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Tattoo (Body Art) Policy

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Updated March 24, 2007

The Marine Corps is getting more strict about tatoos according to Marine administrative message 198/07.

“This clarification came about because there was room for interpretation of the old policy,” said Lt. Col. T.V. Johnson, spokesman for the commandant of the Marine Corps. “The commandant had this issue come up at every town hall meeting that he attended and wanted to make the policy fair across the board, squashing any margin for error.”

The message details new guidelines for Marines with tattoos, specifically, restricting them from getting sleeve tattoos while protecting those who already have them.

Effective April 1, Marines are prohibited from getting sleeve tattoos. Those individuals who have sleeve tattoos are required to be documented by their command by July 1.

A sleeve tattoo is a very large tattoo, or collection of smaller tattoos, that covers or almost covers a person’s entire arm or leg. Half-sleeve or quarter-sleeve tattoos that are visible to the eye when wearing a standard physical training T-shirt and shorts are likewise prohibited.

Marines who currently have sleeve tattoos need to have them photographed by their command and have them documented in their service record books to be grandfathered into this policy.

Current Tattoo Policy

The Marine Corps takes a conservative approach to personal appearance. Uniform regulations stress that personal appearance is to be conservative and commensurate with the high standards traditionally associated with the Marine Corps. No eccentricities in dress or appearance are permitted because they detract from uniformity and team identity.

Marines are prohibited from:

    a. Tattoos or brands on the head and neck.

    b. Sleeve Tatoos. A sleeve tattoo is a very large tattoo, or a collection of smaller tattoos, that covers or almost covers a person's entire arm or leg.

    c. Half-sleeve or quarter sleeve tattoos that are visible to the eye when wearing standard PT Gear (T-shirt and shorts). A half-sleeve or quarter-sleeve tattoo is defined as a very large tattoo or collection of smaller tattoos that covers, or almost covers the entire portion of an army or leg above or below the elbow or knee.

    d. Tattoos or brands that are prejudicial to good order, discipline and morale, or are of a nature to bring discredit upon the Marine Corps. These may include, but are not limited to, any tattoo that is sexist, racist, vulgar, anti-american, anti-social, gang related, or extremest group or organization related.

Marines who currently have a sleeve tattoo(s) prior to 1 April 2007, will be grandfathered. The Marine's command will insert a photograph(s) of the respective (tattoo(s) along with a measurement(s) of the size in inches and of the location(s) on the body and the date the tattoo(s) was documented, on the Page 11 of the Marine's SRB. The Marine will sign the Page 11 entry verifying the information is correct.

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