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Tattoos in the Military
In their last recruiting year, the US Military announced revisions on their policy towards tattoos on new recruits, firming up guidelines for what imagery and placement were and were not acceptable. The policy was more restrictive than previously. However, with military recruiters having missed making their recruiting goals last year (their fiscal year ended Oct 1, 2005), the Army has just revised the guidelines, announcing some slight changes at the end of March 2006.
Policies were set that banned any tattooing or branding that was on the face, head or neck, such as would be visible when wearing a standard uniform. However, modifications classified as permanent makeup are now to be allowed. These tattoos are of a narrow category, essentially indelible lip-liner or eyeliner, or tattoos which realistically replicate eyebrows. When done in a fashion that seeks to replicate natural human features, and which follow conventional mainstream aesthetics, facial tattoos will be permitted. Tattoos on the hands are conditionally permitted, barring they do not violate rules concerning symbolism.
What the tattoo shows, that is to say, what it expresses is where the toughest rules come into play. Any tattoo imagery that is deemed to be sexist imagery or racist symbols, or that can be perceived extremist tattoos is utterly banned regardless of where it might be on your body. Any tattoo design that is associated with or thought to be associated with gangs or hate groups will cause an applicant to be rejected. New recruits have to explain the symbolism behind each and every tattoo they have as part of the application process.
Interestingly, it was the military that helped bring tattooing to acceptability in mainstream culture. Sailors in World War II not only traveled the world, and had contact with cultures that practiced tattooing, but they also got paid more frequently than their Army or Marine counterparts, making for slightly more pocket cash. Being willing to fight and die for one's country is very noble, and tattoos worn by soldiers and sailors slowly gained a bit of credibility. Tattooing came to be seen as the sign of a tough guy, but not necessarily a bad one.
In modern times, the Army and the tattoo are colliding head-on. Most often, the military recruits men who are in the 17 to 24 age range. In the world of culture, and more specifically advertising, that overlaps with the coveted and powerful "male aged 18-35 demographic," which receives the bulk of money and attention from a lot of movie, music and fashion advertisers. With tattooing riding a huge wave of popularity in youth culture right now, it makes the pool of growing young male tattoo enthusiasts overlap heavily with the segment of the population that is screened for military service.
Content copyright © 2013 by Rae Schwarz. All rights reserved.
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