The Army Tightens Up New Tattoo Policy - Quicken Loans Zing Blog

Service members have been getting tattoos regularly since the Civil War. And according to most accounts, the very first tattoo parlors in the United States were for soldiers. According to PBS’s excellent series, Skin Stories, a man named Martin Hildebrandt opened a tattoo shop in New York City in 1846 and “began a tradition by tattooing sailors and military servicemen from both sides of the Civil War.”

As time passed, so did the increasing popularity of service members receiving tattoos. Some did it as badges of honor, some did it as a way to never forget what they’ve been through and some did it as a way to set themselves apart from the other service members. But for whatever their reasons for getting tattooed, they have not been as widely accepted by the military as they were by the servicemen and women who get them.

Just recently, there have been changes to the Army Regulations 670-1 that concern soldiers and tattoos. Getting a visible tattoo might be a thing of the past as these news regulations are expected to become policy in the next 30 to 60 days. Current Army regulation prohibits tattoos on the head, face and neck above the class-A uniform collar.

With the new policy in place, new recruits will not be allowed to have tattoos that show below the elbows and knees or above the neckline. However, current soldiers with tattoos that violate policy may be grandfathered in.

New recruits who have tattoos that violate policy will be ordered to remove the tattoo. This is a huge step up from the current regulation that states “commanders may not order the removal of a tattoo or brand. However, the commander must counsel soldiers, and afford them the opportunity to seek medical advice about removal or alteration of the tattoo or brand.”

While each branch has its own tattoo policy in place, they all agree that racist, sexist or extremist tattoos are not allowed.

Here Are the Tattoo Rules for the Other Branches of Service


  • No tattoos on the head, face, neck or scalp.
  • Any tattoos on the torso area should not be visible through white uniform clothing.
  • Tattoos that are visible while wearing short sleeves can be no larger than the individual’s hand with fingers extended. However, tattoos that exceed the size criteria are waiverable provided they don’t violate the content and/or location criteria.

Air Force

  • No tattoos on the head, face, neck or scalp.
  • Tattoos cannot exceed 25% of the exposed body part nor be readily visible when wearing any/all uniform combinations. Anything over 25% is deemed excessive.
  • If tattoos are considered excessive, members are required to maintain complete coverage of the tattoo using current uniform items or remove the tattoo.


  • No tattoos on the head, neck, hands, wrists, fingers and mouth.
  • Sleeve tattoos are prohibited. (Sleeve is defined as a tattoo that covers or almost covers a person’s entire arm or leg).
  • Half-sleeve or quarter-sleeve tattoos that are visible when wearing standard PT gear cannot be larger than the individual’s hand.

Officer’s regulations

  • No more than 4 tattoos visible in the standard PT uniform.
  • Band tattoos (one that partially or fully encircles the circumference of the body part) exceeding two inches are prohibited.
  • Enlisted marines with grandfathered tattoos are not eligible for the marine enlisted commissioning education program, warrant officer or any other enlisted-to-officer program.


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