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Air Force Policy on Tattoos, Body Art, and Body Piercings

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Tattoos/Brands

Unauthorized (content). Tattoos/Brands anywhere on the body that are obscene, advocate sexual, racial, ethnic, or religious discrimination are prohibited in and out of uniform. Tattoos/brands that are prejudicial to good order and discipline, or of a nature that tends to bring discredit upon the Air Force are prohibited in and out of uniform.

Any member obtaining unauthorized tattoos will be required to remove them at their own expense. Using uniform items to cover unauthorized tattoos is not an option. Members failing to remove unauthorized tattoos in a timely manner will be subject to involuntary separation, or punishment under the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ).

Inappropriate (military image). Excessive tattoos/brands will not be exposed or visible (includes visible through the uniform) while in uniform. Excessive is defined as any tattoo/brands that exceed ¼ of the exposed body part and those above the collarbone and readily visible when wearing an open collar uniform.

Members will not be allowed to display excessive tattoos that would detract from an appropriate professional image while in uniform. Commanders will use the above guidelines in determining appropriate military image and acceptability of tattoos displayed by members in uniform. Air Force members with existing tattoos not meeting an acceptable military image should be required to:

  • maintain complete coverage of the tattoos using current uniforms items (e.g. long-sleeved shirt/blouse, pants/slacks, dark hosiery, etc.) or
  • volunteer to remove tattoos(s).
Members who receive tattoos/brands not meeting the standards after the effective date of this policy (1998) are required to initiate tattoos/brands removal upon notification by their Commander at their own expense (may not use Air Force Medical Centers for removal). Members not complying with these requirements will be subject to disciplinary action for failure to comply with Air Force Standards and may be involuntarily separated.

Body Piercing

In Uniform:

Members are prohibited from attaching, affixing or displaying objects, articles, jewelry or ornamentation to or through the ear, nose, tongue, or any exposed body part (includes visible through the uniform). EXCEPTION: Women are authorized to wear one small spherical, conservative, diamond, gold, white pearl, or silver pierced, or clip earring per earlobe and the earring worn in each earlobe must match. Earring should fit tightly without extending below the earlobe. (EXCEPTION: Connecting band on clip earrings.)

Civilian Attire:

  1. Official duty: Members are prohibited from attaching, affixing or displaying objects, articles, jewelry or ornamentation to or through the ear, nose, tongue, or any exposed body part (includes visible through clothing). EXCEPTION: Women are authorized to wear one small spherical, conservative, diamond, gold, white pearl, or silver pierced, or clip earring per earlobe and the earring worn in each earlobe must match. Earring should fit tightly without extending below the earlobe. (EXCEPTION: Connecting band on clip earrings)

  2. Off duty on a military installation: Members are prohibited from attaching, affixing or displaying objects, articles, jewelry or ornamentation to or through the ear, nose, tongue, or any exposed body part (includes visible through clothing). EXCEPTION: Piercing of earlobes by women is allowed, but should not be extreme or excessive. The type and style of earrings worn by women on a military installation should be conservative and kept within sensible limits.

Above Information Derived from AFI 36-2903 and the Air Force News Service

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