Used to be that the only men who got tattoos were Marines, hippies, and Tommy Lee. Now, men's bodies have become human billboards -- and they advertise a lot about his personality. See something you like (a mysterious ancient marking) and you might stop and chat; see something you don't (Dale Earnhardt Jr., his wife's face) and you keep on motoring. Here's the abbreviated guide to interpreting man's modern body art.
The Tatt: What it says
Tribal Images He's asserting his strength. "We're not very dangerous animals; we don't have a horn like a rhino or quills like a porcupine," says Helen Fisher, Ph.D., an anthropologist at Rutgers University. "It's almost as if men who get tribal tattoos are trying to signal that they are dangerous, they're to be respected, and they're powerful."
Japanese Letters "This guy is much more sensitive," says Amy Krakow, author of Total Tattoo Book. "This is the guy you can communicate with on a heady, emotional level." Plus, Dr. Fisher says, it makes him mysterious -- you have to ask what the letter means. "Mystery drives novelty, and novelty drives up dopamine, which creates arousal."
Religious Symbols It shows a man's permanent affiliation with a group, and links him to others with common moral and ethical standards, Dr. Fisher says. He's a man who will be loyal.
Barbed Wire Popular with frat boys and offensive linemen, the barbed wire exudes testosterone. But it's also unimaginative. He's probably a sweet guy who just couldn't think of anything else to show bravado, according to Krakow.
Dragon It's a symbol of power, and Dr. Fisher says that women around the world are drawn to men who can provide and protect. "If the guy has the confidence to wear it, he's a guy who knows who he is," says Krakow. "He's a sensual guy."
Location: What it Means
Biceps Upper-body strength evolved millions of years ago to do important jobs -- kill lions, bring home buffalo meat. "He's protective and fierce with rivals," Dr. Fisher says.
Back/Chest/Legs He's socially smart and upwardly mobile. "Any time you choose not to hide your tattoo, you're limiting your social sphere, because they're not popular in big business," Dr. Fisher says. Since suits cover these spots, he's safe. But he can show off his individuality at the beach, on the basketball court, or in bed.
Neck Neck tattoos are highly visible, and classify him as bold and in-your-face. "Your face and head give more information about you than any other body part," Dr. Fisher