It’s not all that surprising that sailors were among the first to popularize the art of tattooing, inking sacred symbols and stories on their flesh for both protection and in celebration of the ancient ritual of seafaring.
Today both sailors and land lubbers uphold the tradition of nautical tattooing, with many of the world’s finest tattoo artists offering their own stunning interpretations of time-honored sailing emblems.
Some popular sleeve designs feature anchors, the nautical star, krakens, pin-up sirens, and various ship components. The anchor is one of the oldest symbols signifying safety and dependability, and was traditionally worn as a badge of honor for successfully completing one’s maiden voyage across the Atlantic. The anchor was often inscribed with a banner declaring one’s reason to return home or linger awhile longer on land, such as a lover, friend, or family member.
The nautical star represents none other than the North star, guiding both wanderers and sailing vessels home, while lighthouses signify shelter and warmth from the proverbial storm. Pin-up girls have always been the sailor’s way of honoring his lady love – both literally and metaphorically – and various tattoo designs feature everything from WWII era pin-up girls to voluptuous mermaids.
Nautical sleeve tattoos are a unique way to honor our seafaring ancestors as well as celebrate the spirit of the true adventurer, who fears neither the depths nor the monsters that lurk within them.