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Happy Birthday Sailor Jerry | Myke Chambers Traditional Colour Set from Eternal Tattoo Ink


This January we celebrated the birthday of one of the most iconic tattoo artists to ever grace the tattoo industry. The 14th of January was Norman Keith Collins’ birthday. Famously known as Sailor Jerry, Collins made his mark on the tattoo industry in the early 1900's as the Father of Americana tattooing, and is now hailed as being one of the most prominent and influential tattoo artists in the industry. Even years after Collins' era, tattoo artists are still taking inspiration from Collins' work, and carrying on his legacy by referencing his classic tattoo designs. 

Many people know 'Sailor Jerry' for being the brand of spiced rum that you see on the shelves of your supermarket, but to those who are passionate about tattoos, and to the artists of the tattoo industry, ‘Sailor Jerry’ is an artist known for his distinctly bold old school Americana tattoo art. A Chicago man born and raised, Collins began tattooing across America in the 1920’s, and eventually settled in a studio in Honolulu, Hawaii. 

Although Collins’ signature tattoo style was Americana, he was heavily influenced by Eastern culture, and he loved Japanese style tattooing.  Within his distinct old school subject matter that featured traditional tattoo imagery such as pin-up girls, tigers, skulls, hearts, daggers, and snakes, Collins often infused some Asian imagery into his work, tattooing Geisha girls, dragons, and Japanese masks in his own old-school style. This traditional style is still extremely popular in the modern world of tattooing, with many old-school artists taking their reference from Collins' tattoo flash.

Here are some examples of classic Sailor Jerry tattoo flash:

Firstly, a very typical selection of ‘Sailor’ tattoos which feature swallows and hearts, and names in scrolls. This subject matter was extremely popular with men in the navy, who’d get their loved one's names tattooed on them when they knew they going on long voyages and would be away from home for long periods of time. 

This second example shows some very traditional roses done by Collins. What could be more old-school than a bold rose? It’s the perfect accompaniment to any traditional tattoo, and Collins was famed for this style.

Lastly, an Eastern inspired flash sheet which features some of the Japanese-inspired content that Collins loved tattooing. Geisha girls, and dragons are still an extremely popular choice for tattoos today.

Norman Collins was a great inspiration for many modern day artists and his famed tattoo flash lives on across the globe. Collins continued his work until 1973 when he sadly suffered a heart attack whilst driving his beloved Harley Davidson motorcycle, passing away 3 days later.  

Raise a glass for Sailor Jerry this January to celebrate his birthday and his legacy! If you’re feeling adventurous then why not treat yourself to a Sailor Jerry style tattoo as well? There’s tonnes of brilliant traditional artists out there who would be happy to oblige in keeping with the traditional Sailor Jerry style.  If you’re a tattoo artist who creates old school style work then why not add the Myke Chambers Traditional Colour Set from Eternal Tattoo Ink to your collection? It features a host of bold colours, perfect for Americana style tattooing. 

Love Toni 

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  • Antonia McLoughlin