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Joe Gilgun's tattoos: Stories and meanings behind the ink


Joe Gilgun, an English actor known for his roles in "This is England," "Preacher," and "Brassic," among others, is not only recognised for his versatile acting skills but also for his distinctive collection of tattoos.

Each piece of ink adorning his skin has a story, a memory, or a meaning behind it, reflecting his personal journey, beliefs, and experiences. So, let's see the stories and meanings behind Joe Gilgun's tattoos, providing insights into the man behind the characters.

How many tattoos does Joe Gilgun have?

Joe Gilgun boasts of having over 33 real tattoos adorning various parts of his body, including his neck, forehead, hands, and more. Each tattoo reflects a personal story or significance, ranging from tributes to loved ones and co-stars to symbols representing his beliefs and life experiences. Gilgun's extensive collection of tattoos adds a unique dimension to his personality, both on and off-screen, making him a fascinating figure in the entertainment industry.


artist tattooing client


Joe Gilgun's neck tattoos

Joe Gilgun's neck tattoo, bearing the word 'ATHAIR,' showcases a deeply personal connection to his roots and values, with "Athair" being the Celtic word for "father." This particular tattoo is a testament to the significance Gilgun places on familial bonds and his heritage.

By choosing to inscribe such a meaningful word in a visible location like his neck, Gilgun publicly honours the concept of fatherhood and perhaps his own relationship with his father or his identity as a paternal figure.

Moreover, in April 2022, Joe Gilgun added a new, large tattoo to his neck, a piece that quickly became a topic of intrigue and speculation among his fans. The tattoo artist, Kameeleon Tattoo, showcased this work through a series of photos, expressing gratitude towards Gilgun for the opportunity.

Despite the public display, the exact wording of the tattoo has stirred debate among fans. Some suggest it reads 'Hellbent,' implying a strong determination or possibly reflecting Gilgun's personal ethos or a character trait he admires.

In contrast, others believe it says 'little life,' which could denote a more introspective or reflective sentiment, perhaps acknowledging the fragility or humility of existence. The ambiguity surrounding the tattoo's wording adds a layer of mystery and personal significance, leaving the interpretation open to the perspectives and insights of fans and onlookers.

Without a definitive clarification from Gilgun himself, the true meaning and wording of the tattoo remain a point of fascination and discussion.

Joe Gilgun's right-hand tattoo

The tattoo of "LOL" on Joe Gilgun's right-hand is a heartfelt tribute to his on-screen partner Vicky McClure from the "This Is England" series. This tattoo is particularly special, symbolising the deep connection and significant impact that the series, and specifically the character Lol (played by McClure), had on him. "This Is England," both the film and the subsequent television series, marked a pivotal point in Gilgun's acting career, and the relationships formed during its production hold a meaningful place in his heart. The "LOL" tattoo is a direct nod to the character and the series' influence on Gilgun, showcasing his appreciation and fond memories of that period in his professional life.


artist doing a tattoo on his client


Joe Gilgun's left arm tattoos

Joe Gilgun's left arm features several tattoos, each with its unique story and significance. Notably, one of the tattoos on his left arm is a portrait of a lady inked inside the shape of the clubs from playing cards, symbolising the "Queen of Clubs." This particular tattoo can represent various meanings, including social inventiveness, entertainment, and emotional complexity. The choice of the Queen of Clubs could reflect Gilgun's own experiences and characteristics, such as his creative profession and the emotional depth he brings to his roles.

Additionally, his left arm includes tattoos dedicated to his parents, with swirling designs incorporating the words 'Mum' and 'Dad,' showcasing his deep family ties and the importance of his parents in his life.

Joe Gilgun's right leg tattoos

On Joe Gilgun's right leg, there's a distinctive tattoo of a burning candle with the word 'JAN' inked at its bottom. This tattoo, like many of Gilgun's, carries a personal meaning. It is often interpreted as a symbol of light triumphing over darkness, knowledge, and guidance through difficult times. The inclusion of 'JAN' could signify a dedication to a specific individual or an important date in January, pointing towards a personal significance to Gilgun.

While he has a reputation for embedding his skin with art that reflects his life experiences, relationships, and milestones, the exact story or dedication behind this particular tattoo, like many others, remains largely private, known fully only to Gilgun himself.

Joe Gilgun's chest tattoo

Joe Gilgun's chest tattoo is notably significant, featuring the number "23456" prominently across his chest. This series of numbers is believed to represent a unique connection to his co-stars from "Misfits," a British science fiction comedy-drama television series in which Gilgun played a key role. Each number is speculated to correspond to the call numbers of his fellow cast members, including Iwan Rheon, Nathan Stewart-Jarrett, Lauren Socha, Matthew McNulty, and Antonia Thomas.

This tattoo symbolises the strong bonds and shared experiences Gilgun formed with his co-stars during the filming of "Misfits," reflecting the impact of these relationships on his life and career. The decision to place such a personal and meaningful tribute in the form of a tattoo on his chest speaks volumes about the significance of these connections to Gilgun.

For those inspired by Gilgun's expressive art and considering their own ink, proper aftercare is essential to ensure your tattoo heals beautifully and lasts a lifetime. The Tattoo Goo Tattoo Care Kit (3 in 1) is an excellent choice for maintaining your tattoo's vibrancy and health. This kit includes Tattoo Goo Lotion, Tattoo Goo Soap, and Tattoo Goo Balm (21g), providing comprehensive care for new and existing tattoos. Keep your ink looking as fresh and meaningful as Gilgun's with the right care routine.


tattoo artist doing tattoo


Final thoughts

Joe Gilgun's tattoos are more than just ink on the skin; they're a map of his life's significant moments, beliefs, and relationships. Each tattoo tells a story, making his body a living journal of his journey. Whether it's a tribute to loved ones, a nod to his roles, or a symbol of his inner thoughts, Gilgun's tattoos invite us to glimpse the man behind the characters he plays.

If you are interested in learning more about tattoos and their meanings. Check out our MTS blog for a wealth of articles on tattoo art. And if you're thinking of getting inked yourself, remember that proper aftercare is key to keeping your tattoo looking its best. Visit our shop for top-notch tattoo aftercare products. Whether you're a tattoo veteran or a newcomer, we've got you covered.


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  • Mark Joshua Luz