Traditional Anchor Tattoos and the Aesthetic of Stability

Traditional Anchor Tattoos and the Aesthetic of Stability

Nothing says you hold it down when the seas of life gets rough like having an anchor tattoo.

Bold that Holds is our showcase of classic traditional tattoo motifs executed by some of our favorite artists in the industry. Be sure to check out some of our previous installments of the series, like this article about the granddaddy of death — the Grim Reaper.

Anchors are such common tattoo designs that some snobs out there might go so far as to call them cliche. Hell, even Popeye the had himself a pair of them on his beefy forearms. This couldn’t be further from the truth. There’s a veritable boatload of reasons that anchors make for timeless pieces of body art, their connotation of stability standing at the helm. Strength, security, salvation — these are all words associated with anchors, and because they are evocative of such empowering themes, they’ll likely remain firmly rooted on people’s skin for centuries to come.

Anchors have been a fixture in the style ever since its origins in the mid-to-late 1800s, when sailors would get tattoos of them while voyaging across the high seas. The majority of the maritime body art back then was tied to seafarers’ way of life, featuring figures like clipper, nautical stars, lighthouses, etc. Of all these symbols, anchors were one of the most popular, valued for how they represent the idea of steadfastness in an unstable reality. The life of a seaman back then was extremely volatile, posing constant dangers such as bad weather, shipwreck, and more. In short, the anchor was often the only saving grace aboard a ship, keeping from capsizing in the waves.

Though most people who have an anchor tattoo today are more likely baristas, bicycle messengers, businessmen, doctors, or tattoo journalists than sailors, the meaning of anchor tattoos extends to their walks of life as well. Collectors often pair these unusually shaped objects with other imagery or catchphrases that point to what brings about a sense of security in their lives. Be it a parent’s name on a banner or a pair of shaking hands, anchors are often used as signs that point to the importance of the things that bind us to life, like brotherhood, family, friendship, and etc.

To see more traditional tattoos, voyage over to these artist’s Instagrams. Should you desire a banger of an anchor to show how steadfast you are, have one of them design it for you.

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