Sailor Jerry Tattoos
During WWII, thousands of young American men were thrust into the harsh reality of life at war. It was during this time, in a small tattoo shop just west of Honolulu, HI that a heavily tattooed former Navy man set up, when the Sailer Jerry Tattoo legacy was born. Norman Collins, the heavily tattooed former Navy man, quickly built a name for himself creating traditional, Navy-themed tattoos for sailors on shore leave and gained the nickname Sailor Jerry.
Sailor Jerry’s Style
Sailor Jerry was the first American to learn from and master the techniques of some of Japan’s greatest tattoo masters. As he learned, he became determined to outdo them at their own game. By combining his own uniquely American style with the techniques that he learned from the Japanese tattoo masters, he created a new style of tattooing.
Sailor Jerry’s style combined traditional bold black outlines with imagery that could be both bold and beautiful. He added purple to the traditional tattooing color palette to create unique and memorable designs. He’s also known for his innovation in the technical aspects of tattooing, having helped to create some of the modern tattoo machines and sterilization techniques.
Sailor Jerry Imagery
Some of the most common images used by Sailor Jerry were (not surprisingly) nautical. These included nautical stars, large ships, and anchors. These images would often be combined with other elements such as:
- Eagles and other aggressive birds of prey
- Scroll banners
- Guns and knives
- Liquor bottles
- “Aloha” monkeys
Sailor Jerry’s tattoo imagery remains popular and iconic today in part thanks to his two apprentices – Ed Hardy and Mike Malone (better known as Rollo Banks). Both of these well-known tattoo artists combined Sailor Jerry’s techniques and imagery with their own personal styles.
Sailor Jerry Tattoos – Precision is Key
Sailor Jerry tattoos are both classic and iconic. The imagery is well-known, and still popular throughout the United States today. If you’re hoping to get a traditionally-styled Sailor Jerry tattoo, you’ll want to spend some time searching for the right artist. Sailor Jerry was known for his precision, to the point that the rigging on his nautical ships was said to be completely accurate.
You will want to find a tattoo shop or artist that specializes in traditional tattooing, which is quite different from the style and color palette used in more modern tattoo shops, known as “New School”. You may also want to take some time researching the Japanese mysticism behind some of the tattoo images traditionally used in Sailor Jerry tattoos. You’ll want to find an artist who is focused on precision, understands the correct outlining techniques to use (bold and dark, with lots of contrast), and who will be committed to paying proper respect to these well-known images.
A Tattooed Legacy
Sailor Jerry helped to pioneer the tattoo era. It was his philosophy that tattoos were the ultimate symbol of rebellion and non-conformity. If you’re looking for a tattoo that is like everyone else’s – you may want to consider a different style. It was his attitude toward tattoos in general that made the art so popular with bikers, punks, and other non-conformists within American society. If you want a Sailor Jerry tattoo, you want something that’s going to stand out, and set you apart from the norm.
Below you’ll find a small gallery of such tattoos! We hope you enjoy them! Maybe you also will find some further inspiration in other tattoo designs like the Roman Numeral Tattoos or White Ink Tattoos. Thank you for reading!