Although almost everyone wants their tattoo to be totally unique and original, there's still a lot to be said for traditional designs within tattoo artistry. You know, the classic tattoos that you occasionally spot on old people that still look striking fresh. Just as with any art form, tattoo art and culture is deep and detailed, and there are bound to be some classics.
Although tattooing has been around for over 5,000 years, I'm not referring to the ancient ink of frozen ice men when I talk about "traditional tattoos." Rather, I mean specific styles of ink design that have been popular for hundreds of years. I don't know about you, but my grandparents definitely associate tattoos with sailors, making the ink on my 22-year-old lady skin kind of scandalous to them. But times are changing, and almost everyone my own age who I know has at least one tattoo.
As tattoos get more mainstream, they also arguably get more diverse. From intricate, clever tattoo designs to interesting tattoo placements, the world of tattoo artistry is constantly changing and full of so much creativity. But with all this change, we mustn't forget our roots. Tattoo fads — such as white ink tattoos — may lead to regret over such a permanent decision. But if you stick with classic tattoo designs such as these that stand the test of time, I think you're more likely to love your ink forever.
1. A Rose
As a proud owner of a rose tattoo, I'm kind of biased towards these beauties. I just love the stylistic way that roses are represented in traditional tattooing.
2. A Pinup
What I love about the traditional pinup girl is that you can completely create your own character. This little lady is totally badass, for instance. You can even alter a pop culture icon to create an original pinup piece.
3. A Moon
Moon tattoos can be complicated or simple, but they've been a staple part of tattoo artistry for a long time. When I was getting an ankle tattoo of a magpie, my tattoo artist placed a little moon in the background that wasn't in the original design. As she explained, "Who doesn't love the moon?"
4. A Swallow
Swallows are one of the most obvious tattoos that come to my mind when it comes to traditional tattooing. Although I'm currently glad I didn't get the two swallows I wanted across my chest when I was 15, I might return to the idea someday.
5. Other Birds
Despite the swallow's tyrannical rule on traditional tattooing, other birds are often extremely popular too. I currently have two magpies, and know a lot of people with owl tattoos. Different birds have different meanings, so the choice to have something other than a swallow could have a deep, personal meaning for that person. Or they might just think it looks cool, which is a perfectly valid reason too.
6. A Skull
Skulls are also just cool to look at — and they always have been. So it's no wonder they've made their way into the world of tattooing. I think it's a fun take on the permanence of tattoos, because they aren't going to matter once you're dead. Right, mom?
No, I don't mean knuckle or palm tattoos. I mean actual hands tattooed onto the skin. Whether they're holding something or sitting on their own, hand tattoos are a classic. Why don't you inception the tat and get a hand tattoo on your hands?
The popularity of boat tattoos is probably tied to the sailor history of tattooing. In fact, a lot of nautical imagery is associated with traditional tattoo art, and I'm pretty sure there was a year during which almost every hipster I knew was getting an anchor tattoo.
9. A Compass
See! More nautical imagery. I suppose this one might just be associated with adventure. I can totally understand why someone overcome with wanderlust would opt for such a design.
10. Female Portraits
I feel that women need their own section outside of pinups. As well as the sexy styling of a pinup lady, close-up portraits of stylized women have also been popular for decades.
Remember that classic Simpsons episode where Bart gets a tattoo? A heart that's supposed to read "mother" ends up reading "moth." Clearly, the heart tattoo is a total classic. Just be aware of getting a name tattooed inside it, because not all love is as unconditional as your parents'. Although a love of butts will almost definitely never leave you, TBH.
The classics are classics for a reason. Just like a good movie or an excellent book, they're timeless. Don't fall in for fads, but be sure to think deeply about the traditional tattoo you like and whether you want it for life.
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Image: Mateus Lunardi Dutra/Flickr