Safety pin tattoos look incredibly life-like. But what do they mean? What symbolism do they have?
The history of wearing safety pins goes back a long way, all the way to the Netherlands and the occupation under the Nazis.
People living in the country in the 1940s would wear them under the collars of their shirts to identify themselves as a person that others could trust.
Unfortunately, the news eventually got out and the Nazis made it illegal to wear safety pins. However, the practice continued, enabling the rescue of many thousands of jewish people.
While this symbolism developed in occupied Europe during WWII, those who get safety pin tattoos don’t necessarily have to be making a political statement.
This imagery is evocative of many other traits and characteristics, including safety, sticking together, and having integrity.
Want to learn more? Take a look at thse safety pin-themed tattoo ideas for 2021.
Labelled Safety Pin Tattoo
Most tattoos of this type feature a pin section appearing to pass under the skin and out the other side. However, some come with additional labelling and writing, often bespoke to the wearer.
Tattoo artists may depict this as beads hanging from the pin itself, each featuring a single letter to make up a word, or just writing alongisde.
Usually, the purpose of the writing is to clarify the symbolism of the safety pin itself. People might get words such as “unique,” “trused,” or “safe” inscribed.
Greyscale Safety Pin Tattoo
You can also opt for greyscale safety pin tattoos. These depict the entire safety pin without any sections appearing to penetrate the skin.
People who choose this design are often making a personal statement about who they are as an individual.
For instance, they could be trying to communicate the fact that they are trustworthy and compassionate. Or they may be indicating that they believe in sticking together in relationships.
In many cases, these tattoos are small and found on more concealed areas of the body. They are more a reminder to the wearer of the kind of person that they want to be instead of a display to the rest of the world.
Skin-Piercing Safety Pin Tattoo
Some tattoos feature an interesting design where the pin appears to break the skin.
It’s an optical illusion, of course, but tattoo artists frequently do a good job of making it look realistic, often tricking onlookers into momentarily thinking that you have a tattoo going through your skin.
The purpose of this version of the tattoo is the same as regular varieties. However, due to the unique nature of the design, it is more attention-grabbing.
Furthermore, the fact that it penetrates the skin suggests that the characteristics that the safety pin represents in the wearer go more than skin-deep.
Love Heart Safety Pin Tattoo
As you explore this category of tattoos, you’ll also find many examples featuring love hearts. Usually, the hearts are skewered on the fixed side of the pin, opposite the opening.
Hearts add a sense of cuteness and compassion to the tattoo and help to soften how it looks.
The addition of hearts also helps to emphasize the original purpose of the pins: to represent safe harbor.
Thus, their inclusion helps to communicate the message of the pin to people who might not know about its history.
Broken Heart Safety Pin Tattoo
You can also find varieties of this tattoo where the pin is holding together two sides of a broken heart.
Wearers of this version are advertising the fact that they believe in keeping love intact, no matter what happens.
For instance, many people get this tattoo after a relationship breakup and reunion. It symbolizes their commitment to making sure that things ultimately work out.
The broken heart also signifies loss and tragedy, something that many people experienced both in WWII and today.
The presence of the safety pin shows the wearer’s commitment to restoring love, even in the face of terrible evil.
Many tattoos of this variety feature a heart bleeding in the background. This symbolises the pain of loss and grief.
But the safety pin remains in the foreground, holding everything together, in spite of the tragedy.
Bow Safety Pin Tattoo
These tattoos feature a bow that accompanies the pin, usually attached to the fixed side. Bows help to add a sense of cuteness to the tattoo, making it look less clinical.
Bows are also a symbol of union. Therefore, people often get names inscribed on the accompanying ribbons. These may include friends, lovers, spouses or children.
Again, the idea is to visually represent the permanence of the relationship and the importance of stocking together.
Thread Reel Safety Pin Tattoo
Some tattooists will occasionally include thread reels in their designs, attached to the main body of the pin, usually hanging below it. These have the same symbolism as the varieties discussed above. However, the addition of the reel adds both cuteness and craftiness to the image. The thread is also another powerful way to represent the need to “stitch” people together and prevent relationships from turning sour.
Where Do People Get Safety Pin Tattoos?
Most people get this type of tattoo on their forearms, close to their wrists.
The tattoo tends to be small – perhaps a couple of inches long, and often features a section that makes it look as if it passes under the skin.
However, you can get much larger versions. For instance, some people get these tattoos on their belly, while others dedicate their entire upper arms and shoulder areas to them.
The Bottom Line
Safety pin tattoos are one of the most emotive and symbolic tattoos that people can get, thanks to their rich wartime history.
People have taken the pin’s original use and adapted its meaning to their own lives, creating some beautiful results.