It has been over 45 years since the public got their first view of Leatherface, a memorable villain from the original The Texas Chain Saw Massacre.
The movie, and Leatherface, had an undeniable effect on the world of horror that ripples outward to this day.
There are so many tattoos dedicated to Leatherface in so many styles.
But why Leatherface tattoos?
So many years later, what is it about this beastly character that keeps us interested?
Since its release in October of 1974, the movie has inspired 7 follow up franchises including sequels and remakes.
The fandom doesn’t stop there though, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre has also been re-imagined into modern comic books and video games.
No matter the incarnation, Leatherface seems to be a key component in the Chainsaw Massacre machine.
And that’s probably why Leatherface tattoos aren’t going anywhere anytime soon.
So before you get some fresh, terrifying ink at your next horror convention, let’s take a moment to ask ourselves why Leatherface is such an iconic character within such a legendary franchise.
Who is Leatherface?
One of the most intriguing things about Leatherface is his mysterious quality.
When watching the original Chainsaw movie, you get ideas about his backstory through the way people treat him- but there are so many unanswered questions.
Leatherface gets his name for the mask he wears- which is made of human skin.
He’s like a modern Frankenstein who harvests his own parts (or sometimes saves them for a tasty snack).
On one hand he is a maniacal, chainsaw wielding killer.
He takes no prisoners and shows no mercy.
On the other hand, he seems to be something of a slave to the family of deranged outcasts he lives with.
He has child-like mannerisms and seems to be mentally disabled.
He communicates with his family through grunts and yells, as he is unable to form words properly.
The character of Leatherface becomes almost sympathetic when seen with the other killers in the cast- who tend to treat him offhand.
One wonders if Leatherface wants this life, or if it’s just what’s been presented to him.
What was the Inspiration for Leatherface?
Horror lovers and true crime fans alike can take an interest in Leatherface who was based on one of history’s most notorious killers.
Faint of heart be warned- there are gruesome details ahead.
Ed Gein was a real man born in 1906 in Wisconsin.
He was fairly sheltered, and grew up in a small country house with an overbearing mother, his alcoholic father and an older brother.
He was a shy boy by nature, compounded by the fact that his mother punished him whenever he tried to make friends.
Gein had a fascination with the female body because his mother told him that all women were promiscuous agents of the devil- and that he must avoid being tempted by them.
This shame riddled fascination with women and women’s bodies got worse as family members died and Gein was left alone with his mother who eventually died as well.
Though his mother had been abusive, she was all he had.
He was consumed with grief.
In his state, Gein began harvesting body parts from graves to make clothing and furniture items.
During his time Gein also killed two women, and used their body parts for these same purposes.
It is said that Gein was often after women whose bodies reminded him of his mother.
One of the many disturbing things found by Police in Ed Gein’s home were a couple of masks made from human faces- which is a natural parallel to Leatherface.
Though, doesn’t it all sound rather familiar?
A shy stunted boy in an abusive situation, a fascination with bodies, it’s not hard to find the Ed Gein in Leatherface.
There’s something in these characters that makes people wonder if they can help them, which is ultimately more interesting than a ruthlessly evil killer.
What Does Leatherface Symbolize?
Most people are not getting a Leatherface tattoo because of the character and what he does.
The Texas Chain Saw Massacre means something to horror fans for a few reasons:
- It paved the way. The original 1974 movie was so realistic to audiences at the time, they were disturbed on a whole new level. Even today’s critics praise the film for its documentary style filming. Most of our favourite horror movies would not be what they are today if it weren’t for director Tobe Hooper and co-producer/writer Kim Henkel.
- It made a statement. Anyone who ever believed “nothing could ever happen here” about their small town was shaken up by the film- which points out how quiet places can hide dark secrets.
- It was an underdog project. Though it was a low budget film and instantly banned in many countries upon release, it rose to make heads and tails over the original budget and is an enduring classic to this day.
For these reasons and more, tattoo collectors and horror fans love to dedicate a piece of their skin to this odd, disturbing and groundbreaking film.
Common Themes in Leatherface Tattoos
There are so many ways to do a Leatherface tattoo.
Some opt for a more classic portrait style, while others like to have a little fun with the design.
Because Leatherface has been re-imagined so many times and in different mediums, the choice is yours.
Cartoon-ish horror designs are not only eye catching, but a little more wearable overall.
They can blend in and be a little less shocking than realistic pieces.
That said, if you’re ready to turn some heads- get that detailed portrait!
Just know you’re going to need a lot of space for it- so you’re probably looking at a big budget.
Leatherface Tattoo Ideas
There will always be new entries into the book of great horror movie villains, but Leatherface will be remembered as one of the guys who got there first.
Looking for a little leathery inspiration?
Check out our gallery for the best Leatherface tattoos on the web!