At old school tattoos, or “traditional,” originated around the 1890s. However, the popularization of this style of tattooing took place after the year 1920, at a time when most tattoo artists went to work near US naval bases. At this point, the Old School tattoo became a symbol of bravery and personality, as the tattooed person told the stories and voyages of the sailors.

Sailors and the Old School Tattoos

After World War II, the style of tattooing became more popular, mainly because of its rebellious image, including the rise of the Rockabilly musical style, usually represented by a young, often tattooed, violating rebel.

It should also be remembered that after this decade there was an outbreak of hepatitis and tattoos were banned. After this period, the Old School tattoo style had less “prestige,” so to speak.

Sailors and the Rockabilly Style with Old School Tattoos

A great legend of the traditional tattoo style is Norman Keith "Sailor Jerry" Collins (1911-1973). This American joined the Navy around age 19 and traveled around the world, being exposed to art and inspired by images from Southeast Asia. Its influence is a mixture of the attitudes of an American sailor with Far Eastern mysticism.

Sailor Jerry, The Legend of Old School Tattoos

#8220; I haven't done my best yet & #8230; only my best so far. & #8221;

He opened his first tattoo parlor in Honolulu's Chinatown, a place where sailors gathered to drink, get tattoos and also have fun with surrounding women.

See a little about Sailor Jerry's life in the video below, as well as some drawings made by the legend.

Old School Tattoos These Days

In recent years, the Old School tattoo style has gained popularity, mainly because tattoo artists are specializing in this style and always bring different innovations and designs to the traditional style. The TV series also contributed to the sought-after style, particularly the London Ink, Miami Ink, Los Angeles Ink, and New York Ink series.

But there is a difference between "old" Old School tattoos and "new" Old School tattoos. One big difference is in the coloration, since in the past there was not a large choice of tattoo inks and the technology of the equipment used at the time was inferior.

In the past, fill colors were solid, such as red and green, with an addition of shades of blue, yellow, brown and purple. The contours are usually made in black and bold ink, highlighting the design.

The main symbols represented in traditional Old School tattoos are:

  • Wind Roses and the Nautical Star, direction indicators.
  • Anchors, representing the resistance.
  • Red roses, which meant 'love'.
  • Black roses meant death.
  • Swallows they were symbols of good luck, for they are migratory birds that represent the traveler's faithfulness to the home with the promise of return.
  • Heart with a few words, usually "dad", "mom" or someone's name.
  • Streamers with wise phrases and words that tell a story.
  • Half-naked women and pin-ups.

Inspiration for Old School Tattoos

Tattoos, motorcycles, graffiti, music are some of my passions and my main topics on BlendUp.

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