Updated: Jul 28
Old school traditional tattoo’s originated with sailors so many are familiar with the nautical designs.. however some of the meanings behind these symbols may surprise you. It features thick black lines, a bold colour pallet and soft shading. Shapes are simple, almost cartoon like and even today this style still adopts many of the symbols that are associated with sailors.
An anchor is seen as the most secure object in a sailors life so is used to represent stability. Anchors would often include the name of a loved one - the person who kept the sailor grounded.
The traditional skull tattoo is one of the most common designs in tattooing. It has a meaning that can vary by both the wearer and the culture. The most common association is with death.
Used to indicate that a sailor had sailed 5000 miles. Due to the swallows migration pattern they are also associated with the idea of return. It was often believed that if a sailor died at sea, birds would carry his soul home to heaven.
Nautical tattoos have a long history of popularity among sailors and other seafaring professions. For sailors and fishermen ships represent their way of life. Not only do they depend on ships to survive and take care of their families but they can also be seen as adventurous.
During long periods away from home hearts were often used to keep loved ones close.
These hearts often read “Mom” or a sweethearts name.
The snake is the perfect symbol to represent potency and power. Unlike panthers, which are usually depicted in mid-action, snakes are typically shown coiled, hissing and ready to strike. This was set to warn off evil and misfortune.
The traditional dagger tattoo was used to represent death and could be combined with other elements to produce deeper meanings. For example a dagger paired with a heart often refers to the wearer having experienced a broken heart or lost love.
In traditional American tattooing a rose was usually used to represent a woman close to the wearer’s heart such as their mother, wife, or girlfriend.