The Old School tattoosor ?traditional? tattoos, had their origin around the 1890 decade. However, the popularization of this tattoo style occurred after 1920, when most of the tattoo artists went to work near naval bases in the United States. At this time, the Old School tattoo became a symbol of bravery and personality, as those who were tattooed told the sailors' stories and journeys.
Sailors and Old School tattoos
After World War II, the tattoo style became more popular, mainly because of its image of rebellion, including with the rise of the Rockabilly music style, usually represented by a young rebel offender, most often tattooed.
It should also be remembered that after this decade, there was a hepatitis outbreak and tattoos were banned. After this period, the Old School tattoo style had less ?prestige?, so to speak.
Sailors and 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 the age of 19 and traveled all over the world, being exposed to art and inspired by images from Southeast Asia. His influence is a mixture of the attitudes of an American sailor and the mysticism of the Far East.
Sailor Jerry, the legend of Old School tattoos
"I haven't done my best yet...just my best so far."
He opened his first tattoo studio in Honolulu's Chinatown, a place where sailors used to gather to drink, get tattoos, and also to have fun with women from the neighborhood.
See a little bit about Sailor Jerry's life in the video below, and also some drawings made by the legend.
Old School Tattoos Today
In the last years, the Old School tattoo style has gained popularity, mainly because tattoo artists are specializing in this style and always bringing innovations and different designs to the traditional style. TV shows have also contributed to the style being in demand again, especially London Ink, Miami Ink, Los Angeles Ink, and New York Ink.
But there is a difference between ?old? Old School tattoos and ?new? Old School tattoos. A big difference is in the coloring, because in the old days there wasn't a great choice of tattoo inks and the technology of the equipment used at that 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. Outlines are usually done in black ink and bold, giving prominence to the design.
The main symbols represented in traditional Old School tattoos are:
- Roses of the Winds and the Nautical Star, direction indicators.
- Anchorsrepresenting the resistance.
- Red roseswhich meant "love".
- Black roses meant death.
- Swallows were symbols of good luck, because they are migratory birds that represent the traveler's fidelity to home with the promise of return.
- Heart with a few words, usually ?father?, ?mother? or someone's name.
- Banners with phrases and wise words that tell a story.
- Half-naked women and pin-ups.