Guardians are officially allowed to have one small neck tattoo each, longer mustaches, and more makeup under the new Space Force grooming and uniform policy. But neck tattoos are still verboten for airmen, even though both services fall under the larger Department of the Air Force umbrella.
The new grooming and uniform policy was officially announced Tuesday, May 24, but rumblings about the changes began earlier this month, when what appeared to be a memo outlining the new standards was leaked on the popular Facebook page Air Force amn/nco/snco. It permitted neck tattoos for Space Force recruits, but emphasized that they were not permitted for Air Force recruits, puzzling many observers and resulting in social media comments like, “In space, no one can see your neck.”
Under the new guidance, guardians may have tattoos on their chests, backs, arms, legs, and feet, but chest and back tattoos cannot be visible through any uniform combinations or while wearing an open-collar uniform, according to the policy. A single tattoo no larger than 1 inch in diameter is allowed on the neck or behind the ear, but only so long as its placement meets the following requirements:
“The tattoo will not be located on the front of the neck from a vertical line drawn from the beginning of the opening of the ear orifice, around the neck to a vertical line drawn from the beginning of the other opening of the ear orifice. The neck tattoo will only be placed behind a vertical line at the opening of the ear orifice around the back to a vertical line at the opening of the other ear orifice.”
We published a Space Force Guidance Memorandum today announcing updates to grooming and uniform policy that reflect the nation’s sixth-service identity and culture. #SemperSuprahttps://t.co/EfExdtesA5
— United States Space Force (@SpaceForceDoD) May 24, 2022
Hand tattoos are prohibited, with the exception of a single “ring” band, no more than 3/8 of an inch wide, on one or both hands. However, waivers may be granted allowing some Space Force recruits to have tattoos covering up to 25% of their hands, if those recruits are “exceptionally qualified” and applying for critical career fields that are currently undermanned, according to the Air Force’s official manual for dress and appearance, DAFI36-2903, which supplements the Space Force’s guidance.
The Space Force is administratively similar to the Marine Corps — just as the Marine Corps falls under the Department of the Navy in the Pentagon organization, so the Space Force falls under the Department of the Air Force. But both are fully independent military branches with their own bases, jobs, PT tests, chains of command, and grooming standards, which is why guardians can have neck tattoos while their Air Force counterparts cannot.
Space Force guardians have waited for official guidance on grooming and dress since becoming the newest military branch in 2019.
“Guardians have been waiting a long time for this policy to drop, and I couldn’t be happier to get it out there and start getting this stuff on the shelves,” Chief Master Sgt. of the Space Force Roger A. Towberman said in a news release accompanying the policy. “I appreciate their connection, which brought us these ideas, and the character they’ve shown waiting patiently for us to work through the policy process. It’s time to space it up!”
In addition to more lenient tattoo rules, the new Space Force policy eases restrictions on mustaches, allowing facial hair to extend no more than a quarter of an inch beyond the corners of the mouth.
The new standards also allow men to wear small amounts of foundation or concealer to cover scars or blemishes. Men can’t wear any makeup beyond that, but the policy gives women increased color options for lipstick and nail polish to account for variations in skin tones.
The Space Force policy also includes new rank and lapel insignias, nametags, hat badges, and buttons for guardians, and temporarily makes mess dress optional for all officers until the Space Force version of the uniform is completed.
The branch’s dress uniform design is undergoing final design tweaks and fit alterations and, because of supply chain issues, could still take years to get to guardians. But service members have gotten a few glimpses of the prototype over the past several months. Chief of Space Operations Gen. John W. “Jay” Raymond wore the latest iteration of the uniform last week when he testified before a Senate committee about the Air and Space forces budget request.
Many service members and veterans have speculated that the loosening of grooming standards militarywide is a desperate attempt to bolster recruiting numbers. In fall 2021, the Marine Corps formally acknowledged as much when it loosened its tattoo policy, allowing current and prospective Marines to get inked from shoulders to toes — with the exception of their hands.