Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage on

Retro travel themes rule at London tattoo show

By Simon Busch, CNN
October 2, 2013 -- Updated 1416 GMT (2216 HKT)
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
October 20, 2014 -- Updated 1808 GMT (0208 HKT)
The guidebook asked staff, contributors and authors for well-known and lesser-known recommendations.
October 20, 2014 -- Updated 1607 GMT (0007 HKT)
An airport in Asia has stolen the crown from Manila's Ninoy Aquino, voted 'world's worst' three years in a row.
October 21, 2014 -- Updated 1620 GMT (0020 HKT)
It's time for a beef break, veal vacation, hog holiday or sinew sabbatical in a T-bone a-fide U.S. meatopolis.
October 20, 2014 -- Updated 1319 GMT (2119 HKT)
With so many awesome new attractions on the way, the next few years are going to be a roller coaster ride.
October 17, 2014 -- Updated 0107 GMT (0907 HKT)
Scientists are busy surveying Southeast Asia's Coral Triangle, home to 75 percent of all known coral species.
October 16, 2014 -- Updated 1350 GMT (2150 HKT)
Bounce Below in Wales
Bounce Below transforms an abandoned slate mine into a surreal, springy world of fear and fun,
October 14, 2014 -- Updated 2316 GMT (0716 HKT)
With chopsticks or fingers? Wasabi or no? A double Michelin-starred Tokyo chef sets the record straight and shows us the sushi way.
October 13, 2014 -- Updated 2224 GMT (0624 HKT)
Markthal Rotterdam foodhall in the Netherlands.
It may look like a gateway across time and space crafted with alien technology, but in reality it's a fruit and vegetable market.
October 13, 2014 -- Updated 0925 GMT (1725 HKT)
Based on the votes of over 330 industry experts, the 2014 winners include bars from 27 cities in 14 countries.
October 12, 2014 -- Updated 2231 GMT (0631 HKT)
Careening down an active volcano at 95 kph on a thin board? It happens only at Cerro Negro in Nicaragua.
ADVERTISEMENT