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Are 'I Love Mom' Tattoos Still Popular?

The time-honored "I Love Mom" tattoo is deeply ingrained in our culture – celebrities such as Sean Connery, Kelly Osborne and even Bart Simpson have one. It seems the iconic bright red heart, encircled in a banner ribbon emblazed with "Mom," has been around forever, and according to tattoo artists, it isn't going anywhere.

With Mother's Day approaching and an uptick in requests for it expected, tattoo artists and experts weigh in on why this vintage image is so appealing.

"Of course people still get them done," said Bryan Randolph, an artist at New York Adorned Tattoo Parlor in New York City. "It's a classic."

WWII history

The "I Love Mom" tattoo first became popular during World War II. As they traveled around the world, U.S. Navy sailors got tattoos to document their achievements and memories. Tattoo parlors began to pop up near military bases and patriotic tattoos came into vogue, according to John Gray’s book "I Love Mom: An Irreverent History of the Tattoo."

Aside from wanting to express their patriotism, the homesick sailors started to request "mom" or "mother" tattoos as a sentimental reminder of home.

Norman Keith Collins, who earned the nickname Sailor Jerry while in the Navy, designed the "I Love Mom" tattoo, according to a book of letters between fashion designer Donald Edward Hardy and Collins titled, "Sailor Jerry Collins: American Tattoo Master."

After his discharge from the Navy, Collins made a name for himself as a prominent tattoo artist in Hawaii, and he created many recognizable "Sailor Jerry" tattoos that are still used today, such as hula girls and blue sparrows. Collins died in 1973, but his unique artistic style can still be spotted on today's popular fashion items, including Converse sneakers and Ed Hardy clothing.

"The tattoo is definitely more popular this time of year," said David Beadle, a tattoo artist at Mom's Tattoos in Austin, Texas, who himself is planning on getting an updated version of the traditional "mom" tattoo this Mother's Day. "Anytime mom is remembered, the tattoo's popularity picks up."

Still popular

"I Love Mom" tattoos are timeless because they make such a sweet, universal statement. Men and women of all ages get them, tattoo artists say.

"We get at least one person every month coming in to get that tattoo," Beadle said. "Everyone gets them, from ages eighteen to eighty."

"'Mom' will never go out of style," Aviva Yael, co-author of "No Regrets: The Best, Worst, & Most #$%*ing Ridiculous Tattoos Ever," said in an interview with the The A.V. Club, an entertainment publication. "Everybody loves their mom."

Remy Melina was a staff writer for Live Science from 2010 to 2012. She holds a bachelor’s degree in Communication from Hofstra University where she graduated with honors.