limited to earlobes. Consequently, there was little practical need to spell out, in great detail, the do's
and don'ts of body art. Clearly, times have changed. Tattooing has exploded in popularity and now
touches all segments of our society. While branding remains far less popular, it is common in some
social circles. As for piercing, one only needs to walk through the shopping mall or along the beach
to see how much things have changed over the course of the last decade or so. These trends have
gradually eased their way into our military workforce. However, given our role as a military service
and as a federal law enforcement agency along with our level of daily contact with the general public,
we cannot allow ourselves to be guided solely by social trends and fashion. Therefore, the time has
come to recalibrate and affirm our standards for tattoos, branding, piercing, and other forms of body
art that are consistent with the requirement to maintain a sharp, professional military image to the
public we serve. Our intent is not to draw undue attention to members of our team who already have
tattoos or brands. Where appropriate, we have incorporated a grandfathering feature into certain
aspects of the new policy that will apply to all current members for the remainder of their careers.
Heavy tattooing found its way into our organization over time. It will take time to ease our way back
to a more desirable state.
a. Location. No tattoo or brand, of any type, is authorized on the head, face, neck, or hands. The
dark blue Coast Guard T-shirt collar shall be the reference point for the back and sides of the neck;
i.e., no tattoo or brand may be visible above the collar of the T-shirt on the neck. In the case of a
tattoo or brand very near the collarbone, a final evaluation shall be made to ensure that no tattoo or
brand is visible when wearing a v-neck undershirt and an open collar shirt. The wrist bone shall
be the reference point for tattoos or brands on the hands. No tattoos or brands shall be visible
below the wrist bone.
b. Content. Tattoos or brands anywhere on the body that promote racism/discrimination, indecency,
extremist or supremacist philosophies, lawlessness, violence, or sexually explicit material are
(1) Racist or discriminatory tattoos or brands are those that advocate the degradation of a person
based on race, ethnicity, national origin, or gender.
(2) Indecent or sexually explicit tattoos or brands are those that contain a visual image, the
dominant theme of which depicts or promotes graphic nudity, including sexual activities or
organs, in a lustful way. Tattoos featuring fully exposed nudity are prohibited.
(3) Extremist tattoos or brands are those that depict or promote extremist activities or
organizations that advocate hatred, intolerance, or lawlessness (e.g., terrorist groups, neo-
Nazis, skinheads, outlaw gangs, Confederate Flag, extreme political organizations with violent
histories). Because some extremist/criminal groups and organizations exploit popular symbols
(e.g., cartoon characters), care must be taken in evaluating such tattoos or brands so as not to
implicate members who may have selected the tattoo or brand based on its artistic value rather
than a hidden meaning. In these cases, a determination will be made based on the totality of
thematic elements expressed by tattoos or brands elsewhere on the body.