The very beginning of tattoos for Westerners started in 1700s when Captain James Cook and his sailors traveled to Tahiti and learned about the new art form. James Cook created the word 'tattoo' from the Tahitian word 'tatau', meaning mark.

Over time tattoos began becoming popular through sailors that would get tattooed to express themselves. They would get names, dates, rankings, service numbers, boats, women etc.

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By the 1880s women were showcased in circuses for their full body of tattoos

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By 1900 their were tattoo shops in nearly all of the major port cities in America. In 1909 the government creating a law stating that if you had tattoos of anything indecent or obscene you would be rejected from the Army. Soldiers were suddenly rushing to tattoo shops to get naked women covered with clothing

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Before WWll sailors began getting tattoos in China, Japan, Asian imagery was brought to the US

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By the end of the '60s fine art tattooing became popular. Artists like Norman Collins, or Sailor Jerry helped form this style. Sailor Jerry had been exposed to Northeast, Asia tattoo style and brought the two together

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In the 70s more realistic tattoos were brought to San Francisco by Sailor Jerry's apprentice, Don Ed Hardy.
Tattoos were also becoming popular for protest against the war. Things like peace signs, marijuana leaves, and other signs

Don Ed Hardy

Neo-traditional tattoos, and biker tattoos have become popular since the 80s

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Biker tattoos
animals, Neo, and tattoo image star wars, tattoo, and star wars tattoo image



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Meaning: It had a few meanings to sailors, one of them being returning home, and another meaning that if a sailor dies at sea, the birds would bring them back to heaven. It was also a sign that a sailor had sailed 5,000 miles*


draw, panther, and tattoo image badass, black, and body modification image

Meaning: Known as a symbol of virility and strength


tattoo, dad, and mom image amazing, anchor, and flower image

Meaning: The anchor represents stability, or what keeps someone stable, that's why 'Mom' or 'Dad' is often written around it.


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Meaning; The snake tattoo is a symbol of power, and warding off evil. Being ready to attack if necessary


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Meaning: A symbol of trust, friendship, and love


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Meaning: The snake handshake is a spin off of the classic handshake representing trust. It represents betrayal and being 'stabbed in the back'


hourglass, sand, and skull image tattoo and skull image

Meaning: Often meaning coming to terms with death or committing to something until death


dagger, rose tattoo, and tattoo image arm, colours, and cool image

Meaning: A dagger piercing a rose represents how harsh life can be, a dagger through a heart represents a broken heart, or having your heart broken.

What makes a traditional tattoo good?

  • Thick line work
  • Very Vibrant Colors
  • It's very import-especially when doing animals-to show depth


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The tattoo on the right was badly colored, and the colors aren't vibrant enough. The tattoo is badly lines as well, the lines are not thick enough


Like the last tattoo this one is badly colored and lined, but the lines are also not clean, and straight

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The bad tattoo's colors are not vibrant at all, an the tattoo shows no depth


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