Marines No Longer Have to Prove They're Compliant With Strict Tattoo Policies to Reenlist

U.S. Marine displays arm tattoos.
U.S. Marine displays arm tattoos. (U.S. Marine Corps/Sgt. Salju K. Thomas)

The Marine Corps has relaxed some of its stringent tattoo policies, terminating a rule requiring troops to submit a 360-degree photo of themselves to extend their contracts or in applications for special duty assignments, according to a force-wide memo issued last week.

The old policy required Marines submit photos of themselves in their physical training uniform to prove they are in compliance with the Corps' tattoo rules when seeking special assignments such as being an instructor or hoping to stay in the service.

Marines who do not have visible tattoos when wearing a physical training, or PT, uniform no longer have to submit photographs or artistic sketches of non-visible tattoos, the guidance states.

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The Corps has the most strict tattoo policy of all the branches. Officers are restricted to four visible tattoos while wearing a PT uniform. Full sleeves are banned; size of visible tattoos is restricted; and the neck, elbows and knees are all a no-go for ink.

The rules have prompted concerns over recruiting prospects and retention over the years given the popularity of tattoos. A 2019 Ipsos study found that 40% of Americans ages 18-34 have at least one tattoo.

The Army, Air Force and Navy have relaxed their tattoo rules in recent years to varying extents. The Army doesn't limit tattoos and generally just draws the line on ink visible while wearing a dress uniform. In 2016, the Navy allowed sailors to have tattoos on their neck and behind their ears.

All branches have rules forbidding extremist tattoos or any ink that is racist or otherwise offensive. In 2016, an Arkansas man was prevented from joining the Corps due to his Confederate flag tattoo.

-- Steve Beynon can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @StevenBeynon.

Related: Marine Commandant Opens Up About Controversial Tattoo Policy

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