Arts Entertainments

Nautical Star Tattoos History, Meaning and Symbolism – What a strange mix!

The history, meaning and symbolism of nautical star tattoos is

a hotly debated topic. Today, many different groups have

adopted the nautical star tattoo as a symbol of his own

movement and all have attributed their own meaning and

history to symbol. Therefore, it has led to a wide

disagreement as the meaning of the tattoo.

almost everyone agrees that the sailors were the first to get

nautical star tattoos. In fact, the same nautical word

it is related to navigation. So this connection has been

quite firmly established. Most people would agree

Sailors were a fairly superstitious bunch historically and

The tradition of the sailors abounds in superstitious and fantastic stories.

of life and death and of getting lost at sea. Early

sailors sailed by the night stars and the north star

became the symbol for finding the way home. Once you

you know where the north star is, you can point your ship at the

correct direction to get home. Then the star became a symbol

to find the way home or, more symbolically, even to find

one’s path in life. That is why many sailors would get tattoos

nautical stars on his forearms as a symbol of good luck in

hopes of coming home.

However, its modern meaning is a more debated topic.

Many believe that groups like gays and lesbians, punk

rockers and the military have embraced nautical

star tattoo as a very important symbol. The diversity of

these three groups has led many to discuss the meaning of their


For the military, the connection is pretty obvious.

back to the first sailors and the symbolism and meaning is the

just like the first sailors. Many military get a

nautical star tattoo as symbol to find the way home

No danger. Of course, this can also include more

symbolically simply finding one’s way in life.

Here’s a quote we found from a member of the military.

services and their interpretation of the tattoo:

“I’m in the United States Army, a deputy who registered cities

and villages for Al Quida and the insurgents. I was in Iraq for 1

year. I have a red and black nautical star on my wrist. Tea

The reason I got it was because when I was there, I felt it

it was a guide to guide me home to my family safely. I got it so

that would remind me that I will get to see my

its grow. I’m not gay, no matter what you think

represents, it means something different to everyone. Out of

In the desert, I looked at the stars and thought about

home. So anyone can think what they want, that’s what

It means to me. “

Punk rockers have also adopted this as a popular symbol for

have tattooed. The punk movement traces its history and

use of nautical star tattoo back to Sailor Jerry.

Sailor Jerry is historically one of the most famous tattoos

artists ever. He was well known for his innovative and

“cool” designs. Punks have taken this symbol and it has

almost the same meaning of finding a way in life.

Being the kind of tough individualists punks are attracting to the

symbolism of the true north and find a unique way in

life. So, the Nautical star has become a symbol for this.

You see a lot of punk bands that have full sleeve tattoos

typically incorporate nautical star tattoos into their

elbows or elsewhere.

The lesbian and gay connection is the one that doesn’t

It seems so obvious at first. Historically in the

1940’s and 50’s when alternative lifestyles weren’t the norm

and women often had to hide their alternative options that

it would look like a hidden nautical star. They would often get

the star tattoo done on the inside of her wrist where

could easily be hidden with a watch during the day, but show

at night when in town. Today many lesbians

where the nautical star tattoo to show your connection with

his first pioneer sisters. Here is a little

evidence to support my points.

“Here is the passage (with some loose pieces) from” Boots

Leather, golden slippers: the story of a lesbian

Community “by Elizabeth Lapovsky Kennedy and Madeilne D. Davis

copyright 1993 p. 189.

(speaking of the 40s and 50s):

“… During this same period of time, the cultural drive to be

identified as lesbian, or at least different, all the time

it was so powerful that it generated a new form of identification

Between the tough lesbians of the bar: a star tattoo on top of the

wrist, which was usually covered by a watch. This was the

first symbol of community identity that did not depend on

butch-fem images. We can trace this phenomenon to a

soiree of revelry in the late 1950s, when a few

walked up to the “Dirty Dick” tattoo parlor in Chippewa

Street and put the little blue five-pointed star on his

dolls. Later, some of the fems of this group also go with the idea

one night and I did … The community sees the tattoo as a

definitive identification mark … “Buffalo police knew

[that] the people who had the stars on their wrists were

lesbians and they had their names and so on. It was a

Identity thing with the gay community, with the lesbian

community. “The fact that the star tattoo was created by

that they were firmly in roles, in fact because of the group that was

considered the butches butches and their fems, suggest that the

strength to assert lesbian identity was strong enough to break

through existing traditions of boldness based on butch-fem

roles. The stars portend the identity methods created by

gay liberation. In fact, the brand has become a kind of

tradition in local circles and has seen a renaissance since the

1970 “.

This meaning of the symbol, of course, has created a great deal of

Problems and discussions between the other two groups of carriers.

of nautical stars. Most puck and military folks don’t

I want to have a nautical star that points to anything from

the lesbian movement so many will say that there is no

connection there and this is false.

Here’s a quote from another member of the military about the

Nautical star symbolism among the gay community:

“This” gay symbol “is a bunch of nonsense that someone made up

Very recently. The nautical star tattoo has been around almost

as long as it gets tattooed. The last Celts (or first Irish,

depending on their view of world history) were said to have

been the first to get the tattoos, although there is evidence of it

used on ships in Spain has been found before the

Irish claim.

As a Marine, it is a very common symbol among us if

we have been part of a Boat Raid company, red for port, green

for starboard in different parts of the body. On the boat, I saw

about a million different variations of the Sailors that I went

serving with obviously goes back to the roots of the sailors. “

Here is a quote from a punk rocker and his feelings about

the symbolism of the tattoo:

“What idiots … even military boys don’t know what

it really means … JUST SO EVERYONE KNOWED IT !!!!! It was used by OLD

sailors … and the symbol represents the north on a map … and

is the north star that sailors would use as a baring to get

house … you can find it on really very old maps and in the old marina

vessels … Punk Rock … well, we use it because we can and

because Sailor Jerry did the best tattoos ever

putting them all … my grandfather even had one like that

being used as a traditional icon “

It simply shows that when the same powerful symbol is

used over and over for decades of time, it can

very different meanings for different groups. Then, we all

those you see sporting a nautical star tattoo may not

all have the same interpretation of its symbolism.

So do you have a nautical star tattoo or do you think about

get one in the future? What meaning of the symbol

Will you get the nautical star? As long as you know

what is the symbolism behind the star for and have you got

it’s for the right reason to support the lesbian movement

Or as a symbol to find your way!

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