Although there is still a strong prejudice against hand tattoos as somehow being gang-related, the stigma is slowly being lessened as tattooing has continued to grow in mainstream culture. One hand-specific fad that got its started in Western culture are knuckle tattoos. This inked trend gained some ground thanks to the internet, where some sites have specialized in posting and sharing these eight-character designs.
There is some evidence that merchant sailors may have tattooed the words "hold" and "fast" on their knuckles as a charm against being swept overboard, but as to when this practice started is unclear. Some sources say it may have begun as far back as the 17th century, others claim it originated during World War I or World War II. One clear influence on the modern adaptation of this style of tattoo work can be found in the mid-twentieth century, in a film called THE NIGHT OF THE HUNTER. Filmed in 1955, the film noir movie stars Robert Mitchum as a preacher in prison who tries to learn the location of the money his cellmate has hidden. His character has the words "love" and "hate" tattooed on the knuckles of his hands. Many feel that this film was one of Mitchum's finest performances.
Knuckle tattoos allow for eight characters, one on each of the fingers of the hands, leaving out the thumbs. Most often these tattoos are comprised of two, four-letter words expressing some philosophy that the wearer feels is closely related to their life. Love/hate has been reproduced many times now, and just about anything you can express in eight characters has probably been tattooed on someone's knuckles, somewhere at some time.
If you are in the market for a knuckle tattoo saying and want to see if you can think of something original, make sure to stop by KnuckleTattoos.com first and make sure your idea hasn't been done yet. You'll be hard-pressed to find something that hasn't. You can also find more pictures in Flickr's knuckle tattoo group. If you don't want to commit to something permanent, you might consider knitting yourself some knuckle tattoo fingerless gloves instead.