Why is the Marine Corps’ tattoo policy more restrictive than other branches of the armed services?
The Marine Corps recently issued a new tattoo policy which is slightly more lenient than the previous rules that were updated in 2010. At the same time, the policy is more restrictive than the Army’s policy that allows soldiers to have “sleeve tats” or neck tats recently approved by the Navy.
Marine Tattoo Policy at a Glance
The new policy is quite detailed as to where Marines can have tattoos and how large they can be. For example, a bicep tattoo that shows in a physical training uniform can now be an inch wider. But there are spots that are off-limits, such as the area surrounding the elbows, which means shoulder to wrist tats are forbidden.
Other no go zones include the head and neck, 2 inches above the wrist, hands, except for a single band tat on one finger, 2 inches above and below the center of the kneecap. In addition sexist, obscene, extremist and racist tattoos are also off limits. The policy is more lenient in that tattoos on the upper arms and thighs can be bigger, and so called band tattoos that go around part of a body, can be up to three inches, or four fingers, wide. Previously, these tats could be no larger than two inches.
Marines have complained that the old policy was not only too restrictive, but complicated as well. While the policy considered the Marines’ opinions, it is still far more restrictive than the tattoo policies of the other branches. This is so because of the Corps’ unique, clean cut grooming and appearance standards and uniform regulations.
In short, Marines who get tattoos that do not fall within the guidelines of the new policy will get a punitive entry in their personnel file. The military is ultimately about discipline and conformity, and Marines who violate the policy may a non-judicial punishment or be charged with failing to obey orders under the UCMJ. If you have questions about or have been charged with violations of the code, you should speak with an experienced court-martial attorney.