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US Coast Guard announces changes to its tattoo policy

Tim W. Goodrich, tattoo artist at Odyssey Tattoo, prepares to work on a tattoo on a Marine's forearm July 7, 2005. (Pfc. Roger L. Nelson/U.S. Marine Corps)
October 04, 2019

The U.S. Coast Guard is keeping up with the times with its latest policy update that addresses tattoos.

The update allows some tattoos to show while in uniform that were previously not allowed.

“The Coast Guard increases the aperture to ensure we are able to recruit and retain the next generation of Coast Guardsman,” the policy update says.

It “strikes a balance” between the military branch’s sharp appearance standards and individual expression, the policy says.

Body art and tattoos that are consistent with the Coast Guards values will now be allowed on the chest, but not visible above the uniform crew neck shirt. Hand and finger tattoos – in addition to one ring tattoo per hand – are also now allowed.

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Here are the additional guidelines for hand and finger tattoos:

  • One 1-inch tattoo on each hand shall not exceed past the first knuckle closest to the wrist
  • One finger tattoo per hand within the length of the finger from the first to second knuckle

Tattoos that represent racism, discrimination, extremist or supremacist ideals, lawlessness, indecency, or are sexually explicit are not allowed.

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