Old school swallow tattoos done in a traditional style have long been an incredibly popular choice for sailors and tattoo enthusiasts alike.
For better or worse, gone are the days where one had to earn their nautical tattoos at sea.
Back in the day, a sailor had to cross 5000 miles of ocean to earn a swallow tattoo. Wearing tattoos seen by other sailors as badges of honor without having earned that honor could result in scorn or even a brawl. Now, these tattoos are as accessible as the nearest ink shop.
Though a far more commonplace sight today, and no longer restricted to decorating the skin of gritty mariners, the meaning behind a swallow tattoo is no less special to those who wear them for their decorative appeal. The image of a swallow still stands for loyalty, protection, seeking home, and ultimately, it symbolizes love. Old-school sailors will tell you that seafaring lore promises a swallow tattoo would even help lift a sailor to the heavens should he perish at sea. This was a sure comfort to those working this perilous trade.
Today, the swallow is a common feature of nautical themed sleeves and back pieces, as well as being a strong standalone tattoo. While any style can be applied, there is something timeless and beautiful about a boldly outlined traditional swallow tattoo inked in simple colors or shaded in black and gray.