Marine Corps Tattoo Policy – Which Tattoos Are Authorized?

The Marine Corps tattoo policy is deisgned to balance the Marine Corps’ high standards of professional military appearance and heritage with the personal desires of Marines.

You can find the official Marine Corps Tattoo Policy in the The Marine Corps Bulletin 1020, released June 2, 2016. This bulletin explains the new Marine Corps tattoo policy, and supercedes all previous tattoo policy guidance.

The new Marine Corps’ tattoo policy addresses the size, proper placement, and potential career ramifications for those in violation.

According to the Marine Corps Times, the new policy will provide specific instruction to Marines who want to serve on special duty assignments, such as recruiters, drill instructors, and embassy guards.

USMC Tattoo Policy – Prohibited Content & Locations

The Marine Corps wants to ensure all Marines reflect a professional image at all times, both in and out of uniform. Therefore, they have rules prohibiting the types of content tattoos can display.

Prohibited Content:

Tattoos located anywhere on the body that are prejudicial to good order and discipline, or are of a nature to bring discredit upon the naval service, are prohibited. Examples include, but are not limited to, tattoos that are drug-related, gang-related, extremist, obscene or indecent, sexist, or racist.

Unauthorized USMC Tattoo Locations

All Marines may have unlimited tattoos on any area of the body that is covered by the properly fitting standard physical training (PT) uniform (e.g., tattoos on chest and back). Officers may have no more than four tattoos
visible in the properly fitting PT uniform.

Head & Neck Tattoos: Tattoos on the head or neck, including in or around the mouth area, are prohibited. The following locations are also prohibited:

  • Head / Neck
  • Above Collar Bone
  • 2″ from the Elbow (above or below)
  • Hands, with the exception of wedding ring tattoos
  • Within 2″ of the Wrist
  • 2″ from the Patella (above or below)
  • Below Ankles and anywhere on Foot

Marine Corps Tattoo Policy Unauthorized Locations

Authorized USMC Tattoo Locations

Authorized USMC Tattoo Locations

Grandfathering and Existing Waivers

Any Marine who has already been grandfathered by previous tattoo policy guidance will remain grandfathered (i.e., for previous tattoos) for retention, promotion, and worldwide assignment.

Marines currently assigned to, or presently slated for Recruiting duty, Marine Security Guard duty, Drill Instructor duty, Marine Corps Security Force duty, and Marine Combat Instructor duty who have tattoos visible outside the standard PT uniform that are non-compliant with this Bulletin will execute their current assignment until the end of their SDA tour (i.e., no short tour, removal from class slate or early PCS move required), but will not be assigned to these special duty assignments on subsequent tours.