Finding ideas for new tattoos is exciting. But, you want to get something that is unique. After looking through many tattoos and understanding the different styles, I thought I’d explain what a sailor girl tattoo is and compile some of the best sailor girl tattoos.

What is a sailor girl tattoo?

Sailor girl tattoos are typically a woman’s face or head and shoulders, with nautical themed elements or US Navy outfits. This tattoo style is considered “American Traditional” or “Old School.” Sailor Girl Tattoos can be worn by both men and women with placement typically anywhere on the arm, including the forearm or bicep. Sailor Girls are a timeless tattoo that will always be in style.

dark haired sailor girl tattoo

Sailor girl tattoos are in the old school or American traditional genre. Although sailor themed tattoos declined for a few decades, they have risen in popularity in the last five to ten years. As the internet increases people’s ability to find new and interesting tattoo ideas, sailor girl tattoos are even more pervasive.

In the American traditional style, sailor girls were and still are popular. It is thought that they were used by sailors to stay motivated when out at sea for many years away from their girlfriends. When they became lonely and missed home.

What are the unique characteristics of a sailor girl tattoo?

Sailor girl tattoos generally portray a sexy woman, who is showing a lot of… ahem skin.

Authors who studied this topic in depth found evidence that teenagers would get naked women. But, then requirements of joining the Navy meant that they had to add clothing to them, according to Wikipedia.

As tattoos are a creative endeavor, the style has been modified in recent times, adding purples, oranges, and bright colors. Together, with other images such as American-Indian women and foxes, snails, and other animals. As well as, being mixed with Japanese styles.

To summarise, a sailor girl tattoo is a cartoon-like image of an attractive girl with feminine characteristics. As a result, they can include some or all of the following:

  • A woman’s face
  • The upper part of her body (sometimes)
  • Nautically themed clothing
  • Wearing a sailor hat
  • Anchor tattoo on her arm
  • Anchors
  • Wearing revealing clothing
  • Sometimes no clothes

As mentioned before sailor girl tattoos are part of  American traditional, “traditional tattoos” or “old school” which have clean lines, solid color, and create a dramatic impact.

The best thing about a traditional style tattoo is that clean and straight forward. As soon as you see it, it’s so clean and everything is precise that your brain just instantly processes it.

Sailor Girl Tattoos

sailor girl tattoo on arm
Craig Wilson Sailor Girl Tattoo
pirate girl tattoo
sailor girl tattoo on arm
blonde sailor girl traditional tattoo
sugar skull sailor girl tattoo

Sailor Girl Flash & Artwork

sailor girl traditional flash

American traditional characteristics of sailor girl tattoos

With traditional tattoos, the artist puts way more ink under the skin. That is more ink that the body and sun have to break down, which makes them last longer.

But, it makes them easily recognizable. When you see it, you’re like boom that’s a tiger, or boom that’s a sailor girl.

The traditional style is extremely bold. That means that it can look great or darker skin. Because of the bold lines and solid heavy saturated color. A person might look at a traditional tattoo and think, oh that’s simple. Or, you should get something more detailed. But, doing a traditional tattoo requires a lot of skill.

There have been many fads that come and go. But, traditional tattoos have been one that has stood the test of time. You can look at a tattoo and identify when a person got it. However, traditional tattoos are timeless.

The American traditional genre of tattoos includes:

  • Swallows
  • Sailor girls
  • Eagles
  • Boats
  • Daggers
  • Roses
  • Skulls
  • Snakes
  • Dice
  • Black panthers
  • Tigers
  • Dragons

Traditional tattoos are often done from flash. Flash are images done on paper that are hung on the walls of tattoo parlors. If you have got a tattoo before you will know that the outline of the design is then drawn on to paper and then stamped onto your skin. The tattoo artist then follows these guidelines.

The main reasons that your standard traditional would be so simple was because before there was a thermo-fax and stencil paper and thermal copiers they would have to use acetates.

They would take this acetate film of the drawing and then they would sprinkle graphite on it. Or, similar. They would press it to the skin and if you rub that it disappeared so the drawing had to be so simple that you could probably outline it all without wiping.

The trend recently, has been to get sleeve tattoos, or large and intricate tattoos that resemble a painting.

The different American traditional tattoos are often mixed together to create unique designs. They have a distinct look, that is simple, but elegant.

Their popularity is due to the fact that they look good for many years because of the simplicity of their design, and the amount of ink used. They also use a few simple colors.

Tattoos that people got 20 to 30 years ago mostly used black, red, and one or two other colors. Because of the lack of availability of colors. But, in recent times colors of different shades have become increasingly available, and this is reflected in the style of modern sailor tattoos.

More intricate tattoo styles such as new school had color usage that needed more retouching to continue to look sharp.

What meaning do sailor tattoos have?

Even though in modern days, people who aren’t sailors get these types of tattoos. Their origins had specific meanings which may or may not influence your decision in what tattoo to get.

You will feel better if you understand the origin of the tattoo and get one that is congruent with who you are.

A fully-rigged ship
This was used to signify that you had sailed around Cape Horn. Cape Horn is the southernmost tip of South America. The most traditional style had three masts, and the sails were fully opened.

A nautical star
A nautical star combines the stars of the United States flag, but uses the style of a traditional compass. It is used to signify that you had served in the United States coast guard, United States Navy, or the Marines.

Crossed cannons
Crossed cannons traditionally meant that a person was a sailor and had done military service.

Swallows were a mark of honor for those who have traveled 5,000 nautical miles. It is equivalent to 5,574 standard miles, either on land or by air. Interestingly, to circum-navigate, the circumference of the earth is just over 4 swallows.

An anchor symbolizes that a sailor had crossed the Atlantic ocean by ship. It is also used to signify that they were a member of the merchant marines. They were a fleet of ships that carried military cargo. But, were sailed by civilians.

Ropes on the wrist
Sailors who were specialists in working the deck, called deckhands, often got these tattoos. They were well trained in knots and the use of ropes. As a result, they took pride in their work and got tattoos of ropes to symbolize it.

Pigs and roosters
Pig and rooster tattoos were often tattooed on the feet of sailors. They were done to give the sailor good luck. When a ship sank often cargo would float.

The cargo often had livestock inboxes. Because the boxes floated, sometimes the animals were the only survivors of a shipwreck. Thus, it brought them good luck to tattoo them on their feet.

Dagger through a rose
A dagger through a rose symbolized the sailor’s ideals. Sailors were willing to go to great lengths to protect things of beauty such as their homeland. So the dagger represented fighting, and a rose symbolizes what they were fighting for.

A dragon was tattooed as a memento of their time in China.

A golden dragon
A golden dragon was a unique tattoo worn by sailors who successfully crossed the international date line. The international date line is an imagery line that runs North to South down the middle of the Pacific ocean.

Neptune, sometimes called king Neptune, was a Roman god of the sea. He was a friend of Poseidon. It was generally bestowed upon sailors who had sailed across the Equator.


Sailor girl tattoos are part of the American traditional genre. They were worn by sailors to remind them of women back home, to give them motivation and courage when sailing in often treacherous waters. It also cured them of the loneliness that could accompany long voyages.

A traditional sailor girl tattoo has bold lines, and simple design. That makes it easily identifiable. Modern tattoos are often intricate and difficult to discern. For this reason, they are still very popular to this day. People who get these tattoos may like the design, or have a relative who was a sailor.