Old school tattoos

Traditional style tattoos also called “Old school tattoos” derive from the old sailor style tattoos. Anchors, nautical stars, swallows and pinup girls are common tattoo designs for this style.



It’s believed sailors started getting tattoos as early as the 1800century when Captain Cook sailed to the pacific. Many of the crew came home with hand poked tattoos that they received in the pacific islands. It was mostly nautical themed tattoos the sailors would get such as nautical stars, swallows and ships. Traditionally a nautical star was tattooed on a sailor after he had crossed the equator.

Old school tattoos really took off with the invention of the electric tattoo machine as we know it today. The electric tattoo machine was invented by Samuel O’ Reilly in 1891.

Back in these days most of the tattoo artist where either sailors or circus performers and tattooing was more of a thing they did on the side. The tattoos during these times where often crude and not executed by artists.

One of the pioneers for taking this style further was Norman Keith Collins also known as “Sailor Jerry”. He refined many of these designs as well as adding his own personal touch; he is seen by many as the father of American traditional tattooing or “Old school”

Although Sailor Jerry is perhaps the most commonly known tattoo artist from this time there where many more and tattoo artists such as Lyle Tuttle, Doc forest and Stoney St. Clair just to mention a few.

Old school tattoos are characterized by a bold black outline, solid color and having lots of black shading.

Popular old school sailor tattoos where: Rope around the wrist, shows you where a dock-hand.

The words: Hold fast tattooed on the knuckles to remember to hold on tight to ropes in stormy weather.