Historically speaking, brandishing tattoos was only ever associated with societal groups that were considered degenerates. The category of male models with tattoos didn’t exist. From gang members to pirates and prisoners, it was only the troublesome and the dangerous who openly exhibited their permanent art, a tactic used to ensure that others would not try to provoke or take advantage of them. While the tactic was necessary during a time in history where you truly did have to fight to survive, it created a stigma surrounding tattoos, and this stigma carried its way throughout history up until a new generation of bold, expressive creatives started to break the stereotype.
Now, around 47% of millennials have adorned their body with at least one tattoo, and a lot of this is due to the fashion industry. While many people assumed that having tattoos, and decorating your body, would result in your inability to get a job, powerful fashion brands like Dolce and Gabbana, Chanel, and Moschino begged to differ, and showcased models who wore their ink proudly on the most sought after runways in the world during a time where people were still unsure of body art’s place in society. Soon, a model having a tattoo wasn’t a deal breaker, but rather, something agencies looked for and celebrated as personal expression and necessity when it came to building their rosters and their brand.
Tattoos started being showcased in high end editorials, and throughout advertisements, and they exploded in popular culture, with millennials and artists feeling empowered by the change in the industry. Tattoos weren’t necessarily considered safe, but rather, edgy and interesting — something that added an “it” factor to any human being who had them. Models like Jimmy Q and Rick Genest were being celebrated and showcased in music videos for Lady Gaga and print publications like Vogue. Soon, male models with tattoos weren’t just props used in the industry to female supermodels, but they were making a name for themselves due to how jarring and chic their looks were.
With that being said, here are some of our favorite male models with tattoos. These men changed the industry from favoring feminine, androgynous models, to embracing a more masculine, gritty side to high fashion.
Stephen James used to be a professional soccer player, but now he is best known for the tattoos that adorn his body. They range from lifelike portraits of historic icons, to mandalas, to religious forms, and memento mori. Coupled with his striking looks, it was only a matter of time before James burst onto the fashion scene after signing with Storm modeling agency, and he has been making a name for himself ever since — working for top brands like Calvin Klein and following in the formidable footsteps of supermodel influencers like Kendall Jenner and Gigi Hadid.
Leebo Freeman exploded into the fashion industry after being discovered in 2011 and opening Mugler’s August / Winter 2011 menswear show. Due to his striking looks, and his playful personality, he was one of the first male models with tattoos to truly break into high fashion scene. Since then, Leebo has walked for Vivienne Westwood, and Jeremy Scott, and he has shot editorials for Vogue, W, and Wonderland.
If there was anyone who put male models with tattoos on the map, it is Jimmy Q. Jimmy was born in Venice, Los Angeles and grew up as an incredible skateboarder, signing contracts to turn pro at a young age. As he started to add more and more ink to his body, and hone in on his personal style, he stood out as a bad boy with a mysterious personality, and was quickly discovered by the fashion industry. He signed with Select models, and has graced the runway during NYFW, while being featured in thousands of editorials for magazines like Nylon and Vogue.
Billy Huxley used to work as a laborer who fixed roofs. One day, when he was out of work, and on the brink of being completely broke, he was discovered by a modeling scout. Due to this charming accent, his perfectly groomed beard, and the fact that his body is adorned with thousands of tattoos, Billy shook up the fashion industry at a time when most male models looked a lot different than he did. However, this worked in his favor, as he signed with Models1 UK, and has had an extremely successful career working alongside supermodels like Cara Delevigne.
Represented by LA Models, D1 Models London, and Kult Germany, Levi Stocke has made a name for himself as a male model with tattoos. Some of his career highlights include working with huge brands like Diesel, and H&M, and he was even in a Sprint Superbowl commercial. However, Levi has also found an extreme amount of success on Instagram, fielding just over 600k followers and using his platform to lock down contracts in TV and advertising.
Josh Mario John
Josh John is a social worker by day, and world renowned model by night. He has working with incredible icons like Stacey McKenzie and Carmen Dell’Orefice, and has been photographed by Bruce Weber and Lane Dorsey. Because of his striking looks and his incredible tattoos, brands like Diesel immediately started working with him, and he was able to secure editorial shoots for heavyweight print publications like Elle, Rolling Stone, and Maxim.
Andre Hamann is considered to be one of the most sought after male models with tattoos in the world. With over a million Instagram followers, and friendships with the likes of Selena Gomez, Andre has come a long way since he was discovered working as a retail assistant in Vienna. Since then, he has worked with international brands like Hugo Boss, Dolce & Gabbana, and Diesel, while dreaming into existence his own clothing line called Haze & Glory.
Having appeared in ads for Dazed, Penguin and Havianas, Mateus Verdelhomv is one of the most well known male models with tattoos in the fashion scene today. He has carved out a niche for himself in the modeling world, and has come a long way since he was discovered in an Abercrombie & Fitch campaign as a fresh faced, blank canvas. He is now one of the most well respected creatives in the business due to his tattoos, and his professionalism makes it look like his talent is effortless.
Toby Leonard has a face you will never forget once you see it. With striking, almost garish looks, this British male model with tattoos shot onto the fashion scene after appearing in editorials for GQ and Vogue. He has been voted as one of the industry’s top style icons, and his hard work and dedication to being as true to his work as possible, has made him a favorite amongst agencies and brands.
Diego Barrueco wasn’t discovered on the street like model male models with tattoos. Instead, he was scouted off of Tumblr and he moved to London in 2013 to pursue his modeling career. Since then, he has adorned magazined like Wonderland, and he has shot editorial campaigns for huge brands like Pull & Bear.