50 Bold Traditional Style Tattoos


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Is there a tattoo style that's more iconic than American traditional? Also called old-school or classic American tattoos, American traditional tattoos are recognizable for their crisp black outlines and bold color palettes, as well as their imagery of sailors, pinup girls, swallows, hearts dedicated to moms, anchors, and roses. This style has been around for centuries, and continues to go strong through today. Can we blame anyone though? Old-school tattoos are eye-catching, iconic, and all-around badass. It ain't called traditional for nothing. 

Western sailors have been donning these kinds of tattoos since the 1800s, getting their names, rank, and service number inked on themselves. Like a badge of honor or way to tell a story, they also often symbolized an important part of their military journey: the places they went (like Hawaii or the South Pacific), anchors (which symbolized stability), or swallows (which represented a sailor having traveled 5,000 miles). By the '60s, artists like Sailor Jerry and Don Ed Hardy (remember Ed Hardy?!) opened up shop in the States, and the style became even more iconic. 

Nowadays, people get inked with those iconic images and more. Anyone can have anything done in the American traditional style, and still channel the bold, strong, and vivid energy that sailors used to with theirs. 

For those who are intrigued by old-school tattoos but don't know where to start, we gathered up 50 stunning American traditional tattoos. 


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