One of the most beautiful things about tattoos is that they have an incredibly rich and vibrant history. The oldest tattoos that have been found date back to roughly 3370 BC, as Authority Tattoo states, and evidence of tattoos has been found in ancient tombs all around the world.
It truly is a global, timeless form of art.
Something that’s been particularly interesting in the tattoo field is the rise of new tattoo styles. Styles like neo traditional, illustrative and new school tattoos have dominated the industry as of late, and there seems to be no end to the innovation that’s taking place right now. New tattoo styles are beautiful and exciting, and as a team, we can’t wait to see where they go in the future.
This isn’t to say that old school tattooing is no longer popular, though. There is a certain charm and beauty to traditional tattoos; in fact, at our studio, American traditional is one of the most popular styles that we do. So, in this blog post, we’re going to be taking a look at the most interesting forms of traditional tattooing that you need to know about.
American traditional tattooing really took off in the 1950s, in a period that’s referred to as the ‘tattoo renaissance’. Traditionally, a lot of tattoos were done on sailors and working class individuals, and carried strong themes of patriotism and empowerment.
Visually, a lot of American traditional tattoos follow the same themes and styles. You’ll see lots of roses, skulls and daggers, with plenty of nautical imagery like swallows and daggers. They have bold black lines, and a very limited color scheme too. Upper arms were popular locations for tattoos, as were chests and backs.
Old school tattoos have a lot of rich symbolism associated with them. For example, sailors would get swallows tattooed on their chest to symbolize their trade, and to note how far they had travelled in their voyages.
Nowadays, American traditional work looks very similar to how it did in the 1950s, except it’s more refined and occasionally dips into a wider color palette. If you like the sound of this, make sure to look into ‘neo traditional’, which is the modern interpretation of old school artwork.
Hand poked,or ‘stick n poke’ tattoos are often thought of dismissively in the tattoo community, as they are associated with DIY tattoos. However, they have just as rich of a history as any other style, and are worth paying attention to in a modern context.
Of course, we must note that we do not support doing your own tattoos if you have not been trained. You run the risk of getting a serious infection and injuring yourself if you attempt to do a tattoo with no training, sterilization or proper equipment.
Handpoked tattoos can be traced as far back as ancient Egypt, as this Global Comment article points out. Single needle tattoos have been practiced all across the globe, and have only come back into prominence in the last few years. Nowadays, there are some professional tattoo studios who only practice handpoked tattoos.
Japanese tattoos are instantly recognizable, and contain a wonderfully vast history. The earliest evidence of tattoos in Japan was traced back to 5000 BC, as clay figurines with visible tattoo markings were found in tombs dating back to this era.
Traditional Japanese tattooing has a wealth of symbolism and imagery associated with it, and this symbolism can be altered simply by changing the tattoo placement on the body. For example, falling cherry blossoms in a traditional tattoo can be linked to death or loss.
Typical themes in traditional tattoos include mythical creatures, flora and animals. There are also lots of tattoos that involve old school heros, geisha women and samurai warriors. Color palettes can be soft black and grey, or jewel-toned color schemes.
Tribal tattooing has been around for an incredibly long time, and is heavily ingrained in cultures across the world. One of the most well-known styles of tribal tattooing is Maori tattooing, which is spiritual, traditional tattooing from New Zealand. Tattoos are viewed as a rite of passage, and are done with traditional hand tapped methods.
Most styles of traditional tribal tattoos involve thick, winding lines with intricate patterns. They tend to cover large portions of the body, and use predominantly black ink. Pop culture icons who have tattoos in this style include the Rock, Jason Momoa and Roman Reigns.
Geometric tattoos are incredibly symbolic, when linked with ancient sacred geometry. Sacred geometrical designs have been present all throughout history and can be found in a number of different countries all across the world. Celctic art has a lot of geometrical art, and so does a lot of art in Thailand, for example.
One notable style of geometrical tattooing in history is Sak Yant tattoos. Sak Yant tattoos are traditional Thai tattoos that are linked heavily to Buddhism, and are handtapped by monks in temples. They are intricate, spiritual and incredibly beautiful.
To sum up
No matter how many new styles emerge in tattooing, it’s hard to imagine that traditional tattoos are ever going to fall out of favor with the world. Traditional tattoos have a beautiful charm to them, and are utterly iconic- no matter if you’re talking about American traditional, sacred geometry or tribal designs.
If you’re looking into getting a tattoo but you’re unsure of what to get, why not look into traditional design work? Book a consultation with your artist, and discuss looking into these design styles together. They’re timeless and instantly recognizable.
Are you in New York, looking for a beautiful, custom tattoo? We’ve got you covered. Here at NYC Tattoo Shop, we’re proud to offer a wide variety of styles and artists to help make your tattoo dreams a reality. Feel free to drop by our tattoo studio to say hello and speak with an artist, or get in touch with us through our website today.