The teardrop tattoo or tear tattoo is a symbolic tattoo of a tear that is placed underneath the eye. The tattoo can have various meanings: it can signify that the wearer has killed someone or has spent time in prison; that the wearer was raped while incarcerated or was "owned" by a sugar daddy within the prison community;[unreliable source?] that the wearer has molested a child;[unreliable source?] or it can acknowledge the loss of a family or fellow gang member. Sometimes, only the wearer will know the exact meaning of the tattoo.
The tattoo is sometimes worn by the female companions of prisoners in solidarity with their loved ones. According to The Devil's Front Porch, a book written by Lester Douglas Johnson about serving 1927 to 1957 in Kansas State Penitentiary; the tattoo denoted a member of "The Old Fraternity"; referring to the Biblical Cain who slew his brother.
US rappers The Game and Lil Wayne have teardrop tattoos signifying the death of friends. Amy Winehouse had a teardrop tattooed to mark her distress at husband Blake Fielder-Civil remaining on remand at Pentonville Prison. Basketball player Amar'e Stoudemire has had a teardrop tattoo since 2012; honoring his older brother Hazell Jr. who had died in a car accident.
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A teardrop tattoo below the corner of the eye represents five years in prison.
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- Santos, Xuan (Fall 2009). "The Chicana Canvas: Doing Class, Gender, Race, and Sexuality through Tattooing in East Los Angeles". Feminist Formations 21 (3): 91–120.
- Binelli, Mark (April 16, 2009). "Life on Planet Wayne". Rolling Stone. pp. 43–47, 73–74.
- Lorenzo, Tom (2012-02-14). "Amar'e Stoudemire Honors His Late Brother By Getting A "Teardrop" Tattoo". Sports Grid. Retrieved 2012-02-28.