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Vintage Pin-Up Tattoos

Updated on January 28, 2016

The female figure has been a long-standing staple in art for thousands of years, so it follows easily that her form and face bear a prominent place in this new art form as tattooing developed in the early 20th century. Pin-up girls are one of the most classic, traditional tattoos you can get.

The term "pin-up" comes from images of beautiful women who could be cut out of magazines or newspapers and "pinned up" on one's wall; a practice dating at least to the 1890s, though the term was formally coined in 1941.Pin up tattoos were largely popularized in the 1920s-1940s, largely by sailors and soldiers--two groups of men who spend long periods of time away from society and women in general. As the old joke goes, your pin-up tattoo is the one woman who will never leave you.

This classic Sailor Jerry pin-up epitomizes the sexiness, stylization, and impact of the bold, beautiful female image.
This classic Sailor Jerry pin-up epitomizes the sexiness, stylization, and impact of the bold, beautiful female image.

Pin-up tattoos often depict women with a personal touch to make her the wearer's own. The pin-up is an extremely versatile tattoo--a beautiful woman can be put in numerous settings, from a cowgirl to a hula girl to a geisha, thereby rendering it anything from an extremely personal image representing one's girlfriend or wife, or a more general and merely aesthetic one. The pin up can be naughty, nice, the girl next door, the Madonna--whatever the wearer desires.

The images used in this hub are primarily vintage pin-ups--genuine images from earlier in the 20th century when the women were highly stylized. These days, with art school training, better and more colorful ink, and technologically efficient machines, pin-ups can contain a high degree of realism, but earlier in the art of tattooing, they had to be bolder and simpler.

Classic pin-ups by Sailor Jerry

Variations on an image

Here's an example of the variations on a theme. On the right the pin-up girl is far more traditional--less nuanced shading and bold traditional colors. On the left the image appears more modern because of thinner outlines and the careful shading in the hat, clothes, and legs. (Finer shading is possible these days because of better needles and machines than earlier in the 20th century.) The colors on the left are also more modern (in the past, there were few color choices in tattoo ink, hence the simpler palattes of traditional tattoos). Also, note that the girl on the left is tattooed herself--a distinctly modern touch!

Any good tattoo artist will be able to take an image provided and personalize it to your requests to make the tattoo your own.

The Pin Up Bust

Another option when choosing a pin up tattoo is a partial figure. The head and/or bust of a beautiful woman can stand alone or be surrounded by personalized decoration such as flowers, decorative rope and an anchor for a sailor theme, or other images.


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    • bmuses profile image

      bmuses 6 years ago from Ewa Beach

      Nice Hub, I love the modern pin up with tattoos and all. Keep up the good work!

    • tattoodesigns69 profile image

      tattoodesigns69 7 years ago from Illinois

      Great Hub on "tattoos"! I certainly enjoyed the material. Continue to keep these coming!

    • Ivorwen profile image

      Ivorwen 8 years ago from Hither and Yonder

      I find the traditional ones more appealing -- kinda like Betty Boop.