Tattoo Restrictions In The Military

Regulations regarding having tattoos in the military have changed throughout the years. Today, each branch has their own rules and regulations that they enforce. If you plan on joining the military and you think maybe you can enlist with the tattoos that you have, remember to do some research first. Privacy, even with your body, is limited in the military, and any artwork you have will eventually been seen by your superiors. Also, keep in mind that the following types of tattoos are not allowed among any of the branches of the military:

  • Sexist
  • Racist
  • Indecent
  • Anti-American
  • Anti-Military
  • Political
  • Gang Related

The Different Branches and the Regulations for Each

Air Force

The Air Force and the Marine Corps have the most restrictive rules when it comes to accepted tattoos. Below are some of their specific regulations:

  • No tattoos showing above the collar of the uniform shirt.
  • Any tattoo under the uniform should not cover more than 25% of the body part that it is on.


As mentioned above, the tattoo policies in the Marines is the most restrictive of all of the branches:

  • No full, quarter, or half sleeve showing under the sleeve of the Physical Training uniform short sleeve length (the PT uniform consists of a t-shirt and shorts).
  • Any tattoo that is visible while wearing the PT uniform has to be smaller than the hand of the Marine.
  • No work is allowed on the head, neck, hands, fingers, or wrists.


The Army’s policy concerning tattoos is slightly more relaxed that those of the Air Force and Marines:

  • There is no regulation regarding how many you can have or the percentage of the body they can cover.
  • Tattoos are not allowed on the head, face, neckline above the t-shirt, inside the eyelids, or on the wrists or hands.


In the Navy regulations are similar to those for the Marines except not quite as restrictive:

  • If the tattoo is not covered by the standard uniform it is not allowed.
  • Navy the uniforms are white, and tattoos must not show through the uniform.
  • If the sailor has a tattoo that meets the other restrictions, it should not be larger than their hand.

Coast Guard

The Coast Guard restrictions are less restrictive than those of the Navy. Their policy regarding tattoos was updated at the beginning of 2017, and the new regulations relax some older restrictions. New regulations include:

  • Tattoos on the neck and chest cannot be visible more than 1 inch above the undershirt worn beneath the uniform shirt (previously nothing was allowed to be visible).
  • One ring tattoo may be displayed on each hand but must not extend past the first knuckle of the finger from the base.
  • No tattoos are allowed below the wrist.
  • Brand tattoos may not be larger than 4 inches by 4 inches and cannot be located on the head, face, or neck. There are no other size or percentage restrictions.

If you already serve, have served, or plan to serve, thank you. Please remember these guidelines to help you decide on any new tattoos. Also, remember that regulations are subject to change, so always research the updated regulations before getting new ink.

If you’re interested in learning more about new tattoos, visit the San Marcos Tattoo Emporium located in San Marcos, TX.

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