Swallow tattoos once common among sailors years ago now seem to have been rediscovered and transformed into a new school style of tattoo. It is not uncommon to see some retro chick with swallow tattoos emblazoned across the chest, abdomen or even on the arms.
Sailors would have swallows tattooed as a sort of metaphor for finding their way, because the legend goes that if you were ever lost at sea if you saw a swallow you could follow it home. There are different versions of why people get swallows and can also mean a person has done time in prison or 'bird'.
Swallow tattoos seem to be popular with those into Rockabilly and are usually tattooed on either side of the neck for guys or across the chest or abdomen for chicks. The most famous person with this style of tattoo is Marc Almond of SoftCell fame a British group popular in the 80's and early 90's.
The traditional tattoo means: A sailor gets a set of swallows on his chest. The story goes if he or she drowns, the swallows come down and lift his soul to the heavens.