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Jake and Elwood Blues both have their names tattooed on their fingers, as established in the opening scenes of The Blues Brothers.

Jake's tattooed hand reading "Jake"

Elwood's tattooed hands reading "Elwood"

Tattoos like these are called knuckle tattoos, even though the actual tattoo is done between the knuckles. Another famous example is "LOVE/HATE" on Reverend Harry Powell's hands in The Night of the Hunter.

Both in-universe and out-of-universe, why do Jake and Elwood have their names tattooed on their hands?

Has anyone involved in the production of the film ever commented on it?

  • 4
    I think the real question is why you don't have your name tattooed across your knuckles. ;) – MissMonicaE May 31 '18 at 17:21
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    ...because your name is Christopher.... or CHRI – STOP on knuckles :p – disassociated May 31 '18 at 18:42
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    Because they are supposed to be very, very odd individuals. – PoloHoleSet May 31 '18 at 21:23
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It's been a while since I watched The Blues Brothers, and I don't remember these tattoos, so I can't tell you what the in-universe reason might be. The out-of-universe reason, however, is almost certainly that they're parodying the "knuckle tattoos" concept entirely:

  • Instead of tattooing something meaningful onto their knuckles, like "LOVE/HATE", they chose the most inane thing possible - their own names.
  • Instead of the fancy lettering you usually get on tattoos, the Blues Brothers' tats look like they were scribbled on with a ballpoint pen. In-universe, as @jdv noted in a comment, they were probably done by someone at the jail using a pin, hence the amateurish quality; out-of-universe, they probably were actually written on in pen.
  • Elwood's tattoo is the punchline, because it's too long to fit on one hand (unlike "JAKE") and ends up awkwardly split across both hands. "LOVE" makes sense by itself, but "ELWO" doesn't.
  • 5
    To add to this explanation, the reason they look drawn on is because they are also referencing jail-house or home-made tattoos; drawn on with ink and pushed under the skin with a pin. – user64475 May 31 '18 at 14:37
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    Hahaha punchline. Because the letters are in a line. On knuckles. That you use for punching. HAhahahahahaha – corsiKa May 31 '18 at 14:44
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    @jdv Expanding on what you are saying, all tattoos are ink pushed under skin with a pin of some kind. But prison tattoos are rougher because nobody inside prison has professional tools and are improvising it with whatever tools they have at hand. – JakeGould Jun 1 '18 at 4:15
  • @JakeGould yes, we are aware of what a tattoo is. I was making the point that this scene is also telling us in a succinct manner that both brothers had been to jail, or associate with those that have. It isn't necessarily that fact that they have tattoos that is interesting in this context; it is that they have a specific sort of tattoo in a specific sort of location. This is also part of a very long scene with little or no dialogue, but all these pieces are presented as a way to backfill the plot. – user64475 Jun 1 '18 at 13:11
  • @F1Krazy, I don't know if the tats were drawn on with simple pen or not, but I do know that tattoo artists are often hired to ink semi-temporary tattoos for movies, and some specialize in these sorts of jailhouse or gang tattoos. Given the budget this movie had (or what it eventually had) it wouldn't surprise me in the least that they spent the few hundred bucks a day to do this! – user64475 Jun 1 '18 at 13:16

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