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Old school and new school tattoo designs could not be more different. The tattoos that were popular in the 60s and 70s have faded away, giving way to a new age of tattoo designs. The influx of new tattoo artists and tattoo trends has spurred a wave of visually striking body art designs, some of which will prove timeless for both men and women.

Old School Tattoos

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Old school tattoos were primarily centered on symbols that reflected pride in one’s nation or one’s masculinity. Old-fashioned tattoo designs centered on the use of bold characters, flash imagery, black outlining, and pre-made designs customers would point to directly on the tattoo shop wall. In short, the tattoo designs of yesteryear were primarily targeted toward men with an abundance of masculinity looking for a visually impactful design that impresses the ladies as well as the guys.

This old approach to body art contrasts with that of the aughts on forwarding in which tattoos became increasingly popular. Nowadays, tattoo designs are geared toward both sexes yet the focus is more on detail, shading, and the artful use of color as opposed to making a bold and impactful statement as occurred in decades past. While the visual symmetry and color coordination of old tattoo designs are still essential components of the current generation’s tattoos, there are meaningful differences between old-school and new-school tattoos.

New Tattoo Designs

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The days of relatively simple boat anchors, American flags, hearts referencing Mom for inspiration, roses, and other traditional American tattoos are long gone. Though such symbols are great, people have transitioned away from traditional and masculine designs to new designs that are edgy, more colorful, and attention-grabbing. New school tattoos are best described as idiosyncratic and unique. Add in the fact that tattoo artists are even more willing than ever to customize artwork and there is that much more reason to beautify the body.

The common theme that emerges from the new school of tattoo design is distinctiveness. The tattoos of a punk rock fan who lives in Long Beach, California will likely be completely different from those of a goth chick gamer who lives in New York City. The new school of tattoo imagery includes elements from popular life in recent decades including hip-hop, cinema, TV, and video games. Check out the ink of younger millennials and Generation Z members and you are guaranteed to find video game characters, game logos, anime characters, and other pop culture references such as SpongeBob and other cartoon-oriented ink.

It is particularly interesting that diminutive tattoos have become popular in recent years. Small yet artful font, artwork, bar codes or other symbols strategically placed on the body don’t overpower the onlooker yet present an artful personal aesthetic that is uniquely one’s own.


  • Old school tattoo designs typically were symbols of masculinity featuring boat anchors, American flags, roses, hearts, and more.
  • New school tattoo designs feature elements of hip-hop, cinema, TV, and video games.
  • Some design elements from old school tattoos still exist in new school tattoos such as visual symmetry and color coordination.

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