Soldiers with excessive tattoos, sideburns or even nail polish may soon find themselves singled out and even disciplined over their personal appearance.
Sergeant Major of the Army Raymond Chandler is conducting a comprehensive review of the regulation on the Wear and Appearance of Army Uniforms and Insignia. Senior leaders have outlined several changes that would put the spotlight on dress code for soldiers and grooming standards.
Sgt. Maj. Chandler has stated that the goal of this campaign is not to punish soldiers, but to reemphasize the importance of maintaining professionalism in the military.
Most of the proposed changes are just modifications on existing rules. Many already exist or have at least been implied by the military for years.
For male soldiers:
- Sideburns must be trimmed and short (no lower than where the ear meets the head).
- Soldiers must be clean shaven regardless of whether they are on leave.
- Men may not wear cosmetics or nail polish.
- Men may not wear visible body piercings of any kind, to include earrings or gauges.
- Dental ornamentation and gold teeth are prohibited.
- Women will now be allowed to wear their hair in a ponytail during P.T.
- Women may wear cosmetics “conservatively.” Any makeup that creates an unnatural appearance, to include fake eyelashes, will be prohibited.
- Nail polish is allowed in service, mess or dress uniforms.
- Women’s fingernail length is limited to a quarter of an inch. Fake nails, add-ons and extensions are prohibited.
- Soldiers will not eat, drink, smoke, or talk on cellphones while walking.
- Army Combat Uniform must be hand-ironed; commercial pressing services are not allowed.
- Bags worn over the shoulder must be without logos and either black or the color print of the uniform.
- Men will be allowed to carry a black umbrella with the Army Service Uniform.
- Soldiers are allowed to wear authorized ballistic eyewear in garrison.
Some of the changes are more controversial than others. Here are some of the proposed changes regarding tattoos:
- Tattoos may not be visible above the neck line when the P.T. uniform is worn. This is a change from the previous policy of allowing a neck tattoo that could be hidden beneath the collar of the Army Service Uniform.
- Tattoos may not extend below the wrist line.
- Sleeve tattoos will no longer be allowed.
In the past, military leadership hasn’t worried much about tattoos as long as they weren’t exposed when wearing a service uniform and were not vulgar, racist or representing an extremist ideology. Now, a soldier might have to worry about how many tattoos they have, even if they are hidden beneath clothing. While current soldiers with a full sleeve tattoo will likely be grandfathered in, this change has the potential to keep intelligent, capable citizens from entering the military for something that can be covered by a long-sleeve shirt.
There are also new guidelines for acceptable dress for soldiers when off duty or on leave, even when they’re off base.
Time will tell if these changes will be used in the upcoming troop drawdown. Senior Army officials are still considering the legality of some of these changes or how they could actually be enforced, but soldiers can expect to see a renewed focus on dress and appearance in the near future.
Photos courtesy of The U.S. Army and PORKCHOP RULES