Coast Guard tattoo policy loosened


The Coast Guard’s tattoo policy now allows even more visible tattoos, it announced Tuesday. Members of the service can now have larger hand tattoos, as well as one tattoo behind each ear.

All tattoos, no matter where they are, must still meet content restrictions. Tattoos must not represent racism, discrimination, indecency, extremist or supremacist philosophies, lawlessness, violence, or have sexually explicit content, the Coast Guard said in a statement to service members.

“The bottom line: The Coast Guard understands that visible tattoos have become mainstream. These updates to our tattoo policy ensure the uniformed workforce presents a sharp and professional military appearance to the public while allowing for individual creativity and expression through authorized body art that is consistent with the Coast Guard’s core values,” the Guard said.

“Broadening the tattoo policy is in line with the Coast Guard’s goal to be an employer of choice and reduce barriers to accession,” the message said. 

A breakdown of the tattoo policy:


The policy has not changed.  

  • No tattoo will be visible above the uppermost edge of the standard crew neck t-shirt when viewed from the front.  
  • The reference point for tattoos on the back of the neck is the top collar edge of the tropical blue shirt. 
  • Excluding permitted behind the ear tattoos, no tattoo will be visible above the top collar edge of the standard tropical blue shirt.   


Old policy: One 1-inch tattoo was authorized behind one ear. 
New policy: One 1-inch tattoo in now authorized behind each ear. No tattoos can extend into the hairline or below the earlobe, and no tattoo can be visible from the front. 


Old policy: One 1-inch tattoo was authorized on each hand. 
New policy: You can now have a 2 ½ inch tattoo on each hand between the knuckle closest to the wrist, and the wrist bones. Tattoos are not authorized on the palm of the hand.   


This policy has not changed.  

  • You can have one finger tattoo per hand between the knuckle closest to the wrist and fingertip.  
  • No finger tattoo is authorized on the palm, fingernail, or nail bed.  
  • Members who wish to have a ring tattoo may do so. A ring tattoo is the only tattoo authorized to encircle the finger. 


  1. What do ya do with a drunken Coastie,
    What do ya do with a drunken Coastie,
    What do ya do with a drunken Coastie, Ear-lie in the mooornin?
    Put’m in a tat parlor til he get sober,
    Ink ‘m up with a four leaf clover,
    Paint’is head with the name of his mother,
    Tat an anchor on ‘is chest in ‘is fav’rite color,
    That’s what ya do with a drunken Coastie, Ear-lie in the mooornin! ⚓️

    • A Navy free drink tattoo. A rooster in a noose on your calf. You bet someone a drink that you have a cock that hangs below your knee.

  2. Well, how nice of the barrier-reducing and mainstreamed Coast Guard. Behind the ears… weird. So, why DO this?? I am no longer mainstream, apparently, because I believe in barriers to enlisting persons in public-service positions of responsibility who have visible and intentional bodily disfigurements. Public service must become not a freak show.

  3. This is their sleight-of-hand after completely screwing up the distribution of the service wide test last week. Impacting many thousands of Coasties. But look, you get tattoos!


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