Great Vintage Tattoo Ideas To Get In Touch With Your Roots

vintage tattoo

Tattoos have been around for 1000 years in various shapes and sizes. However, certain vintage tattoos played an important role in the past, which is why they are still remaining popular tattoo choices among people. The vintage tattoo trend is in fashion for years now, playing a major symbolic role. If you also want to hop on the bandwagon and want a vintage tattoo that resonates with your personality and ideology, we will help you pick the right one.

Below we have mentioned popular traditional tattoo ideas with their meanings. Find out the one that relates to you the most.


Check out some of the most popular and loved traditional tattoo styles that are still in trend.


A vintage sleeve tattoo is a collection of single traditional tattoo designs and ideas that cover the entire arm space. This traditional sleeve tattoo is known as a “patchwork” sleeve, a concept similar to quilting. In this, several small traditional style tattoos are grouped together to form a large art piece. 

Small gaps or negative space will be visible on the skin in a traditional sleeve tattoo. It may also include multiple sizes, from small pieces to hand-sized fillers. 

The major difference between a traditional and modern sleeve tattoo is that the patchwork is not restricted to a single design, and in Japanese sleeve tattoos, the same artist completes one large design with a background.


Vintage tattoo flash designs are inspired by the sheets of legendary tattoo artists like George Burchett, Bert Grimm, and Sailor Jerry. These are purposely designed to adorn tattoo shop walls in several sheets with hand-painted designs. These also serve as an outlet for artists where they can draw pieces they love to tattoo the most. 

Vintage Tattoo Flash also provides inspiration to customers when they walk in the shop and point out the design they like the most. Did you know people also celebrate charity flash day? On this day, every tattoo artist designs a tattoo flash sheet, and customers have to pick off the sheet and get it tattooed. 

All the earnings made that day are given to charity. This event provides an opportunity to custom design flashcard pieces. You can check out social media to participate in the next charity flash.


Sailors and swallows have a lot in common; they return to the same nest/site after traveling long distances in extreme conditions. 

Traditional swallow tattoo ideas often include pairs, one swallow representing setting sail and second for their return to the home.

Having more than one swallow tattoo was a reflection of sailing success. Every tattoo symbolizes extreme distances traveled. A single swallow tattoo not only represents the sailor’s caliber at sea, but there is also one myth revolving around it that if the sailors drown on their journey, the swallow tattoo will lift their soul to heaven.


Shark tattoo was also a popular vintage tattoo among the sailors. Sailors were often exposed to sharks during their voyage, and getting a shark tattoo was said to protect them from the sea perils. Sharks have a dominant sense of calm; still, they are constantly on the move. 

This quality of sharks represents the determination to always keep moving forward towards life and facing the ongoing challenges. Whether you get the tattoo to symbolize your strong personality or always motivate you, a shark tattoo looks pretty gnarly. 


Flowers are the most loved small traditional tattoos. A flower tattoo can include both vintage as well as modern approaches to add variations in contrast to what elements are accompanying them. These are often simple and generic designs that look classic old school.

Flower tattoos are often the star of the show and are mostly designed in vases. A flower vintage tattoo looks alluring and also demonstrates enlightenment, growth, and beauty.


Tigers are ferocious and solitary animals of the wild. These are known to be untamable and powerful. A tiger tattoo can represent following your instincts or lack of desire to follow society and the crowd. It is also a reflection of a free and passionate spirit.


Another popular and one of the most loved traditional tattoo ideas is Panther. A panther is a big cat with a melanic black coat and is a rare wild animal. This is a popular tattoo design representing a powerful and ferocious character. 

If this is what you want to become or see in yourself, a panther tattoo will serve as a reminder of strength and power. A panther always defends their young ones, representing a protective instinct and being close to the loved ones.

A panther tattoo should be placed on large body areas accompanying their shape and density. This is why the forearm panther tattoo was a common prison tattoo placement.


Gypsy women are also quite popular traditional style tattoos. These are often seen in vintage tattoo flashcards representing their own characteristics. Gypsies are free spirits and nomadic, having a reputation of being beautiful and strong-willed. Some of them were also known to possess the ability to read the future.

A gypsy tattoo represents following a nomadic life, or having a strong-willed lady in life, and being in touch with a spiritual side.


Owls are a popular tattoo element in various cultures worldwide and hold a significant symbolic value since history. As an observer, won is said to be the wisest of all animals in the kingdom. This can be a great vintage tattoo idea for someone who likes to absorb the information, is a great listener, and is experienced. An owl tattoo will always be a reminder and reflect a thirst to learn.

Owls are nocturnal animals, and many people find this common with their own sleeping behaviors and patterns. If you consider yourself a night owl, you might get this tattoo for yourself.


Eagle is a key symbol of America and was originally used as a sign of travel or patriotism. A traditional eagle tattoo can represent that one can achieve anything they put their mind to. 

Also, an eagle attacks the prey from above and is very intelligent as compared to other birds. This is why the eagle is known as the “king of the skies.” They are spiritual in nature which holds an underlying meaning in the Native American culture.

Wearing eagle tattoos could represent these characteristics if you see them in yourself. This is a timeless vintage tattoo.


One of the most beautiful insects, a butterfly, holds a significant place in traditional tattoos. The beauty of the butterfly holds meaning in itself along with its transformation, which is a symbolic representation.

A butterfly metamorphoses the attitude of reinvention and coming into the world as themselves. A butterfly tattoo is also a symbol of new beginnings and freedom from a troubling mindset or relationship. 


Snake is a powerful and adaptable animal that can take down prey that is a lot bigger than itself. A snake tattoo is often drawn in a coiled position, reflecting a “don’t you mess with me” attitude. This is because a snake is capable of striking anyone coming at it.

When a snake is paired with other animal tattoos, they are usually drawn in an attacking position representing wit vs. brawn and also that they have the potential to conquer everything with their intelligence (venom).

Snakes also symbolize rebirth because they shed their skin and emerge with fresh new skin. This can reflect with our own experiences and personalities as a tattoo subject.


It may look morbid and evoking interest in death, but its symbolism is completely opposite to what you think. Getting a tattoo means a lifetime commitment to the design; this is why skull tattoos represent the concept of getting a tattoo alone.

It highlights that you only live once, and you have the ability to conquer your biggest fears, that is, death. Skulls are also seen as an homage to the life cycle and infinite nature of birth and death.


Dagger is also a popular vintage tattoo choice. A dagger symbolizes both positive and negative experiences and qualities. These can be a representation of experiencing loss and feeling betrayed. Dagger is also known to symbolize bravery and protection.

Like any other traditional tattoos, their meaning depends on what other subject they are accompanying. When a dagger is placed with other imagery, it contrasts between the good and bad experiences in life. For instance, there are many popular daggers and rose tattoo designs representing beauty and pain or hate-love.


Another very popular vintage tattoo choice is a rose. A rose tattoo can have various symbolism. When seen as a female meaning, a rose can serve as a remembrance for women they loved and left behind, be their mother, lover, or wife.

Originating from Greek mythology, the rose is a symbol of Aphrodite, representing the idea of beauty and love in tattoos. In tattoos, roses are often paired with other subjects to complement each other or maybe create a contrast.


You will mostly come across a love heart shape in a vintage tattoo design in tattoo imagery representing an emotion rather than the organ. Heart tattoos were also originated by sailors back in time. 

They were always at risk of not making it home because of a bad voyage. Sailors used to stay away from home for several months, and a heart tattoo used to serve as a reminder of the people they love and care for during those difficult times.

Sometimes a heart tattoo was titled with banners, and other times they were tattooed alone. The main idea behind this is wearing your heart on your sleeves. Crying heart tattoos or hearts with daggers is also quite popular, which reflects a broken heart. This tattoo is also a symbol of making it through and surviving heartbreak, and coming out more stranger than before.

 The mermaid tattoo

Mermaid tattoos are cult classics with half fish and half woman bodies, creating fascinating tattoo subjects. According to legends, mermaids used to seduce sailors by guiding them to doom and singing songs for them. This tattoo stands as a metaphor that the seas are both dangerous and alluring at the same time.

 The pinup tattoo

Pinup is one of those vintage tattoos that are also quite popular now. Women with 1950s style used to have seductive curves and colored lips, which were very popular in the tattoo world. This tattoo symbolizes femininity, sensuality, and also seduction. People also combine pinup tattoos with small traditional tattoos like cherries. 


The imagery of the ship falls with Maritime. Ships are a major part of a sailor’s life, representing freedom. Once a sale is set, there are o restrictions to hold back a sailor. Sailors are known natural explorers, and there is nothing that can symbolize adventure more than a ship that is used to execute discoveries and exploration.

Ships also hold a homely feeling to them. This vessel is a symbol of home to someone who is far away from their actual home and helps in returning back to destiny when the time comes.

A ship tattoo demonstrates a close connection to a sailor’s homeland and shows the love for the wearer’s traveling and wanderlust emotion. 


Bees are popular creatures in many cultures across the world. These uniquely colored insects are known for their quality of maintaining balance in the entire ecosystem and playing a major role in the growth of crops. As a loyal and industrious species, a vintage bee tattoo is one of the most loved designs.

Final Words : 

Vintage tattoos are popular for a good reason. Their deep symbolic meanings have made them the most loved tattoo choice even today. By getting a traditional tattoo design, you not only honor the historical art form while holding a strong symbolic value. 

If you like the above-listed vintage tattoo ideas, do not forget to leave a comment below.