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Norman 'Sailor Jerry' Collins is the father of the old-school tattoo and we make old-school rum — but our site doesn't work on old-school web browsers (blame the tech geeks). To see our site in its full glory, you'll have to upgrade to a newer version of Internet Explorer.
Old-school tattoos are rooted in the American serviceman’s interpretation of traditions and symbols that go back thousands of years. In addition to indicating that a sailor had sailed 5000 miles, swallows are also associated with the idea of return.
At sea, the anchor is the most secure object in a sailor's life, making it the perfect representation of stability.
Watch Quint in Jaws and you can get some idea of Sailor Jerry's attitude toward sharks — inhuman with a relentless ferocity that's impossible not to be awed by. Jerry deeply admired the work of Japanese tattoo masters and was the first Westerner to enter into regular correspondence with them. A tattoo is one of the few indelible decisions we make in life, representing a commitment to your dying day — this is one reason death themes are big. Panthers are usually inked as totems of prowess and virility, sometimes also symbolizing a connectedness to nature. There's a long-standing tradition in tattoo culture of celebrating that which others fear (hence the thematic prevalence of things like skulls and knives). Pin-ups represent the ideal and extremes of femininity — from maidenly perfection to vixen-ish temptation.


A sailor staring down a long stint at sea- including the possibility of not returning home-often wanted a heart to keep his loved ones close.
Representing the North Star (historically used by sailors use for navigation) a nautical star was believed to keep a sailor on course. The superstition behind this has to do with the wooden cages where roosters and pigs were kept in on ships. Drummer Mario Rubalcaba has played with bands like OFF!, Hot Snakes, Rocket From The Crypt, Clikitat Ikatowi and many more . Obviously, every tattoo is a personal statement, but there are certain common meanings and associations. This is why you'll often see them emblazoned with "Mom" or the name of a sailor's sweetheart (the people who keep them grounded). Unlike Jerry's panthers, snakes, and other animals, his sharks seem less about embodying traits possessed by the person tattooed and more about forces that must be withstood and overcome. The other is that tattoos, in the ancient world and in Jerry's day, were often the marks of warriors, mercenaries and adventurers – people whose life choices represented coming to terms with death (“Death Or Dishonor”) or perversely inoculating one's self against it (“Rats Get Fat While Brave Men Die”).
He loved its beauty and exoticism and that it was as far away as he could get from a world he increasingly viewed as a screwed-up place, devoid of honor and conviction.  From his legendary hula girl to more scenic pieces, his Hawaii tattoos reflected his sense of the islands as a kind of paradise on earth.
Unlike panthers, which are usually depicted in mid-action, snakes are typically shown coiled and ready to strike, representing a don't-tread-on-me sensibility, thus warding off evil, misfortune and potential brawls. Sailor Jerry's Lucky 13 motif is probably the most famous set of tattoo designs that flip a bad luck symbol on its head.


Sailor Jerry, as a patriot who was acutely aware of (and vocal about) the shortcomings of his country, the Eagle was a symbol of his idealized America. When ships wrecked, the lightweight wooden frames became personal flotation devices, giving them a surprising survival rate. The first was the swallow's famous migration pattern, always returning home to San Juan Capistrano.
Anchors have become popular within general tattoo culture over the years, but the symbolism is still the same. A sailor hoping for good luck would get a rooster on top of the right foot and a pig on top of the left. They’re more like exotic ghosts than living beings — like totems of an earlier, fascinating era.
His legendary clippers represent both the call to adventure and the determination to be "Homeward Bound". And they're eminently seaworthy – Jerry always inked his riggings to be nautically accurate.



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