The reason why a person would get Navy tattoos seems pretty cut and dry; they either are in, or have a loved one serving in the Navy. However, with a long and colorful history known for its extraordinary body art, these themes have taken on an almost kitschy cult following. Either way, the symbols used in these pieces are steeped in significance.
Some of the most popular navy tattoos feature simple symbols such as anchors, nautical stars, compasses and birds. However, many people like to either combine the images to create a large maritime theme, or simply embellish one or two of these items. For instance, one could create a depiction of the anchor being thrown into the water, you could also make the anchor gold, and encrusted with jewels. Swallows or sparrows placed on either shoulder could hold a banner with names, dates, rank or simply large block letters saying ‘Navy.’
There are many Navy tattoos that are meant as talismans of protection. Like the swallows, — which are not only meant as something akin to a spirit guide, but also as a symbol of coming home no matter what — other birds and animals were used as emblems of safety at sea. One great example of this is a pig and fighting rooster on either foot to keep a person from drowning. Navy tattoos also symbolize accomplishments, and can be lifelong souvenirs from the places the wearer has visited; for instance, dragons were tattooed for serving in China; a quadruple knot in a rope represented sailing around the International date line, Arctic and Antarctic, and Equator; while a palm tree may simply have meant time spent in Hawaii.
Many Navy tattoos feature ships and all of their accoutrements, as well a variety of depictions of sailors, or people met during their trips. Heavily detailed boats across the chest were not unusual, and were often meant as yet another symbol of accomplishment. They were also regularly modeled often ships that the wearer sailed in. In this design, you could also use the image of crossed cannons, which are simply meant to represent service in the Navy. Images of scantily clad female sailors, hula girls and occasionally even geishas are some of the most frequently used archetypes for Navy tattoos. These are generally done in a pin up style; however, you could create a more modern, or lifelike depiction for your own variation.
Navy tattoos have become quite popular amongst civilians. However, they have been, and will always remain a symbol of pride and accomplishment to those in the service.