“I spend most of my life naked,” Adam Levine once said after a nude photo shoot. “In fact, I often have to be told by the people around me that it’s inappropriate to be as naked as I am.” Indeed, this oft-naked man makes headlines with the many (many, many) tattoos on his near-naked body. It happened this week, when he unveiled an intricate new back tattoo of a mermaid at sea, inspiring headlines like “Adam Levine Debuts Giant Back Tattoo of Flying Mermaid, Skull — It Took 6 Months!”; “Adam Levine’s Massive Back Tattoo Is A Mythical Work Of Art”; “Adam Levine’s New Back Tattoo Is Worse Than Maroon 5.”
I don’t care about these headlines, but I do care that this occasion seems to mandate a timely perusal of Levine’s naked body. As it happens, an array of websites and discussion boards are devoted to decoding his tattoos, which are a mix of nonsensical and sentimental: His first tattoo was inked when he was 21, as a tribute to 9/11. Later, he got a beaded necklace in Japan because he was bored. Herewith, a taxonomy.
The Skull-Cradling Winged Mermaid
Featuring every item from your third-grade coloring book: a ship, ship’s wheel, stormy clouds, sun, waves, sparrows, flowers, seashells, detailed bordering, more seashells.
Where: His entire back.
Why: Why wouldn’t a sane person spend six months getting this tattoo, teasing close-ups on Instagram before the big reveal? This one was crafted with pride by his favorite tattoo artist (because he has many tattoo artists): Bryan Randolph of Spider Murphy’s Tattoo shop in San Rafael, California.
Where: Right peck.
Why: It resembles a delicious head of cabbage and complements his abs.
Black Beaded Necklace
Why: To never be without a necklace again! “I was in Japan and I got this necklace. I’m not sure why I got it — I think I was bored. But I like it.”
The Sanskrit Word “TAPAS”
Where: Left peck, above his heart.
Why: No, not for the appetizers. “A few years ago I fell in love with yoga,” he told People. The word ‘tapas’ stands for fire … passion … This keeps me connected to something that changed my life.” His yoga instructor comes on tour with him.
Why: “Tattoos wind up being this strange road map or narrative over the years. They always remind me of this long, weird, awesome journey life has been.” That is how he explained this tattoo, which doesn’t explain this tattoo at all.
True Love Gypsy Hand [CALIFORNIA]
Where: Left peck, abs.
Why: A carnival drawing and a tribute to his home state, respectively. Luckily, he’s from somewhere relatively cool — “Delaware” just wouldn’t have the same ring to it, n’est-ce pas?
Where: Right biceps.
Why: Unreadable due to his bulging arm, the mysterious words in this tattoo do not matter.
Where: Right elbow, below his intense gaze.
Why: “This was inspired by my love of this amazing book of Tibetan drawings.” Okay, Adam.
Where: Right forearm.
Why: This one’s for his mom, Patsy, a tattoo-averse admissions counselor: “A last-ditch effort to gain my mother’s approval. She hates this one slightly less than the others.”
Where: Left forearm.
Why: Every time he sings at the mic you remember that he sings and plays the guitar AND loves his mom (see: “Mom Heart”).
Where: Right shoulder.
Why: Adam Levine graced this city with his birth, 36 years ago. “Simple case of hometown love. Not many people were born and raised in L.A. Gotta wear that badge of pride.” Also, if he gets lost, this will explain where to return him.
Where: Right ribs. Can you see it?
Why: Fan sites claim he fears sharks and has a shark nickname (???). He begs to differ: “I’ve always had a strange fascination with sharks. I actually think they are the most fascinating creatures on Earth. I guess the tattoo had something to do with that.” I guess.
Dove and Cherry Blossoms
Where: Left shoulder.
Why: Note the dove: It was his first tattoo. “I was 21. It was five days after 9/11. I felt this need to say something with this peaceful thing on my body.”
Roman Numeral X
Where: Left bicep.
Why: The number 10, appropriately inked for Maroon 5’s tenth anniversary.
Where: Left forearm.
Why: This was the door number of Maroon 5’s first recording studio.
Feathers, Other Decorative Accents
Where: Arm sleeves.
Why: They warm him at night.
THE ONES THAT GOT AWAY
These gems used to be visible on his back, but the new mermaid covers them now.
Where: Left shoulder blade.
Why: Presumably inked before his marriage to a supermodel.
Where: Right shoulder blade.
Why: He had a golden retriever named “Frankie Girl,” who died.
If this taxonomy was somehow not enough for you, might we recommend this tattooed Adam Levine Barbie?