An Ultimate Guide to American Traditional Tattoos

An Ultimate Guide to American Traditional Tattoos

An Ultimate Guide to American Traditional Tattoos

American traditional tattoos are a form of tattooing that is typically seen as American folk art. They often depict images from the natural world and the style has been used in America for generations. If you are looking for a tattoo artist of this style, we recommend Ink-Match, which has a list of artists from all over America who will pleasantly surprise you.

In this article, we will discuss the meaning behind traditional tattoos, as well as the difference between traditional and neo-traditional tattoos.

American traditional tattoo style – history of old school tattoos

The history of American traditional tattoos is filled with all the secrets and mysteries. It has its roots in both old-school style tattooing, which was extremely popular in late 19th- early 20th century America. And also the prison culture that already existed much earlier became one of the main sources for new beautiful tattoo ideas. 

This method was perfected in prisons and for a long time, traditional tattooing was considered to be the domain of criminals. But with the development of new technologies, it became possible to make more precise lines on the skin, which allowed talented artists who were far from being convicts or gangsters to develop their style. And thus creating an entire class of traditional tattooists. 

The popularity of traditional tattoos has seriously fallen since the arrival of new technologies. But now, because all things old are becoming fashionable again, the American traditional tattoo style is gaining its former glory and even gaining some new fans!

American traditional tattoo meanings – common elements & symbols

Swallow tattoos

Swallow tattoos are very popular. Swallows can represent many different things. Most like the barn swallow or house sparrows, symbolize freedom and luck because they were able to fly away wherever they wanted. Just like these birds, people believe that having a swallow tattoo means your soul is free and you will always be protected.

The swallow tattoo is also a sign of love and friendship, like the one between people who have been through hard times together. The swallows could also symbolize peace because they always come back home to where their nest is even though they might fly far away but still return there in wintertime for shelter from cold weather. 

Anchor tattoos

Anchor tattoos are one of the most popular traditional tattoos. The tattoo symbolizes stability and hope as it is a Christian religious sign that represents Jesus Christ who was on Earth during his time, but now he lives in heaven with God. 

Anchor tattoos also have non-religious meaning - they can be a reminder to remain realistic and hopeful about life no matter how hard it is. 

Shark tattoos

Shark tattoos come in different styles, shapes, and sizes. One of the most popular is the white shark tattoo which has a very masculine look to it. It symbolizes power and masculinity. 

Dragon tattoos

Dragon tattoos are one of the most popular choices when it comes to tattooing. 

There is a reason behind that: dragons are huge, dangerous, and powerful creatures who can be both evil or good. This symbolism makes them perfect for tattoos - they communicate not only beauty but also depth and complexity in terms of meaning. Most people choose between Asian (Eastern) and European (Western) dragons, but there are other options too. 

There is also an option to make them black or gray - these two color schemes give off the feeling of power rather than delicacy. If you want your dragon tattoo to be detailed and colorful, choose a red dragon. On the other hand, if your design is going to be big and bold - go for black or gray colors.

Skull tattoos

Skull tattoos are probably the most popular form of tattoos out there. They are stereotypical but have become so common in part because they are beautiful, particularly when done well by professional tattoo artists.

Skull tattoos can be used to symbolize death or a dark outlook on life. In some cases, they represent an appreciation for Mexican culture and the Day of the Dead holiday which takes place in November each year. But most commonly, skull tattoos are symbols of rebellion. Many people get them because it is considered taboo by society's standards but that is exactly why they enjoy them so much.

Snake tattoos

Snake tattoos symbolize different things for different people. Some see it as a symbol of wisdom, while others may consider it to be the embodiment of evil and death. But whatever your opinion on snakes is – one thing’s for sure: this tattoo design will make you look fierce!

Panther tattoos

Panther tattoos are ​very popular, especially among men. People who choose panther tattoos are considered to be strong and brave. These tattoos usually represent an animal that is willing to protect its territory at all costs. When you decide on a panther tattoo it’s important to know the meaning behind your choice so you can live up to this image of strength, courage, and protection. 

Lucky 13 tattoos

Lucky 13 tattoos are ​just 13 dots tattooed on the skin, usually with a single needle. This iconic tattoo design has come to represent people who are attending prison for the first time.

Eagle tattoos

Eagle tattoos are one of the most popular tattoos in America. This tattoo is very versatile and can be worn by anyone, regardless of gender. The Eagle has long been associated with power, strength, wisdom, and freedom.

The eagle is often depicted as carrying or being surrounded by lightning bolts - especially American eagles are sometimes portrayed holding an olive branch to symbolize peace.

Heart tattoos

Heart tattoos are ​one of the most popular tattoos in America. It is said that 80% of Americans have at least one tattoo, and among them about 40-45% are heart-themed. Their meaning can vary from person to person depending on what they think their "heart" represents. For some it's love for family or significant others; for other people, it's about their love for life or themselves.

Traditional vs neotraditional tattoo – what’s the difference?

The main difference between the two is that traditional tattoos are often considered to be more simplistic in design, with bolder lines and less detail. Neotraditional tattoos on the other hand tend to have much more intricate patterns made up of fine lines, swirls, and even portraits all incorporated into one single tattoo piece.


American traditional tattoos are probably the most popular type of tattooing in this country. The designs encompass many different styles but have a common meaning and are typically rendered with needle-and-ink instead of using modern equipment, which makes them part of an "old school" style that is still today very much alive.

If you want to get a tattoo, but do not know which one to choose, check out the tattoo ideas that will push you to the right thought.