Marines ban big, garish tattoos

The Marines are banning any new, extra-large tattoos below the elbow or the knee, saying such body art is harmful to the Corps’ spit-and-polish image.
The ban is aimed primarily at “sleeve” tattoos, the large and often elaborate designs on the biceps and forearms of many Marines. Similar designs on the lower legs will be forbidden as well. So will very large tattoos on the upper arm, if they are visible when a Marine wears his workout T-shirt. Small, individual tattoos will still be allowed on the arms and legs. (The Marines already ban them on the hands.)

Marines already tattooed are exempt from the ban but cannot add to their designs; anyone caught with fresh ink in the wrong places could be barred from re-enlistment or face disciplinary action. Getting a prohibited tattoo could constitute a violation of a lawful order, punishable by up to two years in prison and a dishonorable discharge, Marine spokesman 1st Lt. Brian Donnolly said.

Unit commanders must photograph and document sleeve tattoos to ensure Marines do not add to their ink.

  1. undissembled says:

    body art is harmful to the Corps’ spit-and-polish image.

    I knew a marine. The stories I heard make this the biggest BS statement of the week.

  2. Oink says:

    Sort of like putting lipstick on a pig?

  3. Improbus says:

    Some Marine REMF has to much time on his hands.

  4. Pfkad says:

    Marine rejects, I’ve got just the place for you:

  5. venom monger says:

    I think when they shaved their heads in boot camp, they should have gotten some idea that their own ideas of acceptable personal appearance were no longer relevant.

  6. Daniel says:

    This isn’t new, they banned it awhile ago. As did the Navy, who the Marines work for anyway.

  7. Nobody U Know says:

    I managed to put 4 years in the suck without ever feeling the need for such art and this fad is beyond this old Marines comprehension.

    #6 – The USMC is a department of the Navy… the MENS Department.

  8. malren says:

    My grandfather told me about this rule. From when he was a Marine. In 1941.

    This is not exactly new information.

  9. Angel H. Wong says:


    Sashay! *swish*

  10. BubbaRay says:

    From the article URL’d on the post:

    “These are guys that are dying in the war,” Layton said. “They can fight, but they can’t get a tattoo? It’s ridiculous.”

    I don’t know what to say. If a Marine wants to tattoo his arm black and fight for me, that’s fine. Get ’em some long sleeves.

  11. mark says:

    Government property is government property. The Corps OWNS your ass.

  12. TJGeezer says:

    Those guys go out and put their lives on the line every day. I say if one of ’em wants to get all tattooed up like a Maori warrior, let him. If spit and polish is more important than combat readiness in some posts, don’t post ’em there. Most guys who would want a sleeve tattoo probably wouldn’t put in for embassy duty anyhow.

    Contradicts a spit-and-polish image? Christ. Get your priorities straight back at HQ, please.

  13. Adam says:

    As others have said, this isn’t anything new and has been policy in all US Military divisions for eons.

    When you enlist or are drafted into our military you become the Property of the United States of America and you can’t modify yourself or deliberately injure yourself without committing a criminal act against the government of the United States.

    That’s why you get a number and dog tags, you become property.

  14. jccalhoun says:

    I love how the military is begging for people to enlist, but then they keep enforcing seemingly pointless rules. Have a big tattoo? Sorry, you can’t fight for your country. Love someone of the same sex as yourself? Sorry, if we find out you can’t fight for your country.

    It isn’t as if we are at war and already increasing the length of people’s tour of duty or anything, so we can afford to enforce some arbitrary rules…

  15. Blues says:

    So they’ll send you back into combat when you’re injured or mentally unwell, but not if you have a big ugly tattoo.

  16. Angel H. Wong says:


    That’s because the gay military senior staff likes their men unblemished.

  17. Uncle Dave says:

    #15: This solves their ( ) problem. Get a tattoo and they won’t be sent back!

  18. mark says:

    17. Something like BUSH SUCKS across the forehead would probably work.

  19. Odyssey67 says:

    I applaud this move. Unless the soldier comes from a culture where a body tattoo has some spiritual significance, there’s no need or excuse for these sorts of all-over tattoos in modern western culture. IMO they’re nothing more than an expression on self-mutilation, conducted by people with low self-esteem.

    “Look at me! look at me! I don’t think I’m worthy of attention any other way – like by my accomplishments or decency – so instead I have permanent garish marks all over myself! Notice/fear/think about me!”

    This is one rule the entire US military should adopt, if they truly believe part of their mission is to mold young men and women into mentally strong soldiers.

    Going off on a tangent, but I think the next rule made should be to force all the services to return the American Flag patch to it’s correct orientation & color. The one they wear now (reversed, with the ‘field of blue’ on the right side) is positioned contrary to what long tradition says is proper respect for ‘Ol Glory’. And the fact that the red/white/blue color scheme has been replaced with black on grey makes it look like a flag the Empire might have flown in StarWars – it looks like some juvenile’s idea of what would ‘look cool’ and ‘intimidate the enemy’. When in fact all it does is show how little our own military respects the flag they’re supposed to be fighting under. It’s morally vapid, not cool or inspiring.

    Oh, and for those thinking that wearing a small patch with color is a danger (making it easier for the enemy to spot you), you’re right. Which is why they should just go back to not having such patches on combat gear when in a war zone, like they used to.

  20. Clever says:

    If a Marine can go get blown the F up and shot at by rag heads, they should be able to get a tatoo where ever the hell they want.


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