From his oily grey pompadour to his ink-covered frisco jeans, Norman 'Sailor Jerry' Collins was a fierce independent who stood up for himself and stood behind his work.
He rejected comfort for adventure early on, leaving home as a teenager to hop freight trains and hand-poke tattoos. At 19, he joined the navy and set out to see the world. After his discharge, he set up shop in the hotel street district of Honolulu.
Back then it was a low-key neighborhood backwater island city. But after World War II, it became the stomping grounds for thousands of sailors and soldiers on shore leave — all looking for three things. Women. Booze. And tattoos.
It was from here, where Sailor Jerry built a legacy of work that revolutionized the world of tattooing. His signature style combined the refined techniques of Asian art with bold lines and the balls-to-the-wall attitude of a sailor. He also invented the use of purple tattoo ink and was one of the first to advocate for medical-grade sterilization procedures.
The whole time, he refused to be pegged by anyone. He was also a poet, prankster, self-taught electrician, radio host and licensed skipper of a three-masted schooner giving tours of the island.
HE LIVED ONE HELL OF A LIFE. MAY WE ALL DO THE SAME.