Buzz·Posted on 17 Oct 201815 Facts About Classic Tattoos That Will Change The Way You Look At ThemSailors would sometimes get a pair of swallows tattooed, often on the chest, so if they were to drown, the birds would carry their souls to heavenby Ailbhe MaloneBuzzFeed StaffFacebookPinterestTwitterMailLink 1. "Classic" or "Old-School American" tattoos are one of many tattoo styles. View this photo on Instagram instagram.com "Classic, otherwise known as “old-school American” or “traditional” tattoos are characterised by bold black outlines, solid colours and iconic imagery popularised from around the 1930’s by the likes of Norman ‘Sailor Jerry’ Collins, and other artists working in the USA at the time. The classic designs tend to heavily feature nautical themes, pin-ups, roses, animals and slogans such as “Death Before Dishonor” and “Homeward Bound”, often a reflection of the times. It’s a style of tattooing that differentiates it from others such as realism, geometric and tribal." – EmmaLi Stenhouse, Brand Ambassador Sailor Jerry 2. Some classic American designs are related to religious iconography. Tony Nillson/ Laurence King Publishing "The Pharaoh’s Horses is a classic design originally based on religious iconography dating back to around the 18th century. As Moses closed the red sea, engulfing the Egyptian soldiers pursuing the Israelites, the soldiers’ horses, three of them in particular, are shown to be overcoming the storm and displaying strength, power and a disregard of the consequences as they charge through the water. It became popular in the 1900’s as a tattoo and lends itself beautifully to a chest or back piece, framed with other popular traditional images such as eagles and roses. The earliest tattoo references are credited to Gus Wagner, rising in popularity through the 1920’s and still often referenced today." – EmmaLi Stenhouse 3. For example, the Rock of Ages is inspired by a religious painting. View this photo on Instagram Instagram: @hero_tattoo_0930 "The name comes from a hymn written in 1763, which supposedly inspired a painting in the 1860’s by Johannes Oertel, and is another example of religious iconography lending itself beautifully to body art. The image itself depicts a woman clinging to the foot of a cross, often at sea or sometimes on land, and possibly incorporating other images such as a sinking ship, stormy skies or angels. It essentially represents faith and hope keeping you safe during hard times and rough seas." – EmmaLi Stenhouse 4. Using religious iconography in a tattoo sometimes served a dual purpose. View this photo on Instagram Instagram: @ssik_boy According to 100 Years of Tattoos (Laurence King Publishing): "The Rock of Ages often stretched across the wearer’s back, thanks to another nautical tradition in which sailors would get a Christian design inked between their shoulder blades, so that, if they were forced to undergo a disciplinary lashing, they would be less severely punished because the person wielding the whip would be reluctant to strike a godly image." 5. And religious tattoos have been used since the Crusades as a distinguishing mark for soldiers. View this photo on Instagram instagram.com According to 100 Years of Tattoos : It wasn't just sailors who got religious tattoos. "Albert Edward, Prince of Wales (and the future King Edward VII) returned from a tour of the Middle East with a cross tattooed on his arm - a tradition that dates back to the Middle Ages when crusaders were marked with a crucifix or other religious symbol while in Jerusalem, as a way to ensure a Christian burial if they died on foreign soil." 6. Though old-school American tattoos took off in the 1930s, tattoos have been in American culture since the late 1800s. Tony Nillsson/ Laurence King Publishing According to 100 Years of Tattoos, "Martin Hildebrandt opened America’s first tattoo studio in NYC in 1870...Evidence dating back to 1882 suggests that Irene Woodward was the first woman to earn a living by showcasing her body art. " 7. It wasn't until the 1930s that Asian tattoo traditions began to combine with Western ones. Gotch/ Laurence King Publishing "Sailor Jerry travelled to Asia during his time in the US Navy and was blown away by the tattoo work and artists he saw. At that time, he’d only been exposed to the traditional styles in the USA using bold lines and block colours, so seeing what the Japanese were doing in terms of storytelling, water shading and other colour and line techniques really opened his eyes to the possibilities of what could be achieved. When he left the Navy and went back to tattooing, he took inspiration from what he’d seen and started to incorporate those techniques into the traditional popular designs back home, changing the game. " – EmmaLi Stenhouse 8. In traditional tribal and Japanese tattooing, placement is just as important as design. Sean Gallagher Coley/ Laurence King Publishing "In most forms of traditional tribal and Japanese tattooing, placement is important as it historically represents different meanings. In my opinion, if you’re getting a design just because you like it, then it’s less important than what looks and feels right to you. There are certain placements you might want to avoid, for example a teardrop under the eye which can signify murder or death, but as long as you’re staying away from prison and gang tattoos, you should be fine! Personally, I think placement is just as important as the design itself, so take time to think how it will look on the skin, wrap around the body, and compliment your contours and shape." – EmmaLi Stenhouse 9. However, it wasn't until the 1960s that Western tattooing caught up with the precise placement of other tattooing cultures. View this photo on Instagram Instagram: @wawong0201 According to 100 Years of Tattoos: "Until 1960, tattoos in the US and Europe were treated more like badges, and were randomly placed on the body with no obvious link between images." 10. Pin-up tattoos became popular during WW2. Courtesy Sailor Jerry "Pin up girls are a symbol of beauty and femininity, whether it’s an image cut out from a magazine and pinned to a wall, or adorning a body part in the form of a tattoo. Pin up tattoos became particularly popular during WWII as a way for sailors and soldiers to take these women, or at least the idea of them, away with them when they were abroad and at sea. So, I guess they represent love and romance as a way to remember your sweetheart waiting for you back home, or lust and wanting for the women you hope to still meet along the way. Sailor Jerry had a unique way to drawing pin-ups, and an appreciation and understanding of the female form." – EmmaLi Stenhouse 11. Tattoos such as a nautical star or ships can represent nautical achievements. Courtesy Sailor Jerry "Nautical Stars are popular with the military and navy and represent the compass rose of traditional nautical charts or the North Star itself. They usually have a meaning around guidance and navigation to safety or home. Historically sailors might have gotten a nautical star tattooed to signify an achievement such as travelling a certain number of nautical miles, or surviving a dangerous mission. Two stars worn on the chest might act as a warning to others, as they mimic the port and starboard lights a ship would display to others to tell them to yield and give way." – EmmaLi Stenhouse 12. A fully-rigged ship symbolises that the sailor has been around the Cape of Good Hope. View this photo on Instagram Instagram: @denis.a.mer You can read more at The Atlantic. 13. Anchors can represent multiple things. View this photo on Instagram Instagram: @lorenzoniccolai_tattooer According to 100 Years of Tattoos in naval tradition "the anchor is a symbol of experience that was worn only by mariners who had crossed the Atlantic Ocean." "An anchor tattoo generally represents hope, stability, safety and security. It’s a symbol that can remind us to stay grounded and true to ourselves in times of struggle. An anchor with initials or a name sometimes symbolises an unbreakable tie to that person, especially if they’re far away, or a way to remember and honour those we have lost. Sometimes they can symbolise a link to the ocean, travel and freedom, but with a sense of home and belonging. A lot of Sailor Jerry’s anchor designs also incorporated other symbols like a flag, globe, or eagle, which were popular with the US Navy as patriotic symbols of serving and protecting the country." – EmmaLi Stenhouse 14. The Peacock symbolizes pride and also loyalty. Rich T. and the Ohio Tattoo Museum/ Laurence King Publishing According to 100 Years of Tattoos in naval tradition "a peacock tattoo was believed to offer its wearer protection when crossing treacherous oceans." "The Peacock can symbolise different things across cultures, but often have a similar theme of pride, royalty, nobility, and vitality. Their ornate tail feathers resemble eyes, and are sometimes considered as the eyes to the soul, or can represent watchfulness, protection and wisdom. Peacocks are known for their decorative and flashy plumage, which looks stunning as a tattoo and represents status, beauty and pride. In the military, peacock feathers were given to servicemen as a way of recognising loyal service, so it’s fitting that many of Sailor Jerry’s designs featured a peacock to extend that honour." – EmmaLi Stenhouse, 15. Swallow tattoos can have multiple meanings. View this photo on Instagram Instagram: @ferrancoll "There are a lot of different meanings behind the traditional swallow tattoo, often linking back to the Navy. For example, sailors would get a swallow tattoo to mark sailing a certain number of nautical miles (5000) or crossing the equator, as a symbol of achievement that would be recognised for surviving such dangerous missions. Sailors would sometimes get a pair of swallows tattooed, often on the chest, so if they were to drown, the birds would carry their souls to heaven. If a swallow is tattooed on the back of the hand it meant the wearer was fast with their fists and probably a good fighter! In modern times, many people have swallows tattooed to represent freedom, travel and safe return to home, or romance, loyalty and true love, as swallows mate for life." – EmmaLi Stenhouse, 16. If you're interested in learning more about specific tattoo artists, TTT Tattoo explores tattoo culture around the world,, and is available to buy now.