The Navy is about to get much more permissive in its tattoo guidelines for sailors.
The service released a message Thursday announcing new rules set to take effect April 30 allowing bigger tattoos, and in a wider range of locations on the body.
The new guidelines, which set the Navy apart from the other military services in terms of permissiveness, are an acknowledgement of a changing culture and youthful population, officials said.
"This policy change is about being honest with ourselves, and putting policies in place that reflect tattoo realities in the nation we serve," said Lt. Cmdr. Nate Christensen, a spokesman for Navy Personnel Command. "It is also meant to ensure we don't miss opportunities to bring in talented young men and women willing to serve."
The message authorized the following:
- Up to one neck tattoo, no larger than an inch wide and an inch high. Tattoos of no larger than one inch by one inch are also acceptable behind the ear, according to the message. Both locations were previously off-limits to tattoos. While tattoos are permissible on the torso, they still cannot be visible through white uniforms, according to the message. Tattoos on the head, face and scalp are still prohibited.
- Size restrictions on tattoos on the body, arms and legs are lifted entirely. Leg and arm tattoos can be of any size, including sleeve tattoos, giving sailors a much wider range of options for body art.
- Cosmetic tattoos to correct medical conditions are permitted.
- While location and size restrictions have eased, the Navy is keeping in place its ban on objectionable content, including tattoos prejudicial to good order and discipline in those that are obscene, sexually explicit, discriminatory, or affiliated with a gang or extremist group. The Navy will not give waivers for tattoos with prohibited content, according to the message.
"This policy update is being made in response to the increased popularity of tattoos in those currently serving, and from the population that Navy draws its recruits," Christensen said. "The Navy strives to reflect the nation we serve, to attract, recruit and retain the nation's best talent."
These tattoo updates come as the Marine Corps prepares to release its own updated tattoo policy. The Corps' rules are currently among the strictest, prohibiting sleeves and limiting the size and number of tattoos visible while in uniform.
In a March 8 interview, Marine Corps Manpower and Reserve Affairs Commander Lt. Gen. Mark Brilakis told Military.com the Corps was in the final stages of approving its new policy. Sources have said that policy is unlikely to significantly loosen existing restrictions, though it will standardize rules across all commands.
"What we want to do is roll out a comprehensive policy that when it comes out, it runs from soup to nuts," Brilakis said.
"I can tell you right now that not everybody is going to be happy," he added. "The Marine Corps is an organization that prides itself on its relationship with the American people. We've got a history of being a smart, well-groomed professional force, and this commandant has no intention of walking away from any of those precepts. And so this tattoo policy will be respecting individual desires but also understanding that we are a military force."
The Navy message also updated existing guidance on wearing Navy ball caps.
Commands authorized to wear the NWU camouflage uniform Type II and III may now optionally issue and wear a coyote-brown command ball cap, according to the message. The eight-point cover will continue to be worn for uniform inspections, special events and other occasions determined by the commanding officer, however.