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
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
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!