Many people consider the Marine Corps as the most demanding and challenging branch of the military.
And it’s true that many of its expectations are set at a higher level compared to the Army, Navy, and Air Force.
Recently, the Marine Corps has loosened and simplified its restrictions on its tattoo policy.
Here are the key takeaways from the Marine Corps tattoo policy:
- You CAN have tattoos anywhere on your chest, back, torso, upper arms, upper thighs, and groin as long as they are completely below the collarbone and 7th cervical vertebrae.
- Back and chest tattoos may not be visible when wearing a crewneck T-shirt.
- There are no restrictions as to the size, shape, color, or number of tattoos.
- No tattoos beyond the wrist or above the neck with the exception of one ring tattoo.
- One ring tattoo is allowed, provided it’s no more than 3/8″ wide and only on one finger of one hand
- Just like the other branches, racist, sexist, obscene, and extremist tattoos are NOT allowed.
- Tattoo standards for Marine Corps officers now mirror those of enlisted Marines.
See a more detailed discussion of the policies below.
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What Tattoos Are Allowed in the Marine Corps?
According to Marine Corps General Robert B. Neller, the tattoo policy over the years has:
“Attempted to balance the individual desires of Marines with the need to maintain the disciplined appearance expected of our profession.”
Therefore, the Marine Corps tattoo policy seeks to find a balance between individual representation and old-school values.
Marines are now even allowed to have sleeve tattoos as long as the sleeve doesn’t extend past the wrist.
Marines have the opportunity to receive waivers for cosmetic tattoos that cover up scars and other body disfigurements.
A waiver is granted by a commanding officer and offered on a case-by-case basis.
Related Article: Marine Corps Ranks And Pay
Marine Tattoos Outside PT Uniform
When it comes to any area of the body that is NOT concealed by a PT uniform, the Marine must follow slightly more demanding guidelines.
There are stipulations regarding visible tattoos:
- A tattoo (or group of tattoos) is not allowed past the wrist, with the exception of a single ring tattoo.
- Chest and neck tattoos can not be above the collarbone and must be fully covered when wearing the uniformed fitted crewneck T-shirt.
- The content of tattoos will be scrutinized to ensure they are suitable for worldwide combat and to be sure that they will not be perceived as culturally offensive.
- Content cannot be sexist, racist, drug-related, gang-related, extremist or obscene.
Additionally, Marines are permitted to have one single band ring tattoo (no more than 3/8 inch) on one finger.
Any other body art on the hands is strictly prohibited.
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What Tattoos Are NOT Allowed In The Marine Corps?
The Marine Corps tattoo policy breaks down what is not allowed on a Marine in two different ways, just like other military branches.
Recent amendments have created a fairly liberal tattoo policy with the intention of removing barriers for potential recruits.
As previously mentioned, there are places above the collarbone and below the wrist that are still restricted (aside from one band tattoo).
The Marine Corps has aligned with the other services and now allows sleeve tattoos.
The Marine Corps defines tattoo sleeves as “the full coverage of the skin by tattoo ink,” which is generally located on the arms or legs.
Related Article – Marine Corps PFT Standards
Quick List – Non-Authorized Tattoo Locations
Here is a quick breakdown of the places on your body the Marine Corps does not allow tattoos:
- Head, neck, or face (including mouth and eyelids)
- Above the collarbone (before reaching the neck)
- Wrist, hands, and fingers (with the exception is a single ring tattoo)
The current Marine Corps Tattoo Policy can be found in the MCBUL 1020.
Tattoos NOT Allowed Because of Content
In addition to the location on your body, the Marine Corps will also extensively study the content of the body art.
The Marine Corps has a zero-tolerance policy when it comes to offensive tattoos comparable to the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Coast Guard.
The Marine Corps tattoo policy for 2023 states that ink is never allowed which is “prejudicial to good order and discipline.”
Furthermore, tattoos that are “drug-related, gang-related, extremist, obscene or indecent, sexist, or racist” are not authorized under any circumstances.
Related Article – National Guard Tattoo Policy For 2023
In order to remain compliant with the Marine Corps tattoo policy, use common sense.
Ask yourself, ‘Would your mother approve of this type of tattoo?”
If the answer is no, the Marine Corps isn’t going to like obscene or indecent tattoos any more than other professional organizations.
Those who are interested in joining the U.S. Marines and already have tattoos can speak with a recruiting officer to determine if any of the body art is in violation.
There are waivers granted in certain situations, especially for former Marines wishing to join the Reserves, yet the military branch generally bends its rules more for tattoo placement than content.
Marine Corps Tattoo Policy – Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
We get a lot of commonly asked questions regarding the Marine Corps tattoo policy for 2023.
Here are some of the most frequently asked questions for quick reference…
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Can you have a full-sleeve tattoo in the Marine Corps?
In order to remain in compliance, the sleeve must stop before the wrist.
Can you have neck/face/hand tattoos in the Marine Corps?
No, the Marine Corps tattoo policy makes it clear the locations are not authorized.
The Marine Corps has a stricter policy for face, neck, and hand tattoos than other military branches.
The only exception is on the hand where a Marine is authorized one ring tattoo on one of the two hands.
Will the Marine Corps pay to remove tattoos?
The Department of Defense recently passed rules that limit military funding for tattoo removal.
If you are ordered to remove a tattoo that the Marine Corps determines is non-compliant, you may seek funding through a military clinic for professional removal.
Are Marine Corps officers allowed to have tattoos?
Yes, under the new Marine Corps tattoo policy officers are permitted the same rights for body art as enlisted members.
Commanders are also given permission to make individual determinations for tattoos that are sported by other personnel under their supervision.
Related Article: How To Join The US Marine Corps
Can you get a waiver for tattoos in the Marine Corps?
It is possible to request a waiver for a tattoo that is located on a body part that is otherwise not authorized in the military branch.
Your recruiting officer will assess each situation on a case-by-case basis.
Former Marines that have “out-of-regulation tattoos” and wish to join the Reserves often receive tattoo waivers, as one example.
The Marine Corps rarely grants waivers to Marines with obscene or indecent tattoos, as the content of the body art is judged more harshly.
What other grooming standards does the Marine Corps have?
The Marine Corps has strict grooming standards compared to its brother branch, the U.S. Navy.
The Marines require haircuts to remain “neat, clean, and well-groomed” at all times.
They have set a number of regulations related to what hairstyles are authorized and not authorized.
For example, male Marines are permitted a mustache only after completing recruit training.
Related Article – Marine Corps Grooming Standards: Hair, Beard, And Nail Regulations
The Marine Corps tattoo policy for 2023 is designed to maintain a professional and disciplined organization.
As a result, the Corps has set standards in place that determine what types of tattoos and where on the body they are authorized.
Speaking with a Marine Corps recruiter can help clarify if your current body art is compliant or not.
Marine Commanding Officers make the determination for Marines who are already enlisted in the military branch.
Tattoo Policies For Other Military Branches
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