"In the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, tattoos were as much about self-expression as they were about having a unique way to identify a sailor's body should he be lost at sea or impressed by the British navy. The best source for early American tattoos is the protection papers issued following a 1796 congressional act to safeguard American seamen from impressment. These proto-passports catalogued tattoos alongside birthmarks, scars, race, and height. Using simple techniques and tools, tattoo artists in the early republic typically worked on board ships using anything available as pigments, even gunpowder and urine. Men marked their arms and hands with initials of themselves and loved ones, significant dates, symbols of the seafaring life, liberty poles, crucifixes, and other symbols."
The ultimate peak of rugged style has captured in the tribal sleeve tattoo. The comprehensive designs are connected to our ancestors’ rites involving scarification rituals, and they were already around way before tattoos were even accepted by society. Plenty of historians are certain that tribal tattoos were the first form of ink-based body art ever created. A lot of aboriginal and tribal groups have glorified the use of tribal tattoos, to symbolize a boy’s maturity. These designs have often been associated to the state of reaching full adulthood. This type of symbolism is still being used up to this day.
The Japanese word irezumi means "insertion of ink" and can mean tattoos using tebori, the traditional Japanese hand method, a Western-style machine or any method of tattooing using insertion of ink. The most common word used for traditional Japanese tattoo designs is horimono. Japanese may use the word tattoo to mean non-Japanese styles of tattooing.