Traditions last for a reason. Traditional tattoos connect us to a lost past while maintaining a vibrant presence in an ever-changing art form.
Before every intern with a nose ring had a lotus delicately inked on her back, tattoos were the province of those on the edges: sailors, soldiers, and outlaws.
The clean lines and bold colors of old-school tattoos are designed to last. The meanings of traditional emblems also speak to permanence, to building something solid on yourself to carry through a world in flux. The chest, the trunk of the body, holds this meaning as close to the bone as you can go.
Anchors give a ship grounding on the open water. They speak to steadiness in a life that’s constantly tilting with the tides.
Swallows might seem like delicate songbirds, but their journeys of five thousand miles has given them an association with homecoming, a warm reminder that somewhere, someone was waiting for them.
A ship is a home away from home, your vessel when you choose to give up safety and tedium for adventure and risk.
Animal tattoos tend to carry meanings of power, from a snake coiled to strike with deadly aim to a dark panther ready to deliver a lethal blow.
Whatever your lifestyle, the values of the lawless, patriotic and sea-faring memorialized in these tattoos inspire awe even now.