Traditional Sailors Tattoos

Still common among many sailors today, traditional sailor tattoos were made to make the wearer look intimidating, strong and courageous. According to historical records sailors began printing tattoos on their bodies in the 1700s after the legendary Captain Cook discovered a south pacific island were the natives made tattoos on the bodies for decoration.

His crew was very interested in the art that they had found in the foreign land and took interest to learning how it was done. This was the beginning of traditional sailor tattoos and as time passed the crew slowly mastered the skills and would create complex designs on each other during their free time at sea.

traditional sailor tattoos

traditional sailor tattoo artist

This armature profession slowly continued getting more and more famous as it spread around the world with more and more people both at sea and on land taking up the hobby. It was not until the late 1880s that a sailor was identified who pushed tattooing to the next limit. His name was George Burchett Davis and he was recruited on the H.M.S Victoria for three years. During this time he gained vast knowledge and experience in tattooing and was famous for his works of body art, he also had a diary that he noted his experience with the Royal navy. These dairies were used to compile and publish his book “Memoirs of a Tattooist”.

His experiences tell of sailors living in crowded condition on board British war ships. With little space recreation was restricted to space ad tattooing caught on with sailors since it made them look more dangerous or intimidating in foreign lands. He had some experience making tattoos but perfected his skill onboard this vessel.

Later by 1909 sailors were beginning to make indecent tattoos on their bodies and the U. S Government issued a circular stating that indecent or obscure tattooing would amount to rejection from the navy. This brought the situation concerning indecent tattooing under control but navy sailors did not stop making tattoos on their skin.

traditional sailor tattoos

sailor tattoos

Initially began by the navy the practice gradually saw solders and air craft pilots and support crew creating tattoos on their skin. It was soon a symbol distinguishing military personal apart from the general public. Today tattoo making is still common amount the military forces but there are no restriction to that can make a tattoo on his body. The general public can also make them but avoid making them on exposed skin since this may not be acceptable at ones work place.

Merchant sailors have generally been noted not to make many tattoos on the skin except for the occasional different one. This has been attributed to the reason that they may require to join land based jobs at later stages and tattoos may hinder their job opportunities.

Tattoos have made a lasting image of sailors in the last century but they should be accredited with this achievement since we expect them to protect us and they put their lives in danger to do so, in return we should praise the works of skin art they have managed to create and keep alive from traditional sailor tattoos.


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