Clowns derive from European medieval jesters, who performed to entertain their royal guests.
Since then, there has been a slow evolution of the clown’s identity and they have become a popular tattoo design.
What all clown tattoos have in common, though, is that they deeply exaggerate emotions, whether they be happy or sad.
Therefore, clown tattoos aren’t always scary— they are what you make of them.
Main Themes in Clown Tattoos
The following themes of clown tattoos follow a full range of emotions.
Clown tattoos are for those that have a flair for the flamboyant when it comes to expressing yourself.
Whether it be proving your ruggedness or telling the world you are proud of being the ‘class clown,’ clown tattoos are bold and don’t hold back.
Let’s take a look at some clown tattoo themes that are common in many clown tattoos and offer a glimpse at the possibilities for anyone seeking this kind of tattoo out.
Sad/Crying Clown Tattoos
Maybe you’re asking, why exactly would someone want to get a sad clown tattoo?
There are many possibilities!
Sad clown tattoos typically show a few colorful tears coming down the clown’s cheek, with the clown itself adorned in its typical garish fashion.
If you have one of these tattoos, you may be sharing with others your true feelings.
Perhaps you are known to be a joyful and humorous person, but inside you have deep emotions.
If you are thinking of receiving a sad clown tattoo, you may also want to consider contemporary feelings on society towards expressing sadness or depression, especially for men.
The very fact you are attempting to show the world that you are at times vulnerable is an honorable endeavor.
It creates an added meaning— you are not afraid to admit that you at times feel blue.
But don’t take this the wrong way, sometimes these tattoos can mean the complete opposite.
They can indicate aggression, rather than sadness, or even say that the clown may be crying but no one will ever catch you with your guard down (which, in a way, is kind of sad).
Payasa Clown Tattoos
Chicano clown tattoos are Mexican clown tattoos that are often accompanied by text or symbols relating to life as a gangster.
In fact, clowns are common imagery in Chicano tattoos.
Also called Payasa, meaning clown in Spanish, these tattoos are all about having a tough outer exterior.
This represents not only a feeling for some but rather a lifestyle.
This tattoo culturally comes from people who grew up in rough Mexican neighborhoods.
Therefore, the Payasa can refer to playing games with your life, not by choice, but rather as a way of life that some people are forced into.
Again, there is often additional imagery that goes with the Payasa, such as a lettering tattoo or word written in graffiti-style typography.
Chicano clown tattoos can have phrases like, “No More Tears,” or “Hard Life,” usually all referring to tightening up one’s bootstraps and heading into the day, not knowing what life it will bring.
Another common image in these tattoos is the dice tattoo.
This means that you are gambling with your life each day.
This tattoo is for you if you must put on a metaphorical clown face to deal with the struggle which is life in a dangerous neighborhood.
Skull Clown Tattoos
A skull clown tattoo is typically a mean-looking skull laughing maniacally and wearing a jester hat.
This tattoo is a classic prison tattoo, meaning that someone is constantly at risk for their lives each day.
If you do not relate to this specific situation but want to express your relationship with life’s risks and eventual end, this tattoo can symbolize that you think ‘life’s a joke.’
Or, it can mean that you have been taunted by near tragedies in the past and always overcame them (and, always will).
There are many other reasons why someone would get a skull clown tattoo:
- Awareness of life after the end
- Being happy even when the going gets rough
- An interest in dark aesthetics
This is one design that is on the darker side of clown tattoos.
The clown aspect of this type of skull tattoo can either add sunshine to the darkness or make it just a little scarier.
But hey, it’s all in what you make of it.
Happy Clown Tattoos
Clowns may just be at their best when they are meant to be happy.
Joyful clown tattoos aren’t meant to be creepy.
Just the opposite, they are meant for people who want their clown tattoo to focus on the bright side, as they represent wonderful cheer and merriment.
Sometimes, the happy clown is paired with a sad clown, exploring a duality that pronounces the two sides to someone that can each come out at any moment.
However, when alone, a happy clown tattoo represents playfulness and the ability to always have fun.
Someone getting this tattoo may also be a prankster or someone who always knows how to make people laugh on any occasion.
If any of this sounds like you, then you may want to consider staying on the light side of life and joining the many who proudly wear happy clown tattoos.
This would not only show your personality but be an interesting conversation piece.
Jester Clown Tattoos
Jesters, as we described, were meant for entertaining royalty in medieval times.
These kinds of clowns can be mean or they can be nice, depending on your angle.
The design of a jester clown tattoo can completely change its meaning.
Do you want to be naughty or nice?
When a jester is naughty, it is a trickster.
This type of tattoo can represent the more sinister side of life.
You could be receiving this type of tattoo to represent your dark side, or in another case, that you have witnessed things in your past that you wish to overcome.
On the other hand, jesters can be nice.
Perhaps you are someone who likes to joke around and want to get a tattoo to symbolize your playfulness.
Whatever reason you want to get a jester clown tattoo, you are certainly paying tribute to the origins of the clown itself.
Krusty the Clown Tattoos
Krusty the Clown tattoo, based on the Simpson’s character, is a mean tattoo.
You may have to be a Simpson’s fan to have this but it certainly shouldn’t stop you from receiving this fun clown tattoo.
This fictional character is said to be still alive and well and is known for his cynical, rowdy, and street-wise attitude.
He embodies an excess of life’s darker pleasures.
The meaning of this tattoo is complicated, to say the least.
In a way, Krusty the Clown is the opposite of what anyone would want to be.
He is an ironic character that represents a life of depression and harsh life choices, while at the same time perhaps being the greatest Simpson’s character ever because he’s real.
This tattoo shows that you have endurance and never give up, even when the worst happens in life.
Evil Clown Tattoos
Evil clown tattoos can symbolize a number of things.
It can be an homage to your favorite villain or a way of facing your fear of clowns.
An evil clown tattoo can symbolize restlessness and desire to create chaos in the world around you.
It may also be a reminder that things are not often as they seem- that most people are wearing a mask in one way or another.
If you’re looking to get some evil clown ink, you may need a lot of skin real estate.
These designs tend to be large because of how detailed they are.
Clown tattoos can be done in any style, but many people opt for something ultra-realistic in portrait style for maximum chills.
Generally, these tattoos are color in order to properly portray the clown’s makeup, but it could also be a fun black and grey design.
As we all know from Stephen King’s famous “IT,” Pennywise is an iconic clown that exists in many of our nightmares.
This clown tattoo is meant to be frightening and has the potential to scare people away from you.
Not only that, but this tattoo shows that anyone wearing it is a tough kind of person who isn’t afraid of anything.
What’s most important about this tattoo is that there’s nothing to fear but fear itself.
If this tattoo design doesn’t bother you or bring you to fear then you may view its aesthetic differently than someone else.
Along the same lines, someone else may think your tattoo is creepy while you love it.
Life is all about contradictions, the point is this tattoo shows that you are not afraid of anything and therefore are a very special person.
Another iconic image, the Joker reigns true as a character that is meant to be feared.
The joker tattoos and very popular because the Joker is no ordinary clown.
His dramatic mouth and piercing stare are known anywhere to strike fear into someone’s heart, especially if you are familiar with his background story.
The meaning of the Joker tattoo is that you have a dark side that you aren’t afraid to show to the world.
Everyone has a dark side.
Some have one that’s more noticeable than others.
The Joker tattoo makes that side of yourself visible and allows you to embrace it rather than let it hide in the shadows.
A Joker tattoo is a clown tattoo that is about a clown that is seen as a bad person but really is just a person who has been hurt too many times.
This is a great tattoo for someone who has a lot of trauma or who has been through a lot in life.
The symbolism behind Clown Tattoos
Clowns have been around for centuries in one form or another.
They are mischievous characters, tricksters who may get away with more than the average person due to their comedic timing.
Because of their jovial nature and painted-on smiles, some people are afraid or distrusting clowns.
What hides behind the makeup?
This idea has naturally progressed over the years to form the evil clown archetype: a master of deception who delights in creating chaos wherever they go.
Evil clown tattoos are an unconventional choice, but popular among those who don’t mind causing a stir.
Is an evil clown a good tattoo design for you?
We’ll take a look into the history of this cheeky character and let you be the judge.
- Who Were the Earliest Clowns?
It’s a mistake to think that clowns come from an innocent childlike background.
The happy, Ronald McDonald-style clown is actually a fairly new idea!
Court jesters, or fools, are mentioned in historic documents as early as the 12th century.
While this job would sometimes come with adoration and gifts, it had a dark side.
This was often a very difficult and degrading position with a low pay grade.
Court jesters were expected to act foolishly in order to entertain royals and to do so whenever it was asked of them.
They had the difficult task of “roasting” people in the court without taking things too far.
Jesters were often from lower-class backgrounds and were expected to be multi-talented if they wanted to make money.
They were expected to be funny, clever, and musically gifted on several instruments.
Because of their low status, a king would think nothing of sending a jester onto his rival’s battlefield to deliver a message.
This was a dangerous position from the beginning, but sometimes rival leaders would literally “shoot the messenger” in order to assert their dominance.
- Where Does the Clown Idea Come From?
The art of clowning is to be a shapeshifter- to keep the audience guessing, and to never let them see the person behind the makeup.
This aligns with the Jungian concept of “the trickster,” someone who gleefully breaks up the normalcy of everyday life in order to wake people up and keep them on their toes.
Perhaps the original evil clown is Mr. Punch from the Punch and Judy show.
This 17th-century puppet show was a comedy to be enjoyed by young and old- and is still performed in parts of the UK.
The Punch and Judy Show delivers bizarrely dark content.
Most of the humor in the show is slapstick, but the storyline is that Mr. Punch (our clown-like character) murders his baby, then beats his wife, then defeats a series of characters who try to catch him.
This was later followed by Emmet Kelly’s famous sad clown character “Weary Willy,” who appeared in the circus in 1923.
Any modern “hobo clown” you see today has Willy to thank for this legacy.
Clowns are complicated. They exaggerate everything in life to an absurd degree.
So if you’re a happy clown you’re very happy.
But if you’re an evil clown- you’ll kill a baby and somehow make people laugh at it.
- Clowns in Modern Pop Culture
Clowns are having a pop culture moment right now.
It makes sense, considering how much political unrest there seems to be in the world.
People are feeling restless and angry, so comedians are busier than ever trying to make them laugh.
It would only make sense that the trickster character wants an opportunity to point things out in these divided times, shake things up, and wake us up to the absurdity in our lives.
Many of today’s evil clown tattoos are based on a certain comic book anti-hero who’s appeared in at least 26 movies to date.
Batman’s Joker has been busy lately, appearing in several movies and comic books within the last 20 years and most recently the Oscar-nominated film simply titled “Joker.”
But he’s not the only one. Pennywise has made his way back into the horror genre, and reports are still made of random people in “creepy clown” costumes walking the streets at night, hoping to get a scare out of someone.
As you can see, there are so many reasons to get a clown tattoo, and not always what you would think.
There are a lot of interpretations of clowns because they can represent a range of emotions and ideas.
That’s what makes them performers, from history until the present day.
They represent happy entertainment, the saddest of sad, a hard gangster, or a menacing darkness.
Whatever your reasoning for getting a clown tattoo, choose carefully which design elements you include and what style you pick because that can make all the difference.