Why the rise in popularity? How did they start and who are the original tattoo artists that brought these bold, bright tattoo designs to us?
If you follow tattooing back to the first part of the century, you will find a few incredibly talented, wonderfully colorful characters. Top among these fine characters is "Sailor Jerry". Story goes, Sailor Jerry began his career traveling around the country on freight trains and tattooing the drifters. He joined the Navy at 19 and sailed the Pacific. If you look at Sailor Jerry's artwork, you can see the influence of Southeast Asia. Sailor Jerry's images have bold deep outlines, bold blocks of color, and large, oversized images.
Old School Tattoo Designs include imagery of stars, hearts and daggers. There are anchors, and nautical themes. What we now would say is "pirate imagery" are all found in Old School Tattoos. Beautiful, busty pin-up girls, suggestive women, skeletons, and skulls. Hearts with daggers through them and roses with massive thorns and ribbons, in bold bright colors with deep outlining. Everything that we now would consider "vintage" is included in the imagery of Old School Tattoos. They have almost a whimsical and animated quality.
Two of Sailor Jerry's students, Ed Hardy and Mike Malone have been extremely influential in keeping interest in, and reviving the Old School Tattoo Designs. Ed Hardy and Mike Malone both use the bold patterns and the bright colors typical in Old School Tattoos. Images are outlined and you can see the Asian influence in the design.
When Sailor Jerry died, he left instructions that one of his students, Ed Hardy or Mike Malone, could buy his tattoo shop in Hawaii. Mike Malone took the offer and with the purchase of the shop, he also got all of Sailor Jerry's artwork. That artwork, or "flash" can now be seen on tattoo shop walls all across America.
Don Ed Hardy, on the other hand, exploded his popularity and brought Old School Tattoo designs to the main stream by licensing his artwork to Christian Audigier. Ed Hardy Designs was formed and Christian Audigier began incorporating the artwork into fashion. This was the first time tattoo design and tattoo artwork has made it to the runways of Paris, New York and Italy. Ed Hardy artwork and tattoo design could now be seen on Rock Stars and Celebrities alike. The Beautiful Old School Tattoo Designs were now part of mainstream culture and highly sought after.
Maybe another reason for the rise in popularity of Old School Tattoos is the simple fact that we have a fascination with "vintage" What's old is new. This happens in fashion all the time. How many times have you heard people say, "I had those gym shoes in 7th grade", or "That blouse is in my moms attic". From brands like Puma, Nike, P.F. Flyers to Levi, there is always a vintage look or design just around the corner. Old School Tattoos are the "vintage" of the tattoo world. They are also the brightest, most colorful, quirky, kitschy and whimsical tattoo designs. If you are looking for a "vintage" look in your tattoo design, beautiful busty pin-up girls, colorful funky skulls, pierced hearts, fat roses with ribbon sayings, check out the Old School Tattoos. And here is a piece of advice from the infamous Lyle Tuttle: "Don't put anyone's name on your tattoo. They are not going to be around forever. Just put "Sweetheart" and call them ALL "Sweetheart"."