27 Cool Tattoos That All '90s Kids Will Love

From lower back tattoos (aka "tramp stamps") to barbed wire arm bands, some of the most pervasive tattoo trends in the '90s are now subject to ridicule. But that doesn't mean all ink grounded in the '90s is a bust. In fact, plenty of pieces that reference cult movies, video games, cartoons, song lyrics, slang, and TV shows from the era are still as cool as they were 20+ years ago.

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

The decade that brought us Pulp Fiction, Nirvana, and Daria provided plenty of inspiration for tattoos that celebrate the era's pop culture contributions and are yet totally timeless.


Image via lilivoryflower/Instagram

  • Mia Wallace

    1

    The sleek black bob and straight-cut bangs. The white button-down shirt and flared black pants. The red pout and oxblood fingernails. Her candid thoughts on uncomfortable silences and people's need to yak about nonsense in order to fill them. Twenty-two years after she danced the twist at Jack Rabbit Slims, Pulp Fiction's Mia Wallace stands as one of the coolest, most badass female characters in American cinema.

  • The Powerpuff Girls

    2

    What do you get when you mix sugar, spice, everything nice and Chemical X? The Powerpuff Girls, of course! They may have seemed like wide-eyed little girls, but Blossom, Bubbles, and Buttercup were master crime fighters — and they took down all their foes while wearing adorable dresses. What feminist won't love that?

  • Wu-Tang Clan Logo

    3

    From the slums of Shaolin, Wu-Tang strikes again! The Staten Island rap crew revolutionized the music game with its hard-hitting beats, its cryptic references to kung fu and chess, and its colorful cast of characters: from the absurdity-prone O.D.B. to the gravelly voiced and confident Method Man. The Wu-Tang logo was ubiquitous in the '90s — thanks, in part, to the launch of the Wu Wear clothing line — and it's still as cool as the Batman signal. Add some flowers for a unique touch, and you've got a winner with a capital "W."

  • Nirvana Lyrics

    4

    Perhaps no one captured the disenchantment and angst of '90s youth as effectively as Nirvana front man Kurt Cobain. The deliberately contradictory lyrics of "Come as You Are" — "Come as you are/as you were/as I want you to be" — are exemplary of the way Cobain explored themes like the often nonsensical and confusing nature of societal norms and expectations. To this day, Nirvana fans debate over their interpretations of the song's lyrics.

    More from CafeMom: 23 Perfectly Tiny Tattoos You Can Cover or Show Off at Will

  • Daria & Jane

    5

    No, Chandler Bing was not the champion of sarcasm in '90s television. That honor goes to Daria, who blessed us with gems like, "Sometimes your shallowness is so thorough, it's like depth" and "The word is my oyster, yet I can't seem to get it open." Along with her best friend Jane, Daria was the embodiment of teen angst. Yet rather than resorting to theatrics, she showed us it was totally cool to be unpopular, whip-smart, and skeptical of societal norms.

  • Yada, yada, yada...

    6

    A photo posted by carladonna (@carladonna) on

    Remember that Seinfeld episode in which George Costanza's girlfriend Marcy used the phrase "yada, yada, yada" to shorten her stories? When George became suspicious about whether Marcy had "yada yada'd" sex with her ex-boyfriend, he consulted Jerry and Elaine, who soon schooled George on the many indiscretions that could be glossed over by using the seemingly harmless phrase.

  • Jessica Rabbit

    7

    A photo posted by Jamie crystal (@jaecryst) on

    When it comes to curvalicious women in the '90s, two figures instantly come to mind: Pamela Anderson in her red Baywatch swimsuit and Jessica Rabbit in her strapless scarlet gown and elbow-length gloves. The cartoon vixen hasn't lost her relevance: Last year, Heidi Klum transformed herself into Jessica Rabbit for Halloween. This tat shows the bombshell in all of her voluptuous beauty.

  • As If!

    8

    A photo posted by TattooSnob.com (@tattoosnob) on

    The 1995 movie Clueless brought us plenty of pop culture lingo, most notably, "As if!" Though some of the other phrases in the movie require a glossary — think "Monet," "Audi," and "Jeepin'" — "As if!" is as straightforward as it is hilarious. The yellow plaid print filling this heart-shaped tattoo, meanwhile, nods to Alicia Silverstone's iconic yellow plaid skirt and blazer outfit. 

    More from CafeMom: 25 Lovely Bird Tattoos to Make Your Heart Soar

  • 'Friends'

    9

    It's been over 20 years since Friends premiered on NBC, and we're all still wishing we could catch up with Monica, Chandler, Rachel, Ross, Phoebe, and Joey at their nook in Central Perk. The fountain scene in the show's opening credits was even reenacted on Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt: a sure-shot sign of the sitcom's timelessness.

  • Garbage Lyrics

    10

    A photo posted by lamuyputa (@lamuyputa) on

    In the '90s, a handful of female singers infiltrated the predominantly male rock 'n' roll scene, enthralling audiences with their bad-to-the-bone personas and angst-filled voices. Chief among them: Garbage lead singer Shirley Manson. With "Only Happy When It Rains," Manson extolled the joy of misery — a seeming contradiction, and yet a totally understandable concept for Gen X-ers. This tat captures the beautifully dark and moody vibe of the song and its video — not to mention Manson's signature flame-colored haired.


  • 'Buffy the Vampire Slayer'

    11

    The early aughts brought about a vampire craze, as series like True Blood, Being Human, and The Vampire Diaries sank their teeth into prime time. Back in the '90s, however, there was one definitive show about wicked bloodsuckers: Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Wielding an ancient scythe with a wooden stake as a handle, Sarah Michelle Gellar's TV alter ego battled supernatural evildoers, all the while uttering pragmatic words of wisdom like, "Seize the moment 'cause tomorrow you might be dead." A scythe tattoo still slays!

  • The Animaniacs

    12

    A photo posted by twinkie (@twinkie757) on

    Hellooo, nurse! This tattoo of sibling trio Yakko, Wacko, and Dot Warner — the mischievous stars of the '90s cartoon Animaniacs — is zany to the max! The fun-loving rascals are reenacting the famous poses of the three wise monkeys, which are meant to embody the proverb, "see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil."

    More from CafeMom: 25 Tattoos That Celebrate the Unbreakable Bond Between BFFs

  • 'The Golden Girls'

    13

    Before Carrie and company were swapping stories about their romantic exploits over cosmopolitans, there were four equally saucy friends on TV: Blanche, Dorothy, Rose, and Sophia. We'll always remember Rose's anecdotes about her childhood in St. Olaf, Dorothy's sarcastic quips and deadpan expressions, sexually liberated Blanche's boundless sass, and Sofia's over-the-top Sicily stories (all of which started with the phrase, "Picture it"). Thank you for being our friends, Golden Girls!

  • Alanis Morissette Lyrics

    14

    A photo posted by Mitch Melnic (@mitchmelnic) on

    If you listened to the radio in the '90s, chances are you heard quite a few Alanis Morissette tunes. From "You Oughta Know" to "Ironic" and "Hand In My Pocket," Jagged Little Pill was filled with musical gems, many of which had lyrics worth immortalizing in tattoos. This tat captures the life-is-a-learning-process theme of "You Learn."

  • Super Mario Bros.

    15

    Google the words "Italian plumber," and the top search result will likely be Mario, the title character in the über popular video game Super Mario Bros. The Super Mario franchise reached unprecedented popularity during the '90s and, more than 20 years later, gamers are still sliding down pipes and scrambling for those 1up mushrooms.

  • Cassette Tapes

    16

    A photo posted by TOMMY RATTLE (@tomtattooer) on

    Before Spotify, iTunes, or even CDs, the recording medium of choice was the cassette tape. Every '90s kid loved a cassette — even if its plastic ribbons would snag and pop from time to time. Not only could you could buy your favorite band's latest recording in audio cassette format, but you could purchase a blank cassette and make your own mixtape. Would the boombox-over-your-head scene in Say Anything have been quite as romantic without that "In Your Eyes" cassette recording? Doubtful.

    More from CafeMom16 Bold Thigh Tattoos That Are Truly Stunning

  • Pokémon

    17

    Gotta catch 'em all! From trading card games to manga books, anime shows, and Game Boy and Nintendo 64 video games, Pokémon made the jump from Japanese sensation to US phenomenon in the mid-'90s, and the franchise has grown leaps and bounds since! Though Pikachu stands as the franchise's most recognizable mascot, many other characters grew in popularity with time — among them Charmander, Squirtle, and Jigglypuff.

  • 'Pinky and the Brain'

    18

    Cartoon character duo Pinky and the Brain were always cooking up a plot with the goal of world domination. Sure, their plans were typically ill-conceived and all of them ultimately failed, but can you blame the Brain for trying? I mean, who hasn't thirsted for power at one point or another?

  • 'Edward Scissorhands'

    19

    A photo posted by @mspepper.potts on

    Tim Burton's eerie 1990 film Edward Scissorhands, starring Johnny Depp, was a gothic tale that touched upon an age-old theme: how society responds to the unfamiliar, how an outcast is created for reasons often petty or unjust. While he had scissors in lieu of hands, Edward was far from menacing. All he wanted to do was transform hedges into sculptures, create specks of snow out of ice blocks, and fill those around him with joy. Who can't relate to having a gentle soul but being misunderstood?

  • Sonic the Hedgehog

    20

    A photo posted by Gamerink (@gamer.ink) on

    Designed to rival Nintendo's Mario character as Sega's signature character, Sonic the Hedgehog was introduced to gaming enthusiasts in 1991. Known for traveling at lightning speeds, he's been said to outpace the Mach 1. Who can't appreciate that kind of expediency?

    More from CafeMom: 11 Ways to Test Out a Tattoo Before Going Permanent

  • Rollerblades

    21

    Hover boards and electric scooters may be the preferred methods of personal transportation for today's young'uns, but in the '90s, there was no cooler way to travel from point A to point B than on roller blades. There was even a Baby Rollerblade doll for young girls to covet in 1992!

  • 'The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air'

    22

    From West Philadelphia born and raised ... He might have come from a humble background, but that certainly didn't stop the Fresh Prince from claiming his throne in Bel-Air. Will Smith was charming, relatable, and riotously funny playing a fictionalized version of himself in the '90s sitcom, functioning as the wise-cracking, street-savvy counterpart to his bourgeois cousins Carlton, Hillary, and Ashley Banks.

  • Harry Potter

    23

    In 1999's Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Dumbledore mused, "Happiness can be found in the darkest times if one only remembers to turn on the light." When inked around the triangular mark known as the Sign of the Deathly Hallows, these words could be interpreted as the key to a meaningful existence. And, of course, this tat is a badge of honor for any die-hard Harry Potter fan!

  • Jack Skellington

    24

    Ever head the phrase, "The road to hell is paved with good intentions"? Well, that's practically the moral of Jack Skellington's journey in 1993's The Nightmare Before Christmas. When the Pumpkin King attempts to impersonate Santa Claus, the results are calamitous but, luckily, he sees the light in time to correct his mistakes and save Christmas. Hey, haven't we all messed up while trying to make things right? Also, how dapper is Jack's black-and-white pinstripe suit? Just sayin'!

    More from CafeMom: 17 Incredible Watercolor Tattoos That Are Truly Works of Art

  • Marla Singer

    25

    A photo posted by Flo Daspremont (@flowkaina) on

    One of the main characters in the 1998 neo-noir drama Fight Club, Marla Singer (played flawlessly by Helena Bonham Carter), was depicted as an unstable, sympathy-addicted imposter and all-around nutcase by the film's unreliable narrator, but there was something refreshing about Marla's acceptance of her own disfunction. Was she a figment of Tyler Durden's imagination? A female mirror image of himself? Discuss.

  • 'True Romance'

    26

    They got hitched after a single night together, but the love between Clarence and Alabama in 1993's True Romance was meant to be. Their shared love of Elvis, kung fu movies, and great pie was enough to seal the deal and, even through the craziest times, Alabama (in her pink leopard print pants, blue off-the-shoulder top, and pink purse) looked at her hubby and thought, 'You're so cool.' What's not to love?

  • Mrs. Doubtfire

    27

    A photo posted by @rachelhoeck on

    Even when dressed as the prim-and-proper British housekeeper and nanny Mrs. Doubtfire, Daniel Hillard (played by the inimitable Robin Williams) couldn't resist chucking a lime at his ex-wife's new beau Stu (Pierce Brosnan) after the latter claimed his girlfriend had fathered children with a "loser." Say what? When Stu turned around to search for the culprit, Mrs. Doubtfire claimed that "a drive-by fruiting" had taken place. And who could possibly argue with a senior citizen who has a Mary Poppins demeanor?

tattoos trends

More