One of Zayn Malik’s smallest tattoos is the simple black outline of a bird he had inked on the outside of his right hand in November 2012, on the same day he got the bandana tattoo inked as part of his half-sleeve. Zayn’s hand tattoo, which features a miniature swallow, is inked so that the bird looks like it is in flight, heading across his hand to his fingers. Zayn must have been channeling Justin Bieber when he got the small tattoo on his hand, because it is almost identical to the bird tattoo the Biebs has inked on his left hip. Zayn Malik’s tattoo, although far more simple and discreet, follows the same theme as the large tattoos of two swallows Harry Styles recently got inked on his chest. In fact, Harry Styles and Zayn Malik probably got their swallow tattoos during the same tattoo session at Shamrock Tattoos in West Hollywood, where the One Direction boys were promoting their Take Me Home album.
Swallow tattoos have become extremely popular recently, but they originated as a symbol of travel among the earliest sailors. According to tradition, a sailor would earn a swallow tattoo once he had traveled 5,000 nautical miles, and another one after completing 10,000 nautical miles. Because swallows always return home to San Juan Capistrano every year and because sailors knew that land was near when they saw a swallow out at sea, the birds have also become a symbol of returning home safely. When Harry got his swallow tattoos on his chest, he said the reasoning behind the ink was that the One Direction boys travel a lot, but that his heart is always back home in England. It’s probably safe to say that there is a similar meaning behind Zayn Malik’s tattoo.