Probably one of the most well known types of hand tattoos are gang symbols. Often a small set of three dots in a triangular formation on the top of the hand between the thumb and index finger is a symbol that someone has been “jumped in” or become part of a gang. More tattoos can be spotted as a new gang member moves up in the ranks, including the infamous teardrop under the eye to signify a kill, the spider web on the elbow to signify time served for the good of the cause and portrait arm tattoos of those fallen along the way.

Hand tattoos are more common in certain circles than others. Some people choose to commemorate loved ones by placing the birth and death dates on the tops of their hands as an ever-present reminder of the loss. In some cases, perhaps the tattoo is a reminder to be a better person for having lost someone. Some of the cultures and subcultures that celebrate the hand tattoo and other more unconventional tattoos include:

* Arabic cultures – The use of tattoo henna among the many sects of Arabic nations is a centuries old practice and an ancient beautification process for women.
* Prison culture – Incarcerated men and women who get prison tattoos often get a hand or wrist tattoo to denote a connection to a specific gang or clique within the system.
* The indigenous peoples of New Zealand, Australia and Polynesia often use facial tattooing and hand tattoos to signify station, class and which family or tribe they belong to.
* Both the Irish and the Japanese have been known to allow tattoo sleeves to flow down to the hands in a natural progression; the hands are the ends of these extremities and are often used to display the most important and potent symbols within the overall piece. This is also a common practice in Scottish tattoos.