"OMG, I love your ink! Who did it? Does it mean anything?"
Stop us if you've heard this before. A phrase uttered to those who've chosen to adorn their bodies with similar markings passed down by generations of aboriginal communities across the globe. How exactly did these ancestral traditions evolve into the vibrant community of artists and human canvases we have today?
Well, if you have a tattoo, you can thank a sailor!
As the British Navy expanded across the globe, they picked up a thing or two about tattooing during their travels. When the first settlements were established in the New World, British sailors transferred these newly acquired tattoo traditions directly to their new American brothers.
For generations, sailors have believed in the power of tattoos to shield them against the dangers at sea. A pig and a rooster emblazoned on each foot were viewed as protection from drowning (pigs and roosters were frequently the only survivors of a shipwreck). Tatts were used to celebrate milestones like a sailor's first time crossing the equator, as reminders of their family and loved ones or to commemorate a victory at war. They were known as identifying markings for long-term sailors who earned their living primarily at sea.
Samuel O'Reilly, the inventor of the original electric tattoo machine and one of the first tattooists, opened his own studio in New York City in 1875 - a tradition that remains stronger than ever within modern New York City culture. He believed the bond between sailors and tattoos was so important that a man without a tattoo wasn't a true sailor. “...an American sailor without a tattoo is like a ship without grog -- not seaworthy," he would say.
At Virgin Voyages, we believe embarking on a journey through the modern romance of sailing would not be complete without the opportunity for a permanent way to commemorate your voyage. That’s why we’re partnering with one of NYC’s most historic tattoo brands, World Famous Tattoo Ink, and their owner Lou Rubino Jr., son of the late great Tattoo Lou Rubino of Long Island. The result of more than 50 years of tattooing experience passed down directly from father to son; World Famous Tattoo Ink is helping steer the world of tattooing into the future while blessing us with some brilliant ink along the way.
“For generations, sailors have believed in the power of tattoos to shield them against the dangers at sea.”
The beauty of this art lies not only in the fact that it's a tradition passed down for centuries from one generation to the next, but the idea that it can mean anything to its owner (or absolutely nothing at all). Get one as a reminder of a lifelong connection with another sailor you just met on board, or maybe it's a symbol that takes you back to the great times you had on your first voyage at sea. Whatever it is, whatever it's not, the only thing that matters is that it's meaningful to you, and that's what a Virgin Voyage is all about.
“...an American sailor without a tattoo is like a ship without grog -- not seaworthy.”