Old school (tattoo)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Old school tattoo designs on famous tattooer Amund Dietzel

Old school style refers to a Western or traditional American tattoo style featuring bold black outlines and a limited color palette.[1] This limited color palette typically included yellow, red, green and black. Purple was eventually added to it as well.


Famous artists are:

  • Norman Keith Collins, also known as Sailor Jerry, (1911–1973) is one of the most well known traditional tattoo artists.[2]
  • Herbert Hoffmann (1919–2010), began tattooing in Germany during the 1930s. Together with fellow artists Karlmann Richter and Albert Cornelissen he was featured in the 2004 film Blue Skin (German: Flammend' Herz).
  • Amund Dietzel (1890–1974), Norwegian-born artist who began his career as a sailor, before settling in the United States. Known as the "Master in Milwaukee".
  • Bert Grimm (1900–1985), a Chicago-born tattoo artist. Began his career in the city of St. Louis and then moved to Long Beach, California, to set up a shop at the Nu-Pike. His parlour was said to be the oldest continually running in the continental US and the place for sailors to get inked. Grimm sold the shop to Bob Shaw in 1970.
  • Bob Shaw (1926–1993), American artist who learned tattooing from Bert Grimm in St. Louis. Later worked with Grimm and became the president of the National Tattoo Association from 1983–1988.[3]

Common old school tattoo motifs[edit]

Examples of popular old school tattoo designs include:

  • Native American tattoos
  • Pin-up tattoos[4]
  • Mermaid tattoos
  • Swallow and sparrow tattoos[4]
  • Heart tattoos
  • Anchor tattoos[4]
  • Eagle tattoos[4]
  • Panther
  • Snake
  • Luck-themed tattoos (black cats, 13, four-leaf clover, horseshoe...)
  • Navy and sailing symbols
  • Dagger tattoos
  • Rose tattoos
  • Gypsys[4]

Often, these tattoos had significance behind them for those in the armed forces. For instance, getting a tattoo of an anchor represented "stability."[5]

Example of nautical star

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "From the Stacks" at New-York Historical Society
  2. ^ "Selvedge Yard" The Legend of Sailor Jerry
  3. ^ Clerk, Carol (2009), Vintage Tattoos - The Book of Old-School Skin Art, Universe, pp 12-15.
  4. ^ a b c d e "Traditional Old School Tattoos | Gypsy, Anchor, Ship, Pin Up And Sailor Jerry Tattoo Designs". www.freetattoodesigns.org. Retrieved 2020-02-03.
  5. ^ "Tattoo Flash Meanings - Sailor Jerry". Sailor Jerry. Retrieved 2017-04-26.

External links[edit]