Tattooing dates back thousands of years and is practiced around the world. A practice with spiritual power among people of the South Pacific, European sailors adopted the practice and began covering themselves with precious images.
Vintage tattoos often depict nautical themes and the life of a sailor.
The idea of vintage tattoos in the U.S. was defined by one man during the period of European colonization. In 1911, Norman Keith Collins, also known as Sailor Jerry, was born in Reno, Nevada.
He learned the art of stick-and-poke tattooing from an Alaskan man known as Big Mike as a wily youth, hopping freight trains across North America. A tattoo machine was later introduced to him by Tatts Thomas in Chicago.
When he was 19, he enlisted in the Navy and sailed the Pacific, where he encountered Polynesian tattoos. While he skippered a three-masted ship and played the saxophone, he also set up shop as a tattoo artist in Hawaii.
As more U.S. servicemen stopped in for some Sailor Jerry ink, people on the mainland began to notice its unique and vibrant images. As well as establishing his own style of soft fading and looping, cartoonish lines, he also developed his own pigments, making body art more vibrant than ever.
The classic tattoos of Sailor Jerry feature pin-up girls, bottles of booze, the ‘Aloha’ monkey, and traditional Hawaiian themes.
Each vintage tattoo pays homage to the rich history of tattooing, including a wide variety of symbolic meanings.
Best vintage tattoo meanings
Trends seem to come and go within minutes in today’s modern society. There will be a trend that is popular and then, all of a sudden, the masses have moved on to the next. Tattoos, internet memes, music, and fashion are all examples of this.
A number of Pinterest boards are dedicated to new and sometimes cliched tattoo ideas. Tattoos stay on your body forever, so it’s better to choose a design that’s relevant next week, unlike those fads. If you decide to get a classic tattoo, you will carry a history along with it.
There is nothing like a classic tattoo design that stands the test of time and is awesome. Despite their age, there are still many cool vintage tattoo designs available today.
It usually ends up being a huge biker with tattooed arms bursting out of their leather jacket when I picture a tattooed person in my head. Regardless of whether you fit that description or not, there’s nothing to worry about! Since tattoos are becoming more and more common, people who have them can’t just be described by stereotypes.
These classic tattoo designs will inspire you no matter what your style is. In comparison to more modern ink, vintage tattoos may seem dated, but they’re just as awesome today.
Get inspired by these awesome tattoo photos if you’re thinking about getting one soon.
Best Vintage Tattoo Ideas
Chest Piece Vintage Tattoos
In 1907, this woman was a total badass with an eagle holding an American flag and a woman riding a lion.
Full Body Vintage Tattoos
Tattoo needles are not a problem for this woman from 1930. There are flowers, religious imagery, and dragons all over her body.
American Flag Vintage Tattoos
Take a cue from this woman in 1930 if you want to represent the USA. She really shows how patriotic she is by wearing a chest piece with American flags.
Mini Vintage Tattoos
Simple, but colorful, this design on a 1970s model adds a pop of color.
Sailor Vintage Tattoos
You can learn a lot from these 1944 sailors if you’re into classic tattoo designs. A traditional rose is always a good place to start a tattoo collection.
Punk Vintage Tattoos
The demon and skull tattoos stand out because of their super bright colors and sharp lines.
Anchor Vintage Tattoos
Try out an anchor tattoo like this man from 1908 if you are looking for a truly classic tattoo. If you want to make it your own, you can make it more detailed, or you can keep it simple as he did.
Snake Vintage Tattoos
An image from 1928 shows a woman with a tattoo of a snake slithering down her thigh.
Japanese Vintage Tattoos
The artist pays homage to Japanese culture by creating a scene featuring coy fish and Mt. Fuji, and Japanese temples.
Butterfly Vintage Tattoos
The butterfly back tattoo was famous even in 1955, I guess!
Bird Vintage Tattoos
There is still a great deal of popularity for the classic tattoo style today.
Skull Vintage Tattoos
Alternatively, you can draw inspiration from this skull tattoo from 1955 for a bit more of a hardcore look.
Dancers With Vintage Tattoos
A mix of ballet dancers and birds gives this backpiece a soft appearance.
Old school, also called American traditional or Western traditional, is a tattoo style featuring bold black outlines and a limited color palette. It features common motifs influenced by sailors’ tattoos. This style is prevalent in many flash designs.
Lines with thin shading, words with small letters, and tattoos with small letters fade much faster. Age can have a positive effect on tattoos for some people. Too much detail, however, will likely cause the tattoo to blend together. Designs with bolder lines, thicker lines, and larger sizes will last longer.
What makes a tattoo a traditional tattoo?
It is characterized by its black outlines, vibrant colors, and minimal shading. It is also known as American or Western tattoos. Among the boldest and most iconic tattoo styles ever, traditional style is based on these elements.
A tattoo can symbolize a close, profound, and spiritual connection to someone present in our lives, or to someone who is no longer with us. We could use them all along to give meaning to grief and cope with painful situations.