The subject of Marine Corps and sleeve tattoos have a long and troubled history.
If you’re a proud owner of a sleeve tattoo and considering joining the Marines, you may be wondering if your ink will be a problem.
The USMC tattoo policy has been chopping and changing over the years, leading to a lot of confusion among Marines and tattoo artists alike.
In this article, we dive into the latest Marine sleeve tattoo regulations (as of 2023). Stick with us for the next couple of minutes to make sure your sleeve won’t cause any issues when you’re trying to enlist.
Can Marine Corps Have Sleeve Tattoos?
Applicants with sleeve tattoos can now breathe a sigh of relief – the Marine Corps has finally lifted the ban on full-sleeve tattoos. As stated in the latest Per Marine Corps Bulletin 1020 (updated in October 2021), Marine Corps full sleeve tattoos are allowed – as long as they don’t extend past the wrist bone.
This is great news as tattoos have always been a popular way for Marines to show their esprit de corps and dedication to the Corps. Whether they are memorializing fallen brothers or sisters, honoring their service, or simply showing off their creative side, tattoos help Marines express themselves in a unique way.
Troubled History of the Marine Corps Arm Tattoo Policy
Marine Corps forearm tattoos are considered ok right now – but this hasn’t always been the case. Just a few years ago, Marine Corps sleeve tattoos were banned outright.
So, when did Marine Corps ban sleeve tattoos?
The whole drama with sleeve tattoos in the USMC started in 2007 when, after the 2006 Sergeants Major Symposium found that the Marines had “excessive” tattoos, they were completely banned. This meant that no new tattoos were allowed and Marines with existing forearm tattoos had to have them removed or be discharged.
Naturally, that decision was met with a lot of backlash from the troops.
However, it wasn’t until 2016 that the policy got relaxed a bit. However, the 2016 revision upheld the prohibition of tattoos on the sleeves while permitting an unlimited number on other body areas (except the head, neck, and hands).
Additionally, tattoos that were visible in training uniforms prevented active-duty Marines from being assigned to special tasks that gave them the highest opportunity of receiving promotions and higher pay.
The uplifting on the sleeve ban tattoo came only in 2021 – meaning that people with full or even half-sleeve ink were banned from serving in the Marine Corps for just under 15 years.
With the growing acceptance of tattoos in society and the military, it was only a matter of time before regulations changed to reflect the new cultural norm. With the current trends, we can expect even more changes in the future as society continues to accept body art. Many Marines are hoping that current bands on hand and neck tattoos will also be lifted in the future.
Not All Sleeves Are Allowed!
Just because the USMC has lifted the ban on sleeve tattoos doesn’t mean that all of them are allowed. Marines are still prohibited from having tattoos that are racist, sexist, or anti-American in nature. In addition, any tattoos that could be considered gang-related are also not allowed.
If you’re thinking about getting a sleeve tattoo, it’s important to check with your recruiting officer first to make sure that it’s in line with the Marine Corps’ regulations.
A quote from the latest Per Marine Corps Bulletin 1020 states clearly:
“Tattoos that are prejudicial to good order and discipline, or that are of a nature to bring discredit upon the naval service, are prohibited. Examples include, but are not limited to, tattoos that are drug-related, gang-related, extremist, obscene or indecent, sexist, or racist.”
Final Word & References
If you are planning on joining the Marines and have a tattoo that you’re not sure whether or not it will be allowed, the best thing to do is reach out to a recruiting officer and ask. They will be able to give you the most accurate answer based on the current regulations.
As things stand, Marine Corps & sleeve tattoos go together, but there are some guidelines that need to be followed. Be sure to do your research and make sure your tattoos meet the standards before getting inked!
This article is based on information from official USMC documentation – Pet Marine Corps Bulletin 1020.