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Tattoo Related Terms

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Old School: A style that reaches back into the days of voyage for America. It is very simple and uses simple color schemes. Usually black, green, blue, red, and yellow. It is often called traditional style as well. It's roots are tied heavily into the US Navy since much of tattooing in the USA started with sailors and Marines. This eventually bled out into the sideshows and circuses of the 20's, and then into everyday America by the 60's and 70's. Many people credit Cap Coleman with the creation of the old school style but I have had a hard time finding anything backing that up other than many tattooists from that day respecting him greatly. Sailor Jerry Collins and Ed Hardy are probably two of the most respected tattooists within this style of tattoos but they are by no means the only people to help develop the trade during this time period. C.W. Eldridge has created a great site for the history of tattooing called The Tattoo Archive, check it out if you get the time. It is also home to the Paul Rogers Tattoo Research Center (PRTRC), this is a great organization dedicated to the research and preservation of tattoo history. Please donate if you can spare the dough. The typical topics of design are:
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13- This one could go way back in my opinion to pagan calendars and pagans were considered evil or possibly a properly tied noose (13 wraps, so 13 became a number associated with bad luck or being on the outside of the law/church). It also has possible ties to the Knights Templar, which were betrayed on Friday the 13th, 1307. Many ppl however also feel that this is their totem number for that reason, a way of shunning those things that shun them.

8-ball- this is a little newer school than the others but still falls under old-school, I believe that this is associated with luck as well for the most part, but nowadays it is also linked to drug use (i.e. 8-ball of pepsi< or er coke, yeah, damn soda companies, hehe)

anchors-if I remember properly those were commonly tattooed on the feet of sailors so that if their ship was wrecked either they or their body found solid land. Some ppl get them to symbolize keeping themselves grounded.

Cards- pretty much the same thing, plays on numbers and favorable hands can dictate fortune (royal flush, 4 aces)or the obvious opposite (dead man's hand= 2 aces, 2 eights and an arguable fifth card).

Chicken and Pig- When a ship would wreck it would be common for livestock to survive. Henceforth this is a sign of good luck in case of a crash.

Dancing girls/women/pin-up - It was not uncommon for sailors to get women as reminders of home or for good luck.

Dead Black Cat- Destroying bad luck before it crosses your path. A black cat by itself can also symbolize being wild or sneaky, as well as bad luck.

Dice- being a game of chance dice are always considered good luck as long as the numbers are in your favor. the number 7 has long been associated with good luck. It even goes back into biblical times (if you're into that). 7 and 3 are good, 6 is bad, hehe. along with snake eyes of course being the worst.

five pointed, split-color stars- Also known as Nautical stars. I would assume that these were intended as charms for luck in navigation since many of the old-school sailors navigated by the constellations, they also resemble the stars worn by the military.

Man's Ruin- This also barely falls under old school but it usually depicts the many wondrous ways that a man can destroy his life or have a good time, however you look at it. Boozing, Drugging, Gambling, Womanizing, etc.

Swallows- When sailors were returning home after a long journey, the first indication of land was to have swallows flying around the ship. (courtesy of Kitten69kim)

Two swallows- I think it has something to do with having crossed the Northwest Passage. If a sailor made it one way they had one swallow tattooed, and upon returning they had the second swallow done, usually on the chest.
(courtesy of Kitten69kim)
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