The pinup tattoo has long been a staple of Western tattooing and is currently experiencing a revival with the interest in "classic" tattoo designs. This girl on the go has taken many forms over the years and runs the gamut from nice to naughty. As the old tattoo joke goes, she's the only girl that will never leave you, so be careful if you choose to get one.
The tattoo pinup girl seems to have first come into vogue with the sailors and World War II. The girl herself was a model whose photograph was taken for the purpose of mass reproduction and pop culture. These images were meant to be "light," meaning fun with a hint of wholesome sexiness. Soldiers and sailors all had their favorites and snapshots and magazine clippings were taken along on tours of duty.
If you look at the archetypical image of pinup girl Betty Grable, you'll see a lot of what makes a good tattoo pinup girl. Long legs, high-heels, a bathing suit or short skirt and a big smile. Often she's posed in such a way as to accent the longer lines of the body. She might be standing, reaching or stretching playfully. She can be a blonde, a brunette or a redhead but she's always sweet. The illustrations of Vargas are another source of pinup girl inspiration.
The pinup tattoo girl was a favorite of sailors in WWII. They were paid twice a month versus the Army and Marines and had more contact with cultures that practiced tattooing. The hula girl was a specific variation that many sailors got as a souvenir of a visit to Honolulu and a good tattoo artist would know just how to place the design on the arm so that by tensing and relaxing the muscle the wearer could make her swing her hips. Lonelier sailors would sometimes get their pinup girls tattooed topless or nude, something which sometimes caused a conflict with waiting sweethearts when they finally returned home. A lot of nude girl tattoos have doubtlessly gone back to the shop to have some clothes added to them later.
In contemporary tattooing, illustrations by the artist Olivia and images of the classic model Betty Page are very strong influences on the modern tattoo pinup. Newer images tend to make the pinup very clearly a "good girl" or a "bad girl" with designs showing either bright smiling faces or beckoning knowing looks. Another modern variations is the tattooed pinup girl, where the model herself is sporting the ink.