Pictures of Vintage Tattoos

Showcasing old photographs from around the World of people getting tattoos. Tattoos in general have sparked serious debate over the years and you only have to read the comments below to find some pretty controversial comments about tattoos. Please feel free to comment with your opinion on tattoos.

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  • “Anonymous // 19 April 2009 04:13
    It looks like stupidity never goes out of style”

    Yes, judging by your comment, stupidity lives on. Close-minded, much?

  • it’s not even about being close minded. it just looks bad. But hey, if thats what your into, who am I to tell you not to?

  • in most old photos the people always appear so sad , odd how almost every single tatted person seem to be content

  • Tattoos aren’t stupid. people too closed minded to appreciate the art are stupid and unrefined. go watch some football on your big stupid TV and scratch your nuts some more you zombie.

  • just amazing, its really awesome to see the progression of the art from then till now, the full bodies are amazing for the time period

  • “Art for art’s sake.”I think the concept of the human body as living art is wonderful. Who cares if the tattoos don’t mean anything, lots of art means very little below the surface, it doesn’t stop people from appreciating it. Also, I feel that when it comes to tattoos, as with any body modification, its as much about the experience as it is about the end result. These people represent individuality and freedom; how is that in anyway stupid? I think it’s beautiful and enlightening, however these are only my opinions πŸ™‚

  • Have you ever seen an old person with a tat? Not good. What people need to realize is that multiple holes in your face/head and visible tats may keep you from getting a good job. But if you plan to be in the fast food industry all your life…
    It makes you look silly, and the holes never go away. Infections are rampant and tongue rings can cause heart problems. I think a little rebellion is good, but putting holes in your self and tats that fade or become distorted if you gain weight is just stupid.

  • Full body tattoos are a commitment, I’m sure these people were well aware of what they were getting themselves into.
    I’m also sure they didn’t think it was disgusting or stupid when they got it.
    People who choose the tattoos they want on their body are making their own choice for themselves, not those of us looking at them.

  • ‘having tattoo’s stop you from getting a good job’…so all of the police, military, lawyers, financiers, entreprenuers and bankers who have tattoo’s don’t have good jobs, blimey, get with modern times its an excepted art form!

  • ‘It makes you look silly, and the holes never go away.’
    Take them out for a few days, they’ll close up unless you stretch them.

    ‘Infections are rampant’
    Easy. Take care of them.

    ‘and tongue rings can cause heart problems.’
    AHAHAHAHAHA. oh wait.. you were being serious? can i have some sauce please?

    ‘I think a little rebellion is good,’
    It’s not always rebellion. It can be art, personal meaning, a lifestyle. anything.

    Don’t really like these tats myself, but i love tattooing and body modification.


  • To anonymous i earn well over 7 figures every year and have done for the last 12 years i am covered in tats so would you say i have a bad job or a good job? have a look around dickhead its 2009 not 1950 wake up

  • Some do not like tattoos, some do and some want to be covered with them.

    Each to their own… I would not be so quick to judge someone on their choice in the matter.

    Really, isn’t life too bloody short to concern oneself with another’s tattoo choice, or lack thereof?

  • I earn 8 figures and have done for 13 years and I have a 20 inch e-penis! Look around dickhead it’s April and it’s the internet, wake up.

  • To anonymous i earn well over 8 figures every year and have done for the last 13 years i am covered in lube so would you say i have a bad job or a good job? have a look around dickhead it’s april on the internet AND I HATE PUNCTUATION wake up

  • Give up anonymous. seriously stop being a pain in the ass. You don’t like it then don’t look at it.

  • It’s funny how the only people that seem bothered by tattoos are the people that have none…

  • I have 13 tattoos and now I regret every single one of them. I am 35, and have a Masters of Business Administration degree. I can’t get a job in any office because of all my tattoos. It was just that the last company that I worked for (who went under) had a lenient policy. From my job hunting observations, tattoos are not allowed in the business world. For those who want to get tattoos–don’t. It will be the biggest mistake of your life.

  • i would have to agree with the aggressive anon guy. tattoos are beautiful, like almost everything in art, when there is a decent moderation. whole body may have been practiced for ages but that doesn’t make it art or good or anything, it only makes it an old ugly hobby. you guys are just desperate for attention if you do that to your body imo πŸ˜›

  • I think these are amazing.

    I was really surprised to see the women! I didn’t think women would be as keen on tattooing – especially full body – as men in these time periods.

    I’m assuming that these people are probably already in money, or are anthropologist-type people, working out of the public eye or not working at all.

    As for some of the comments about tattoos affecting your work options? Be smart about them. I plan to get my whole back done – I can cover my back with work clothes, and nobody has to know! There’s no “Do you have tattoos?” question in job interviews. Just be sure you can cover them up and then you’re good to go!

    Don’t hate on other people. Some people like tats, some don’t. Some like moderate tattooing, some like full-body tattooing.

    Just live and let live… what was it that Thumper said?

    “Eating greens is a special treat, they’ll give you nice long ears, and great big feet…”

    No, that’s not right…

    “If you can’t say sumthin’ nice, don’t say nuthin’ at all!”

    THAT’S the one! πŸ˜‰

  • bviously fotoshopped dickheads tattoos didt even exist in the 1950s plus ive been shoppin for a long time so i should know you can tell from teh pixelz

  • Hey… ,Wait a second… that first blonde…, that’s… Grandma !She always wore gloves and dressed up to her neck, even when swimming.

    After all these years I finally know why !

  • Wow these photos are awesome- how old is that young guy with the eagle on his chest?? he looks about 12! I guess they didn’t have age-restrictions in the 50s…

    Oh and I think the people in these photographs have more style and class than half the people who left ingorant out-dated comments on this page. Go get a tattoo- you’ll probably enjoy it!

  • Did someone really say that there were no tattoos in the the 1950’s? Obviously you need to do some research before commenting. These look great and pretty authentic. I am not sure which ones you thought were photoshopped but the age of the photos doesn’t tell you anything.

  • Tatoos are fine, so is a plate in your lower lip and a bone in your nose–if that is what you like

  • Tats weren’t around in the 50’s? what like they didn’t have the technology or something? Seriously, people were tattoing before they moved out of caves! Get an education. BTW if you think tattoos and piercings are OTT what about trepanning? Far more extreme and again been going on since tools were made of antlers and stones. And no, I’m not covered head to toe in ink and holes.

  • “It looks like stupidity never goes out of style.”

    well, if it would u wouldn’t write that stupid comment would you? would you? you inteligent, open minded, selfless, piece of brightness…

    light is darkness in ur surroundings isn’t it? well u must be GOD! yessss… that’s what you r… you r GOD… only you can set the game rules! only your enlightned thoughts count! yesssss… now… don’t worry about the man in white, they are not nurses they are… they are angels yessss angels… your angels!!

  • Amber and Fiona, I think one of those guys had the word gullible tatted on their back.

    Learn to take a joke. Of course there were tattoos in the 1950s.

    My grandpa had some old tattoos from when he was in WWII, and I thought it was neat how one couldn’t make what they were supposed to be anymore. He still enjoyed them and loved explaining what they were, even thought they looked like blue-grey ink spills with a touch of pink here and there.

    It’s not all about the tattoo anyway;s also the meaning they have to the one wearing the tattoos.

  • As a tattoo and piercing artist, I have to say thank you to the kind people that found these photographs to share. Pictures from this time period are getting pretty rare, especially those of good quality where you can actually make out the ink. It’s interesting to see how far tattooing has come as both an art form and a trade in just a couple of decades (From the ink/artists, these are probably circa 1930’s to the 50’s.)

    To those people who think these pictures are disgusting… well, hey. Don’t look at them. It’s not like there’s some tattooed dude holding your eyelids open and forcing you to view this page. I agree with the astute person a couple of comments up- If you can’t say something nice, or at least voice your opinion in a constructive way, don’t say anything at all. Just causes drama.

    And to the people who think these were photoshopped… they’re not. I recognize a couple of the pics from displays I’ve seen here and there, as well as a couple of the artists/ink. Tattooing has been practiced since humans first figured out that if you poked each other with sharp sticks and smeared charcoal in it, the marks stayed. The 1920’s saw the ‘invention’ of the modern sort of tattoo gun, and the sort of decoration that you see in the pictures was extremely popular with naval and army personnel. Tattooed women, incidently, weren’t as rare as one might think, there are just fewer photographs of them then men. A lot of carnival side shows boasted a tattooed lady, and they frequently made appearances as burlesque and cabarat dancers in the 20’s/30’s/40’s. That’s not to say that all women who had tattoos were freaks and club dancers… My great grandmother had several, and she was a registered nurse.

    Anyway, sorry about the history lesson. Just figured I’d share what I knew to anyone who happened to be curious.


  • I can’t believe how many petty bickering words are being exchanged between complete strangers on this blog all in the name of people putting ink on their own skin. *sigh*

  • For anyone that states visible tattoos prevent you from getting a good job, there are a LOT of people with visible tattoos and well established jobs. I have most of my arms and my chest covered and work in upper management for a large health insurance company. I’ve seen quite a few doctors, lawyers, investment bankers that have significant coverage. Let’s also point out a good tattoo artist probably makes more of a salary than you.

  • Too bad people appear to interpret the freedom of speech as a possibility to get on other people’s tits.
    Just because you have an abrasive opinion doen’t mean you have to ventilate it…

    It’s a matter of choice and good manners.

  • Why are some of the eyes blocked out?
    They would be recognized by the ink if someone knew them.

  • Tattoos are cool the first few years you have them. Then like anything else you wish you could change it and get something else. It’s just not practical to tattoo. If I got a tattoo when I was in my 20’a I can only imagine what it would be and that was less than 10 years ago. Don’t do it….

  • You will always get comments from people who say it’s the best thing they ever did, or the opposite, and they regret it, then those who suggest that you are mad to get ink. Yes, it’s not like a hair colour, or a fashion craze, but when it is well researched, done for the right reason and as part of who that person is, then nobody has any right to either say that person was wrong or on a more serious level, to prevent them furthering their career progression principaly because they have visible tattoos. Tattoos are part of most cultures, seen in a positive and negative light, and will always draw comment, but should always be well planned, done by a respected artist and for the right reason. πŸ™‚

  • People always ask me about my tattoos, saying, “What are they going to look like when you’re old?”

    Well, probably blurry, faded, and stretched or shrunk (depending on whether I get fat or wither away).

    Thing is, I don’t care. Not one little bit. My tats are a part of me, markers for my life, and they’re only as “permanent” as I am.

  • to the person who stated piercing’s and tattoo’s can affect your career options and that most people will end up in the fast food industry… you are quite clearly incorrect, I am a tattooed female with a high paying government job in the UK, please do not generalise, if you have the intellect and ability just because you have body modifications you don’t automatically limit your career options.

  • Some people commented on here that they look stupid, or are poorly done…Well, it was the early 1900’s obviously, they’re not going to have as realistic looking ones as we can get today. I mean Jesus…You really think they’re going to be that intricate back then when their equipment isn’t as good as it is today? Consider they era…It wasn’t common to have tattoos back then, unless you were African or were a sailor/ gangster/ jail mate or in the army.

  • Tats and piercings are becoming more and more common and acceptable these days as long as you don’t go overboard.

    If you’re worried about work then keep the piercings small, so that they aren’t noticeable if you wear a clear retainer, and keep tats in places you can cover.

    Honestly though, I live in a small town and my doctor, dentist, the receptionist at the doc’s office, police officers, prison gaurds, business owners etc… all have tats or piercings around here.

    As time goes on it will become less and less of a stigma and more and more of an accepted personal expression.

  • as for not being able to get a job, i have visible tats on my arms and legs and i teach preschool. i’m qualified, experienced and educated and, therefore, most of my children’s parents don’t care about my tattoos and piercings. and to say that we will all regret what we get tattooed on ourselves is also inaccurate. i hughly doubt that someday i will regret having my daughter’s footprint from the day she was born tattooed on me, even when all the little lines fade into eachother.

  • This is just Racism and Discrimination a modern day act of hatered for a single group of individuals. I am a tattoo artist , and have been for 6 years now. I always wanted be a juvinal corrections officer, but the tattoo world called me. I recently found out the I could follow my dream even if I wanted to! See I have alot of tattoos hands and neck. Not really able to hide!!!
    Why is it that I am cant do a job cause of tattoos are they going to way me down, make me do the job less then someone else. I think its just that today society is still stuck in the old days of I have to hate someone and if I cant hate a race cause I could be sued I will just hate something I can get away with!!!!! TATTOOS Fuk U Bigots

  • anonymous said “it looks like stupidity never goes out of style.”
    A tattoo is a piece of permanent art. It goes everywhere with you, it can never be repossed, and it’s a reminder of a point in your life. I think that makes them beautiful!
    “Tattoos didn’t exist in the
    Seriously??? Are you really that stupid?? Tattooing has been a part of human culture almost as long as there have been humans!
    Enjoy the beautiful art work surrounding you!

  • “Have you ever seen an old person with a tat? Not good. What people need to realize is that multiple holes in your face/head and visible tats may keep you from getting a good job. But if you plan to be in the fast food industry all your life…
    It makes you look silly, and the holes never go away. Infections are rampant and tongue rings can cause heart problems. I think a little rebellion is good, but putting holes in your self and tats that fade or become distorted if you gain weight is just stupid.”

    I feel that you think rebelling is wearing navy blue trousers, instead of regular ol` black.
    Piercings heal up relatively well and only leave the tiniest bump when they`re grown in.
    Tattooing is wonderful. It`s a piece of work that you`ll carry with you as long as you live. When I`m old and gray, and I look at my tattoos and piercings, I`ll think of the reasons I got them, and the reasons I love them.

  • I never realized how ridiculous tattoos look, until I saw these pictures. I clicked the post expecting to see some nice “body art”, but they all look like they’ve been doodled on with magic marker. Regardless of quality and/or quantity, tattoos look ridiculously tacky.

  • only close minded, arrogant, lifeless people who cant appreciate art think all tattoo’s look tacky. Yes there are some that are very trashy, but ive seen alot of non-tattoo’d people who look disgusting and tacky. Theres no problem with not liking tattoo’s. But you dont have to be an asshole about it. Go take your anger out on other topics…lets poverty? child abuse. Come on people, there are bigger issues in this world to be insulted by. Grow up.

  • It’s ironic how the majority of the negative statements surrounding tattoos usually say more about the person posting rather than making an intelligent point.

    It’s been my experience that most people who judge and slander other people’s passion for body art are likely voicing their own inadequacies and complete lack of vision coupled with deeply rooted insecurities and an obvious hatred of their own lives.

    Yeah, it’s just that obvious.

    As for the correlations between body art and “fast food” I beg to differ. I’m 36 years old. I have over 20+ tattoos and multiple piercings. I’m a database administrator and project manager with a focus on proprietary application design and management for a successful company taking home over $65K a year with a matching 401K and I’m rising fast with over 14 years in the industry and counting.

    Good thing the executives I work for look past the “Art” and instead choose to celebrate intelligence, passion, and ability. I’d say that fact alone puts a monkey wrench in the idiotic metaphors likening tattoos with menial labor and a lack of willingness to achieve.

    Oh, and no, I don’t want fries with that. Be a sport and bring me a bold Merlot with my Filet Mignon…and by the way…

    …hold the jealousy.



  • Lmao, “Oh no! Now I have a tattoo and when I’m old it will be wrinkled and distorted and look bad..”
    Well, So will you..

  • lol I wonder if those old guys had too use a big sweeney todd razor to shave their chests before they got those…

  • For everyone that thinks these are photoshopped, they re not, I’ve seen the originals hanging in the famous Bert grimms tattoo shop in long beach,ca. And yeah they guy with the eagle on his chest is Bert Grimm and he was about 15 years old in that photo, do some research. I’m amazed at how negative people can be on the net. Be real, thats what these forums are for, it’s not a pissing contest. If you have nothing good to say, then say nothing at all. I’ll apologize in advance for spelling, grammar, an punctuation errors. I’m a tattooer not a journalist so please don’t “flame” me for my writing. Thanks and take care

  • These are NOT photoshopped. I am an historian and I have seen almost each and every one of these in my research. Part of what’s astounding about these old photographs is that they prove how advanced the artistry of the time was in spite of the tattoo gun being brand-new at the time some of these pictures were taken, like the final photo. Also, to any idiot who thinks tattooing then was “stupid”… well, you’re an idiot. For many, particularly women, getting tattooed GOT you a job in the ’20s and ’30s. Yes, the job was “Exhibit A In so-and-so’s Sideshow,” but these tattooed performers were the among the highest paid performers out there, and their job enabled them to earn AND travel more than any farmer, merchant or factory worker in their audiences could have done or even hoped for. (I have no tattoos myself but am planning one.)

  • I have a tattoo – got it done 5 years ago and I love it.
    I can cover it up for work/functions if needs be but if I show it people generally love it.

    Of those who say “What about when you’re 60?” I answer “By then it will have given me 30 years of pleasure”.

    I love it, and always will. I thought long and hard about what design to have, it’s personal to me, I’ve never seen another and I just adore it.

    If it fades and runs, I don’t care – what it represents to me is something wonderfully independent and special, and always will.

  • 1)These photos are very much the real thing for those of you who think they’re photoshopped.
    2) Tattoo history goes far before 1950, try ongoing for 5000 years.
    3) The art I may or may not choose to showcase on my body does not limit my life…what it does do is keep me away from strongly opinionated people such as yourselves.

    I have visible and hidden tattooed all over my body along with 9 peircings and gauged ears.
    I make a very good living (not.flipping burger’s or bagging grocerys) and if someone cant land a job its not because of what they look like its because they weren’t qualified.

  • I think they are wonderful, imagine how they would’ve looked in colour! The women all look amazing quite daring at the time, especially for the really early pics, I guess they were from the age of the circus ‘tattooed ladies’ and possibly made their living that way!… Thank you for sharing anyway πŸ™‚

  • “What people need to realize is that multiple holes in your face/head and visible tats may keep you from getting a good job. But if you plan to be in the fast food industry all your life” Awww, please, I got multiple tattoos and I work in Aerospace engineering, see what I did there ?

  • “Look…we’re ALL non-conformists!”
    To you “rebels” who think tats are badass: There comes a point when, by all trying to be different, everyone becomes the same.

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