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The Army is finally changing its ridiculous tattoo policy

US Army Private First Class Kyler King of the 2nd Platoon of Task Force 3-66, Bravo Company of the 172 Infantry Brigade gets his head shaved by PFC Shawn Riggins (also 2nd Platoon) on September 6, 2011 in Afghanistan.
US Army Private First Class Kyler King of the 2nd Platoon of Task Force 3-66, Bravo Company of the 172 Infantry Brigade gets his head shaved by PFC Shawn Riggins (also 2nd Platoon) on September 6, 2011 in Afghanistan.
(Johannes Eisele/AFP/Getty Image

The US Army just announced a major loosening of its restrictive tattoo policy — part of a yearlong debate about the Army's controversial new dress and appearance policy.

Before the new rules, soldiers were allowed a maximum of four small tattoos on their lower legs and arms. Tattoos that cover the entire arm were also banned. According to Travis Tritten of Stars and Stripesthe only tattoos that will remain banned will be face and neck tattoos — as well as ones with "racist, sexist or extremist imagery."

Interestingly, the tattoo restrictions had only been in place for about a year. They were first instituted last March, as part of a wider round of revisions to Army Regulation 670-1, the rule governing soldiers' appearances. The new regulations also prohibited hairstyles common among African-American women specifically, a rule that was changed last September amid a major public outcry.

The tighter tattoo regulations, however, remained in place — until now. According to the Army Times' Kathleen Curthoy, they're being changed as a result of complaints from soldiers. The new policy is expected to be implemented soon.

"Society is changing its view of tattoos and we have to change along with that," Army Chief of Staff Ray Odierno said on Wednesday in remarks quoted by Curthoy. "It makes sense. Soldiers have grown up in an era when tattoos are much more acceptable and we have to change along with that."

He's not wrong. A 2006 survey published by the American Academy of Dermatology found a clear trend: younger people are more likely to have tattoos.

tattoos over time

(Anne Lauman and Amy Derrick/Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology)

The Army, then, appears to be finally be catching up with the times.

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