Tattoo Styles: Traditional

This post will be part 1 of an 8 part series discussing the history and aesthetic of the different styles of tattooing. I will be discussing:

Traditional, Realism, Watercolor, Tribal, New School, Neo Traditional, Japanese and Blackwork. 


A tattoo done in the “Traditional” or “American Traditional” style will feature imagery like skulls, roses and daggers. The colors are heavily saturated but limited in their palette. A traditional tattoo will consist mainly of primary colors with clean black outlines.

Traditional style tattoos were often seen on sailors and marked their long voyages. In the 1930’s the style became popularized by American tattooer Norman “Sailor Jerry” Collins. Sailor Jerry is widely considered to be the father of American Traditional tattoos.

Sailor Jerry found inspiration and influence during his time in the Navy and his travels to Southeast Asia. Traditional style tattoos have been described as “Iconic and artistic, irreverent and soulful, radical and beautiful.”

Please check back soon or subscribe to this blog to learn more about Sailor Jerry and other tattoo styles.

Examples of Traditional Tattoos (Artist: Sailor Jerry):





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