Sailor Jerry policy: US Navy eases tattoo ban to attract hipster recruits

© Pilar Olivares
While tattoos were once synonymous with sailor men like Popeye, the US Navy hopes to attract a new kind of recruit with ink well beyond the ole’ anchor on the forearm.

The seafaring branch of the world’s biggest military eased its policy on skin art, taking effect this Saturday.

Up until now, contrary to the cartoons we grew up with, sailors weren’t allowed have tattoos that were visible when in uniform, but a lack of interest from potential recruits, particularly those classed as “Millennials”, prompted the rule changes.

Those signing up will be allowed have a neck tattoo, as long as it’s no bigger than an inch in length or width, and multiple or large tattoos on their hands, wrists, and below the knee, meaning sailors could have sleeve tattoos.

"We just got to the point where we realized we needed to be honest with ourselves and put something in place that was going to reflect the realities of our country and the needs of our Navy," Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy (AW/NAC) Mike Stevens told the Navy Times. "We need to make sure that we’re not missing any opportunities to recruit and retain the best and the brightest because of our policies.”

Near half of all Millennials and a third of “Gen Xers” have at least one tattoo, according to a Harris Poll conducted last October.

For those already in the Navy, permission must be granted from superior officers before they can get a tattoo with some command officers more strict than others.

There are still restrictions on tats deemed “obscene, sexually explicit, and/or to advocate discrimination based on sex, race, religion, ethnicity, or national origin."

“Tattoos that symbolize affiliation with gangs, supremacist or extremist groups, or advocate illegal drug use are prohibited. Waivers will not be given for tattoos with prohibited content,” the policy reads.

Those found breaching the rules are usually given the opportunity to have the tattoo removed, but if a serious breach is found, the person could be discharged.

In other words, the Navy's tattoo policy has gone from a strict regime of this:

To this:

And maybe some of this:

Ultimately though, everyone is happy with the changes.