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Old School Tattoo Designs

By Edited Nov 13, 2013 1 5

Old School Tattoo Designs

Pin Up, Sailor & Other Old School or Vintage Tattoos

pin up tattoo designs

Tattoos, by their very nature, are old school. Being of Polynesian / Maori descent, they have been around for a long time. But an old school tattoo design generally refers to a vintage design dating back to at least the earlier part of the 20th century.

Designs like this are kitchy and unique, and they're getting to be pretty popular today as throwback vintage stuff gains popularity. 

There are a few aesthetic and design cues you can take to properly design an effective old school tattoo design that works for your style. Feel free to browse my ideas or take inspiration from any of the images I've reposted here. 

I Love Tattoos
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Old School Tattoo Design: The Anchor

Old School Sailor Tattoos

old school tattoo designs: anchor

Popularly seen on the arm of Popeye the Sailorman, the anchor tattoo is a classic old school tattoo design that I've seen all over the place. You should know the history of the anchor tattoo before you decide upon it. A lot of people choose the anchor as their old school tattoo design as an ironic thing, but it has deep meaning for sailors and individuals who served in the navy.

The anchor tattoo has traditionally been a symbol of a safe crossing or a safe return to port. In the US Navy, it typically symbolizes a successful crossing of the Atlantic. With ocean passage becoming much safer lately, the distinction has blurred. An anchor tattoo can symbolize the center or foundation of your heart: a relative, lover or important person. 

The anchor is a good old school sailor tattoo design, and it can be worn just about anywhere. The most popular place is on the top of the forearm.

Vintage Tattoos: The Book of Old-School Skin Art
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Old School Tattoo Designs: Card Themed Designs

Vintage Card Tattoo Designs

old school tattoo pics designs

old school tattoo design pics

Gambling and cards were popular pastimes in the earlier part of the 20th century (and they remain so today). Gambling culture is pretty popular, and it's a great design aesthetic if you're planning to go with an old school tattoo design. Cards are a nice place to start. 

Many people will tattoo a single one or several cards. You can choose a couple of cards laid out as in a poker hand, and it will look pretty good. Check out the old school tattoo pics above for inspiration in this. You can choose a few specific cards that have significance to you (numbers, designs). 

Alternatively, you can just do the symbol of a certain suit of cards. The club, the spade, the diamond and the heart are all great old school tattoo designs. They can be placed anywhere you like, and they look great on their own.

Tattoo World
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Old School Tattoo Designs: Colors and Themes

Vintage Tattoo Design Inspiration

Be sure to do your research. Find vintage ads and symbols. Check out the colors: primary colors are popular, and make sure your design is western influenced: old school tattoo designs rarely included tribal or maori designs

Vintage photographs and albums are great sources of old school ideas for tattoos. And if your grandparents had tattoos, you might want to replicate or pay homage to them. Keeping designs in the family is a great thing, and you'll have a cool story to tell your kids and friends.

Good Luck!



Jul 14, 2011 2:03pm
Jul 14, 2011 2:10pm
Thanks for the comment and the rating!
Jul 17, 2011 4:53am
Good article on a subject I knew very little about. Until now, that is. The anchor image is very striking and effective.
Jul 22, 2011 1:26am
If you decided to ink yourself its better to think hard on the tattoo design.You can design your own tattoo or you can search the internet for thousands tattoo designs. There're a lot of design galleries or specialized websites, like http://tattoodesignsideasforgirls.com/
Jul 22, 2011 2:18am
Yay backlinking! :)
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