Tattoo Styles: Art from Around the World

Tattoo Styles: Art from Around the World

July 22, 2018

Tattoos are one of the oldest forms of art known to man. Tattoos date back to the Neolithic era and were popular among many of the indigenous tribes of the time. Tattoos were and still are to some, a deep and powerful symbol. Barbaric tribes decorated themselves in tattoos for war, Egyptians used tattoos as a symbol of status and art, and Africans, even today, have tattoos as a symbol of their specific tribe.

Tattoos in today’s day and age have seen a resurgence. Although to many it can be a way to promote your favourite band or look cool, there are many (such as myself) who have tattoos that have a much deeper meaning or reasoning for their ink. Although regional tattoo styles such as Celtic, Chinese, Borneo, and Polynesian tattoos have never actually faded away, you would not see a 16th-century Italian man nor a 1950’s stay at home Mom with some sort of cultural Tattoo. Because of the popularity tattoos have garnished in our time, however, we have seen many tattoos that you would have never seen 60 years ago…or even 500 years ago.

Aside from cultural tattoos, there are many other types of tattoos as well. Tattoo styles come in many different shapes and forms and can range from a flaming skull on your shoulder, to a pinup girl on your calf, to a tribal design on your back. One of the most famous styles of tattooing is the traditional “old school” tattoos. These tattoos originated several decades ago when the popularity and appeal of tattoos came about in our modern age. These tattoos are traditionally done in a specific type of font (if the tattoo contains words), have very vibrant colours (lots of greens, reds, and yellows), and stray far away from realism in favour of a more stylized form of art.

For example, you may be very in touch with your heritage, and wish to proudly display it on your body. Many tribal styled tattoos often have Celtic knotwork or symbols in the tattoo, such as the trinity symbol or the Celtic cross. Norse and Celtic tattoos are similar in some aspects but differ significantly in others. Norse tattoos are more primitive. Although the Norse did have their own knotwork patterns, they were much better known for their symbols such as Mjolnir, (The Valknut (Odin’s symbol), Odin on Sleipnir (his eight-legged horse), Yggdrasil (the world tree), Jormungand (the world serpent), and various runes. Authentic Celtic Tattoos were often full body or at least a good part of the body. Intricate knotwork patterns would cover their bodies and even their face. In today’s day and age Celtic tattoos are not as over the top, and most people who don Celtic tattoos have very simple, but still intricate Celtic patterns and symbols. A type of Celtic tattoo that you have most likely seen at some point or another is a Celtic knotwork armband, which may or may not have a Celtic cross in the centre. Many Irish-Americans have this type of tattoo to symbolize the pride of their heritage, as well as their heritage’s roots.

To get a broader view of just how vast the history and styles tattoos have, you need to delve deeper into just how many styles of tattooing there are. A short list of tattoo styles are:

  • Bio-mech and skin illusion tattoos
  • Black and Gray tattoos
  • Borneo tattoos
  • Celtic tattoos
  • Chinese tattoos
  • Erotic tattoos
  • Haida/Native American tattoos
  • Kanji/ Japanese tattoos
  • Maori tattoos
  • Military tattoos
  • Norse tattoos
  • Old School tattoos
  • Polynesian tattoos
  • Samoan tattoos
  • Spiritual/ Faith tattoos
  • Tribal tattoos

There are many, many more tattoo styles out there than what I have listed, but what I have listed are the most common tattoo styles that are seen today. 

To get a little more in depth, some of these tattoo styles need a bit of an explanation to truly understand the full picture. 

Biomechanical and skin illusion tattoos are pretty self-explanatory. These tattoos are done in a manner that makes them seem as if the wearer has mechanical parts under or on the skin, and skin illusion tattoos are similar in the sense that they are often done realistically to make it seem as if the skin is torn open or altered. Borneo, which is still heavily tribe-influenced, have very crude, primitive tattoos, often depicting symbols native to their culture. Kanji tattoos are tattoos done in Kanji symbols, your normal “Japanese lettering” tattoo that stands for a certain virtue that one might believe in deeply.   Finally, Maori tattoos are tattoos done in the style of the Maori, an indigenous tribe of New Zealand.

Tattoos are truly rich in culture and deep-rooted in history. While many look down on tattoos, simply by looking at their origins it is impossible to truly say that tattoos are not a work of art. Whether it be your tribe, your culture, your child, or an amazingly intricate design, tattoos have always been, and always will be one of the finest and most permanent works of art.

If you have a tattoo or are thinking about getting one, share what you have in our comments section.

R. Evans, WeirdMojo 

 



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