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 6:09 PM EDT, Sun April 13, 2014
What's New York's most popular attraction? Which world city gets photographed the most? Answers are revealed by a new photo-tagging ranking.
updated 9:13 AM EDT, Fri April 11, 2014
The lessons we learned and changes we made as a result of previous airline accidents.
updated 1:14 PM EDT, Tue April 15, 2014
Bontá mia! An Australian chef takes home top honors at the Pizza World Championships in Italy.
updated 4:06 AM EDT, Tue April 22, 2014
Easter break packing tip: pants with elastic waistbands.
updated 4:46 AM EDT, Tue April 15, 2014
Thailand is now celebrating Songkran, the Thai new year. But along with the watery revelry come deadly roads.
updated 8:23 AM EDT, Thu April 10, 2014
Inspired by the Masters? Playing these courses will make you feel like a pro, even if you don't swing like one.
updated 3:30 AM EDT, Wed April 9, 2014
A mother-of-two explains how to fly with kids without making everyone else on the plane hate you.
updated 8:49 PM EDT, Wed April 2, 2014
As the new season of "Game of Thrones" approaches, we pick out 20 stunning spots in one of its most oft-used locations.
updated 5:40 AM EDT, Thu April 10, 2014
They're hot, they're popular, they're stylish. Now they're your tour guides to Italy's fashion capital.
updated 12:10 AM EDT, Tue April 8, 2014
A quarter of the year's flown by, it's time to plan a vacation. TripAdvisor's list of Top Destinations should help.
updated 1:23 AM EDT, Tue April 8, 2014
You may not have those $10 Heinekens and $6 bags of M&M's to kick around anymore. Happy now?
updated 3:25 AM EDT, Mon April 7, 2014
Japan isn't a country to which you just show up and wing it. Here's how to arrive prepared.
updated 10:02 AM EDT, Thu April 3, 2014
The Economist is latest to dogpile on the reputation of U.S. airports; one industry leader says he knows why.
updated 2:23 AM EDT, Fri April 4, 2014
Laojun Mountain Natural Reserve gave out bags of mountain air to Chinese residents. After seeing these photos, you'll want some too.
updated 9:04 AM EDT, Wed April 2, 2014
Forget space. Our very own planet is ripe for investigation. Here are some of the spots we know least about.
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT