Sailor Jerry Tattoos
During WWII, thousands of young American men were thrust into the harsh reality of life at war. At this time, in a small tattoo shop just west of Honolulu, HI, a heavily tattooed former Navy man set up. So began the start of a legacy of Sailor Jerry tattoos. Norman Collins, the man in question, quickly built a name for himself by creating traditional Navy-themed tattoos for sailors across the world. His new name? Sailor Jerry. While we gaze at traditional Sailor Jerry tattoos, follow us and learn all about the nautical tattoo master himself!
Sailor Jerry’s Style
Sailor Jerry became one of the first Americans to learn from and master the techniques of some of Japan’s greatest tattoo masters. While 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 Japanese tattoo masters, he created a new tattoo style. Furthermore, this style now represents traditional American tattoos!
Although these look like typical tattoos in today’s world, you could hardly say the same during his career. Sailor Jerry’s style combined traditional bold black outlines with imagery that could be both bold and beautiful. While we take our colored inks for granted today, he could only use a handful. That said, he managed to develop and popularize his own color. He added purple to the traditional tattooing color palette to create unique and memorable designs. Also known for his innovation in the technical aspects of tattooing, he helped create modern tattoo machines and sterilization techniques.
Sailor Jerry Imagery
Some of the most common images used by Sailor Jerry captured (unsurprisingly) nautical themes. These included nautical stars, large ships, and anchors. He would often combine these images with these other nautical symbols:
- Eagles and other birds of prey
- Scroll banners
- Guns and knives
- Liquor bottles
- “Aloha” monkeys
Sailor Jerry’s tattoo imagery remains popular and iconic today, thanks to his two apprentices, Ed Hardy and Mike Malone. You might recognize the name Rollo Banks better. 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 capture both the iconic flair of retro tattoos and the class of a traditional tattoo. His well-known imagery remains popular throughout the modern United States. If you hope to get a traditional Sailor Jerry tattoo, spend some time searching for the right artist. Sailor Jerry became known for his precision, to the point that the rigging on his nautical ships looked completely accurate compared to actual naval vessels. Likewise, you should find a precise artist.
You will want to find a tattoo shop or artist that specializes in traditional tattooing. That remains quite different from the New School style and color palette used in more modern tattoo shops. You may also want to take some time researching the Japanese mysticism behind some of the tattoo images Sailor Jerry traditionally used. You’ll want to find an artist who knows the ins-and-outs of his style. That means a focus on precision, the correct type of outlining, and a commitment to paying proper respect to these classics. Outlines should look bold and dark, with lots of contrast. The tattoo should show a deeper meaning than just a pretty picture.
A Tattooed Legacy
Sailor Jerry helped to pioneer the tattoo era. His philosophy stated that tattoos represented ultimate rebellion and non-conformity. If you want a tattoo that helps you blend in with the crowd, you may want to consider a different style. His attitude toward tattoos in general made the art popular with bikers, punks, and other non-conformists within American society. When you want a Sailor Jerry tattoo, you want something that stands out and sets 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!