wild personality—particularly for someone who tries not to take things so seriously.
Meanwhile, others see it as signifying randomness and pandemonium—fitting for people who want ink that captures the chaos of their life.
Here are some of the positive meanings behind tats featuring the card:
- Intuition, especially regarding puzzles and tricks
The tattoo also represents good luck when it comes to competitions and gambling. This is because Jokers generally serve as wildcards in games.
Now, let’s look at some negative connotations it can hold:
Many people also attach political meanings to the Joker card related to anarchy.
This symbolism comes from the villain of the same name, who embodies lawlessness and challenges authority.
Where Do Joker Card Tattoos Usually Go?
Joker tattoos look great almost anywhere with their iconic and relatively simple design. However, the card typically gets inked on the arm.
This placement serves both aesthetic and symbolic purposes.
For one, the long shape of the card makes it perfect for running along the arm. As such, these tats typically get placed right above the underside of the wrist.
Additionally, putting it there can be a cheeky reference to having a card up your sleeve. Especially if you’re someone who enjoys gambling.
However, many other people get the card tatted on their leg. Like the arm, this placement excellently complements a playing card’s length.
Here are some other places people get this piece inked:
- On the side of the thigh
- Right above the knee cap
- Along the side of the torso
- On the back or side of the neck
- On either side of the chest
Just remember that there’s no wrong place for the design. The most important thing is getting the piece where it means the most to you.
Characteristics and Styles of Joker Card Tattoos
Tattoos featuring the Joker vary pretty widely in style. But that being said, most people opt for a minimalist, black and gray design.
Part of the appeal is the mysteriousness of this look. Plus, the stark black lines and shading provide a striking contrast to the whimsical meanings of the card.
Another interesting detail to understand is how the Joker itself usually gets depicted.
There’s one version that’s especially popular: a jester with a devil’s tail laughing maniacally. This iconic variation is also one of the most unsettling—with the Joker’s head crooked back unnaturally, baring pointy teeth.
These pieces often represent joy from mischief and chaos. Or they can suggest a dark, morbid sense of humor.
Furthermore, details and objects in the piece can also add meaning.
For example, tattoo artists often depict the edges of the card as burnt. This element can suggest a past of turmoil or a connection to the occult.
Meanwhile, fans of superheroes might include imagery from Batman to show their fandom.
Ink featuring joker cards generally symbolizes trickery, mischief, and deception. They can also represent good luck since jokers often act as wild cards.
And thanks to the 2019 film The Joker, the tattoo is more popular than ever.