Here's The Meaning Behind Jeremy Allen White's Tattoos In The Bear
Each piece of ink was specifically chosen.
The Bear fans have been having a whole meal recently. After the first season of FX’s culinary drama served up a buffet of engaging characters and stories in the summer of 2022, Season 2 doubled down on the flavor with an even deeper dive into the psyche of Jeremy Allen White’s dreamy character, Carmy Berzatto, and his many, many tattoos. Ever since the show began, viewers have wondered if the ink was real, and if not, why were they chosen for Carmy? Here’s the real deal.
Back when The Bear first debuted, it instantly became the talk of social media. Not only was chef-speak Twitter’s new go-to lingo, the thirst for White was real. A screenshot from The Bear that showed off White’s floppy hair and tattoos going viral certainly helped that.
The photo made me wonder if Carmy’s tattoos are real. Turns out I’m probably not the only one wondering. Search traffic on Google for “jeremy allen white tattoos” skyrocketed after the show’s mid-June premiere, so I’m ready to investigate the truth of White’s tattoos.
Well, turns out my impending investigation has already ended. White spoke with Vulture in 2022 about creating custom ink for Carmy’s character. “I created all of them with a friend who is a tattoo artist. His name is Ben Shields,” he said. “He has an incredible knowledge of the history and art of tattoos, and even the geography of it. He can see tattoos on older people and generally figure out where they were and when they got it.”
White told Vulture that working with Shields to create Carmy’s tattoos helped him learn about his character through Carmy’s art. “It was actually my introduction to figuring out Carmy, because Ben wrote down a list of questions,” White said of the tattoos. “He was like, ‘When people get their first tattoos, it’s going to be a boyfriend or a girlfriend or their parents or an area code or an address, because that’s something about your identity no one can challenge you on. It’s a very safe first thing to get.’ He had a whole list of questions like that: ‘Did you get something when you were at Noma in Copenhagen? Who gave that to you?’”
After Season 2 renewed the interest in Carmy’s ink, Shields got even more specific about the meaning behind the tattoos. In a June 27 interview with PopSugar, Shields shared that believes the “773” tattoo on Carmy’s bicep was probably one of his first tattoos. “That's his area code — maybe that's something you get when you're young,” he said of the Chicago-specific digits.
Among Carmy’s various other pieces of ink are a rose, a snail with the words “Live Fast,” a hand with a knife through it, two angels surrounding a sun, the grim reaper and a bottle of alcohol shaking hands, and a spilled whiskey glass. Shields said his favorite detail was placing the angel tattoo on the opposite forearm of Carmy’s grim reaper tattoo.
“I like the light and dark; it's kind of what we're all dealing with [on the show],” Shields said. “Which side gets the better of you, you know? I've always liked that kind of imagery.”
This is all well and good, but it’s time to get to the real question: How many tattoos does White actually have? “I’ve got something for Mom, something for Dad, something for my wife, something for my daughter,” he told Vulture. “All the safe ones.”
One of his tattoos — a triangle on his left pec — actually caused a stir while filming the pilot for Shameless over a decade ago. “The triangle tattoo was for a couple of friends. I got it when I was really young. I was like 17, and it was done very poorly, so it’s very raised,” White told FOX 5 in 2020.
“I went to shoot the pilot for Shameless, and it was pretty much just a pain to cover,” he said. “[The makeup artists] were like ‘It’s so raised, no matter what you do to it, you pretty much see it.’ We ended up asking the tattoo artist if I could have his tattoo on my body, so Lip ended up with the tattoo as well as myself.” Unsurprisingly, fans also thirsted for his Shameless character, Lip Gallagher.
Though Carmy has significantly more tattoos than White does IRL, White still saw himself in the chef. “I knew immediately how much I cared for Carmy and how much my heart really hurt for Carmy, and I don’t think I knew exactly why yet,” he told Vulture.
Based on the insight Shields gave White about the popularity of tattoos as mementos, it might be only a matter of time before White gets a tattoo to honor The Bear. I’d suggest ink of a classic Chicago Italian beef.
For now, though, consider this investigation closed.
This article was originally published on