Traditional Tattoos - Ideas, History, and Meaning

Written by: Jason White

If you appreciate the classics and know the art of tattooing, then a traditional-style tattoo is a great option for you. Despite its long history, tattoos done in the traditional style are still very popular.

Traditional Tattoo Ideas

Traditional Tattoo History

This style emerged in America in the 1960s. The style first grew in popularity amongst sailors. Captains and their crew inked protective symbols on their bodies, which they believed could protect against storms and help them to return home safely. Tattoos of skulls and crosses were often seen adorning men’s strong arms. Since they were away at sea often, missing their loved ones, they also tattooed on the names of the women they loved or the dates of birth of their children.

Over time, sailors brought this style to Europe, where it also spread and gained popularity.

Popular Traditional Tattoo Designs

  • anchors
  • skulls
  • the pirate flag, the “Jolly Roger”
  • crosses
  • hearts
  • mermaids
  • initials of names
  • anchor ropes, closely intertwined with rose stems
  • butterflies
  • a captain’s pipe swirling with smoke
  • sprockets
  • flocks of bird

Often there are traditional drawings with thematic inscriptions such as a motto, a quote from a book.

This style is close to the neo-traditional tattooing style, which was actually a response to the limitations of the traditional style.

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