Trends often come back into style after a few years, as anyone who's witnessed the recent fanny pack revival knows. So why not look to the (relatively recent) past for inspiration with your next tattoo? There are so many old-fashioned tattoos we should totally bring back. The symbols and styles that once fell out of fashion are retro-cool now.
For the most part, tattoos are more popular than ever in recent years. Although the exact numbers may be tricky to pin down, around 40 percent of people born after 1980 appear to have a tattoo, according to the Pew Research Center. Now that it's more mainstream than ever, why not get a design from a time when tattoos were still considered edgy or even risque? Consider a design that speaks to the long history of tattooing as an art form, or even just a fad from decades past.
Just be warned: this list may make you want to pull out the sketchbook of tattoo designs you made back in middle school. Maybe the time has come to get a permanent memorial to that stylized S everyone used to doodle. Read on for more inspiration from the best tattoo designs of the past.
1. Barbed Wire
This iconic tattoo is due for a comeback. "These tattoos were popular in the 1990s with celebrities like Pamela Anderson making the trend popular. While they may have fallen out of style for a bit, I think well-done barbed wire tattoos can be tough and timeless," as Deidre Grieves, founder and editor of FemaleTattooers.com, tells Romper. "Today, younger celebrity it-girls like Elizabeth Olsen and Dua Lipa have barbed wire tattoos, and there are tattoo artists like Tine DeFiore, Loz, and more who do such a beautiful job with them." Go full retro with a barbed wire design around your bicep, or incorporate the style into a larger work.
2. Sun Tattoos
Doesn't this Nick Lachey pic just bring you back? Sun tattoos were called out as a 1990s fad in Custom Tattoo Design, and it's so true. Back in the day, everyone I knew wanted a spiral sun tattooed on their shoulder or navel. It was the epitome of edgy. Maybe it's time to bring back these stylized solar tattoos.
This classic cat also deserves a comeback. "I think traditional panther tattoos continue to be completely badass," says Grieves. "Artists like William Grimshaw helped make the crawling panther design iconic in the 1940s and these masculine designs reached a peak in the 1950s and 1960s. Getting the anatomy and movement of a full-body panther tattoo right takes a lot of skill!" She recommends panther designs from artists such as Alex Wild, Julia Campione, Christian Horseng, and Samuele Briganti.
4. Sailor Jerry Designs
5. Vintage Flash Designs
If you don't feel the need for a custom design, then consider some older flash tattoo styles. Basically? Walk into the shop and choose a design that's already on the wall. "Flash is very popular within traditional tattoo studios where they do a lot of old-school tattoos because this style of tattooing requires specific rules in order to be placed in that category," said tattoo artist Miryam Lumpini in Byrdie. If you'd like a design that pays homage to tattoo's earlier days, then this is a fun option.
6. Zodiac Signs
Consider it a sign of the times. Plenty of millennials are interested in astrology these days, perhaps due to all the stress in their lives, as explained in The Atlantic. So why not get a tattoo that symbolizes your zodiac sign? It can be a little symbol of comfort.
Once upon a time, a dolphin tattoo on the ankle was the ultimate spring break souvenir. When it comes to these majestic sea beasts, you can go as realistic or cartoonish as you like. Or, combine the idea will a current trend and go super tiny.
Whatever you're into, there's probably an old fashioned tattoo design that will fit your personality perfectly. From gorgeous retro styles to throwbacks with some serious '90s vibes, there are tons of tattoos from the past that still look great today.