Born in 1911 and active in tattooing for a mere 12 years total, the prolific artist changed the world of tattooing in the U.S. Stationed in Southeast Asia during his time in the U.S. Navy, Norman Collins, aka, “Sailor Jerry” changed the form and perception of tattoos in the U.S. By incorporating Asian designs, formulating his own colors, and stylizing the language of tattoo symbols, Sailor Jerry made a huge impact on tattooing in his short career. The definitive shading patterns, Art Deco influence, and more standardized lexicon can be seen in nearly every tattoo shop today, creating the identifiable Sailor Jerry style.
Images that were once only appealing to sailors (like the anchor and the nautical star) have become recognizable symbols in the worlds of fashion and of tattooing thanks to Sailor Jerry. Symbols for luck, remembrance, and honor remain hugely embedded in sailor and tattoo culture to this day.
Whether you love tattoos or not, there is no denying that Sailor Jerry’s work can be seen in many mediums now due the work of his proteges and the timeless designs he produced. We think his work will continue to influence tattoo artists and the art world for many years to come.