Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage on

Retro travel themes rule at London tattoo show

By Simon Busch, CNN
updated 10:16 AM EDT, Wed October 2, 2013
Retro themes were back in fashion at the London International Tattoo Convention over the weekend. Retro themes were back in fashion at the London International Tattoo Convention over the weekend.
HIDE CAPTION
Tattooed lady
Hello, sailor!
Orientalism
Ink head
Impermanent tattoos
<<
<
1
2
3
4
5
>
>>
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Sailing ships, anchors among favorite designs at international tattoo convention
  • Exotic east another popular theme on display in London
  • Trends illuminate tattoos' long relationship with travel

London (CNN) -- Retro ruled at the Ninth International London Tattoo Convention over the weekend.

It was a reminder of how central the theme of travel has long been to tattoos.

How so?

Consider the vintage designs that proved so popular among the thousands of inky fans gathered from all over the world at the three-day meet.

Mermaids. Anchors and sailing ships. Coy 50s pin-ups. Gypsy girls.

It's the classic iconography of the sailor's bicep -- signifiers, in other words, of the professional, inveterate traveler.

Traditional swing

"There's definitely a swing back to traditional. The fashion is the old U.S. marine styles," Marcus Berriman, co-organiser of the convention, told the Guardian.

But another trend on show had an equally strong travel imprint.

Along with "[t]he old-school sailor stuff ... the Japanese are really in vogue now," Aimee Cornwell, a second-generation tattooist at the show told the paper, referring to designs thick with swords and samurais.

Such oriental themes hark back to the allure of the exotic, when wearing a tattoo so often symbolized that you'd been somewhere foreign -- possibly very foreign -- and were therefore also probably a little suspicious.

Now all a tat need signify is that you know how to find your way to a trendy inner-city tattoo parlor.

Could it be that a return to rootless maritime themes and the mysterious east are an attempt to restore a demimonde thrill to a practice that's becoming so mainstream that the next radical statement could be to go entirely tattoo-free?

Or to tattoo your head -- another unmissable trend at the convention that one artist present called a potential "life-ruiner," and something she, like many of her fellow practitioners, never offered.

Scrubbed clean

Seen as one of the great follies of youth, tattooing -- especially when it's on someone's head -- can make you want to scream, "You can't scrub it off!"

Except that you can.

Painful and expensive it might be, but lasering can now return a tattooed body to a blank, if slightly smudgy, canvas.

Leaving you to travel the world in search of new tattoos.

Judging by the skilled artists present, by invitation only, at the convention, electrifying designs are on offer in a growing number of countries around the world.

And to think you just used to sew little flags on to your backpack to show all the places you'd traveled to.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 5:56 AM EST, Tue December 16, 2014
Nonprofit Ethical Traveler has released its annual list of the developing countries doing the most to promote human rights and preserve their environments.
updated 5:36 AM EST, Thu December 11, 2014
These waterfront watering holes have killer ocean views, creative drinks and the mahalo vibe we demand.
updated 3:38 PM EST, Wed December 10, 2014
Can't wait to book your ticket to Indianapolis and Oakland? The venerable guidebook is right there with you
updated 1:25 AM EST, Wed December 10, 2014
By helicopter, snowmobile and big-wheel truck across some of the world's most volatile landscapes.
updated 4:42 PM EST, Tue December 9, 2014
Construction begins on a new Singapore airport complex that could make delays and layovers a pleasure.
updated 9:41 AM EST, Tue December 9, 2014
Inflight chatterboxes are annoying but they're not the worst violators of onboard etiquette, according to an Expedia study.
updated 5:32 PM EST, Mon December 8, 2014
These statues are awe-inspiring even for the strongest of non-believers.
updated 11:59 AM EST, Fri December 5, 2014
The Palace of the Parliament, built by former Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceausescu.
25 years after the death of Romania's communist dictator, tourism is helping heal old wounds.
updated 6:52 AM EST, Fri December 5, 2014
Photo sharing website names the top 10 destinations for geo-tagged snapshots.
updated 5:05 AM EST, Wed December 3, 2014
New York may be a paradise of Zagat-rated, Michelin-starred restaurants, but some of its best food can be found on the streets.
updated 1:01 AM EST, Tue December 2, 2014
Guide Lebo behind the wheel of Chobe Game Lodge's first electric game viewing vehicle, at Chobe National Park in Botswana.
Chobe Game Lodge in Botswana ups the eco stakes with what it claims is world's first battery-powered safari fleet.
updated 8:18 PM EST, Sun November 23, 2014
The interior of the Formosa Boulevard Mass Rapid Transit Station in Kaohsiung, in southern Taiwan.
These quirky and beautiful subway stops make standing cheek-to-cheek with 45 strangers almost seem fun.
updated 8:14 AM EST, Fri November 21, 2014
A scene from a desert safari in Dubai
Luxury vintage Land Rover tours explore Bedouin backwaters without bashing up precious dunes.
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT