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The Vixen and The Maiden

american traditional tattoos, pinup girl tattoos, sailor jerry

The motifs common among American traditional tattoos trace their roots to World War II. Nautical stars, beautiful women, swallows, and other themes that derive inspiration from the maritime lifestyle originated in the tattoo shop owned by artist and former sailor, Norman Collins, otherwise known as Sailor Jerry. Collins carved out an untouchable space in tattoo culture, evident in the enduring popularity of his designs. Sailors visited Collins’s shop in Honolulu during their off-time, and when they returned home, they introduced Americans on the mainland to both the art of Sailor Jerry and tattoos more broadly. Collins’s tattoo style meshed the history of Japanese tattooing with his own innovations. He can be credited with introducing nautical themes, new inks, and new methods of tattooing to the practice.

Today, his influence remains as important as ever. Sailor Jerry flash tattoos cover the bodies of countless tattoo enthusiasts, and their popularity shows no signs of letting up despite new trends like minimalism and fandom tattoos that contrast heavily with the recognizable look of Sailor Jerry. Beautiful women are enshrined in tattoos of all styles, but one of the most common is the pin-up, one of Sailor Jerry’s iconic designs. With suggestive poses, revealing outfits, and alluring faces, pin-ups “represent the ideal and extremes of femininity — from maidenly perfection to vixen-ish temptation.” Since pin-ups embody both the ideal and the exaggerated woman, they incorporate beauty, sex appeal, and eccentricity. These five pin-up girl tattoos find inspiration in the Sailor Jerry style while also introducing unique themes like Collins himself.

american traditional tattoos, pinup girl tattoos, sailor jerry

Although this tattoo abandons the full-body portrait common amongst pin-up tattoos, it still focuses on beauty boasting bold lines, bright colors, and a sultry face. She also exhibits a vintage beauty, with rosy cheeks, a beauty mark, and floral hair accessories.


american traditional tattoos, pinup girl tattoos, sailor jerry

Because the sailors who made up Collins’s original clientele endured solitary lifestyles surrounded primarily by other men, pin-up girl tattoos enshrine a fantasy of the women these sailors longed for. The sailor lifestyle, naturally, is a major source of inspiration in Sailor Jerry tattoos, and the mermaid in this tattoo blends the maritime with the fantasy.


american traditional tattoos, pinup girl tattoos, sailor jerry

Pin-up girls are fantastical both in the sense that they exhibit women that cater primarily to the male gaze and that they exude an aura of both innocence and sex appeal. This portrait represents that duality. A beautiful woman lounges naked in the grass with an innocent look on her face.


illustrative tattoos, pinup girl tattoos, sailor jerry

The lady from the black lagoon takes a signature pin-up style pose, and she combines a contemporary illustrative style with the old school sensibilities of the American traditional pin-up. While the pose and the cheeky smirk are familiar, the subject is unique, bridging contemporary absurdity and classic beauty.


american traditional tattoos, pinup girl tattoos, sailor jerry

This bombshell flanked by the cheeky phrase “tears of men” brings the history of Sailor Jerry together with modern tongue-in-cheek humor. This portrait also turns the common theme of pin-up designs on its head. She still embodies the male fantasy of a beautiful woman, but according to the script, she takes pleasure in their pain. Therefore, although she may embody their fantasy physically, she will not only cause them pain, but she will also relish it.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect the official position of PainfulPleasures.