The US Army tattoo policy has been a subject of much debate and scrutiny over the years. As an institution that prides itself on discipline, uniformity, and professionalism, the Army has strict regulations regarding tattoos that its soldiers can have visible while in uniform.
However, these policies have undergone several changes in recent years to reflect changing attitudes toward body art among the general public.
The article you’re about to read focuses on the current requirements for recruiters and serving soldiers.
Please note: even though we are in the year 2023, the latest policy update comes from 2022. This article covers it in detail to make sure you align with the current requirements.
2023 US Army Tattoo Policy
As we already mentioned above, the latest tattoo policy change in the US Army came in 2022 and applies to both the recruits and current soldiers.
Under the new regulations placed in June 2022, US Army soldiers are allowed to have visible tattoos on their hands, and the back parts of their necks and ears.
Although the previous US Army tattoo policy didn’t instantly decline all the applicants with tattoos in these areas, all had to file waiver exceptions, which in some cases, took many weeks before being processed.
“We always review policy to keep the Army as an open option to as many people as possible who want to serve,” Maj. Gen. Doug Stitt, U.S. Army’s director of military personnel management. This directive makes sense for currently serving Soldiers and allows a greater number of talented individuals the opportunity to serve now.”– said Maj. Gen. Doug Stitt.
US Army Tattoo Policy details
Although the latest changes are again a step in the right direction, there are some limits on the sizes and quantity of tattoos in the above-mentioned areas.
- US Army hand tattoo policy – when it comes to hand tattoos among US Army soldiers, there can be no more than one per hand. Furthermore, none of the tattoos should exceed 1 in length. What can be considered another novelty in the new policy is the fact that soldiers are now allowed to have tattoos between their fingers – as long as they are not visible while the fingers are closed.
- US Army neck tattoo policy – Moving on to the other parts, there can be no more than one neck tattoo and it shouldn’t exceed 2 inches in length.
- US Army ear tattoo policy – Finally, one small tattoo is allowed behind each ear. The size again shouldn’t exceed 1 inch in length.
✅ What was already allowed
The aforementioned placements are an addition to other body parts that are seen as acceptable and welcome.
US Army soldiers can have an unlimited number of tattoos placed on their legs and arms, provided that they do not exceed outside the collar. Naturally, older body parts covered by the uniform, such as the chest back, and feet, are also absolutely okay.
❌ What’s still not allowed
As things stand, the only fully banned part is the face. Although the acceptance of tattoos across all branches continues to grow, it would be unrealistic to expect the military to remove the face tattoo band anytime soon.
Finally, it’s worth pointing out that covering tattoos with wrappings or bandaids is not allowed.
In case you don’t meet the current placement and size requirements, the only option to become part of the army is to file a tattoo waiver.
The fact that your tattoos are in the right place and of the right size doesn’t guarantee anything.
Most tattoos are inspected individually to make sure that they comply with the Army’s regulations and do not contain any offensive or extremist content. The US Army maintains a strict policy against tattoos that are considered racist, sexist, extremist, or otherwise offensive in nature.
During the tattoo inspection process, each tattoo is evaluated by the soldier’s chain of command or a designated authority to ensure compliance with the guidelines. This evaluation takes into account the content, symbolism, and overall message conveyed by the tattoo. If a tattoo is found to be in violation of the regulations or deemed offensive, the soldier may be required to have it modified or removed in order to continue serving in the Army.
The purpose of these regulations is to maintain a professional and disciplined appearance within the military and to prevent tattoos that may undermine the cohesion and values of the Army. Offensive tattoos can create a negative perception among fellow soldiers and can be detrimental to the overall morale and effectiveness of a unit.
Reasons Behind Changes
Starting in 2015, we’ve seen a number of changes to the US Army tattoo policy.
The reasons for the modifications in regulations are multifaceted and reflect a changing societal attitude towards tattoos, as well as an effort to recruit and retain a diverse pool of talented individuals.
The US Army has recently revised its tattoo policy in response to the increasing popularity of tattoos among millennials and Gen Zs. As more young people join the military, many with visible tattoos, the Army recognizes that it needs to adapt its policies to attract and retain these individuals.
One reason for the change is that tattoos have become more mainstream and socially acceptable than they were in previous generations. According to a fairly recent survey by Statista, 40% of Americans aged 18-29 have at least one tattoo. This means that many potential recruits may be deterred from joining if they are not allowed to display their body art while serving.
Additionally, there is growing recognition that diversity is crucial for maintaining an effective military force. By embracing individuality and allowing soldiers to express themselves through their tattoos, the Army hopes to create a more inclusive environment where everyone feels welcome regardless of their background or appearance.
However, implementing these changes can pose challenges such as ensuring consistency across all units and maintaining professionalism despite the increased visibility of tattoos on soldiers’ bodies.
Future of the US Army Tattoo Policy
The future of the US Army tattoo policy is a topic of interest for many individuals, particularly those who are contemplating a career in the military. There is potential for further changes to be made to the current policy, which could impact recruiting and retention rates within the armed forces.
Exploration of additional modifications to the current guidelines regarding body art in the military is considered on a constant basis. The Army has already made significant changes to its tattoo policy in recent years, but there may be room for further revisions.
Some argue that the current policy still limits their ability to express themselves through tattoos and could potentially deter qualified candidates from enlisting.
Possible revisions to the current tattoo policy include expanding the size and number of visible tattoos allowed, while restrictions on certain types of designs such as those deemed offensive or gang-related are unlikely to ever be eased.
These changes would have a significant impact on culture within the military as tattoos have become increasingly popular among service members in recent years.
However, any potential changes must also consider maintaining a professional appearance and uniformity within the ranks. It remains to be seen what specific modifications will be made, but it is clear that discussions are ongoing about how best to balance individual expression with military standards.
- The potential for more lenient tattoo policies could attract a wider range of applicants who may feel discouraged by current regulations
- Allowing for larger or more numerous tattoos could create a more diverse and expressive culture within the military
- Striking a balance between personal expression and professionalism will require careful consideration and collaboration between leadership and service members alike
Recruiting vs Retention
The potential impact of adjustments made to body art guidelines on recruitment and retention in the military is a topic that warrants further analysis.
While some may argue that allowing more leniency in US Army tattoo policies could attract a larger pool of potential recruits, there are also concerns about how this could affect retention strategies.
Historically, the military has upheld strict regulations regarding tattoos and other forms of body art, with the intention of maintaining a professional image and fostering a sense of unity among service members.
However, as societal attitudes towards tattoos continue to evolve, recruiting challenges have arisen for the military. Many young people view tattoos as a form of self-expression rather than rebellion or delinquency, and may be deterred from joining if they feel their individuality will be stifled by strict body art guidelines.
On the other hand, loosening these restrictions could lead to issues with retention if it undermines the sense of uniformity and discipline that is central to military culture.
Finding a balance between attracting new recruits and maintaining established standards will be crucial for ensuring long-term success in recruitment and retention efforts.
Advice for Service Members and Recruits
Service members and recruits can benefit from understanding the current regulations regarding visible tattoos in the military and how they may impact their career prospects, as well as staying informed about potential changes or updates to these policies.
Here are some advice, tips, and strategies for service members and recruits regarding tattoos:
- Research the current tattoo policy of your branch (USMC, Air Force, Space Force, Coast Guard, National Guard) of service before getting a visible tattoo. The Army’s latest policy allows soldiers to have unlimited tattoos on their arms and legs but restricts neck, face, hand, finger, and sleeve tattoos.
- Be aware that some units or commands may have stricter tattoo policies than the overall Army regulation.
- Consider the placement of your tattoo carefully – if you plan to pursue certain career paths within the military (such as special forces), visible tattoos may impact your ability to do so.
- If you already have a visible tattoo that does not meet the new standards, consider speaking with your chain of command or a recruiter for guidance on how to proceed.
By following these best practices and being knowledgeable about military tattoo policies, service members and recruits can make informed decisions about their body art while also ensuring they are not hindering their future career prospects.