Spanish army skirts around tattoo troubles by launching ‘unisex’ uniform

Alex Dunham
Alex Dunham - [email protected]
Spanish army skirts around tattoo troubles by launching ‘unisex’ uniform
emale recruits will now be able to wear the same uniform as men (including those concealing trousers) at official military occasions. Photo: AFP

Spain’s Ministry of Defense has tweaked its uniform rulebook after a female recruit was kicked out of the army for showing a tattoo on her ankle; visible with the previously mandatory skirt she had to wear at military parades.


Spanish Defence has modified the uniform chapter of the rulebook budding recruits use to prepare for the state entry exams to the country’s Armed Forces.

The decision comes after psychology graduate Estela Martín was expelled from the selection process for having a tattoo of a lotus flower on her ankle.

After spotting Martín’s tattoo during swimming trials, the chairman of the selection committee deemed she was unsuited to join the military, as for official Armed Forces events and parades female recruits had to wear a regimentary skirt.

According to Spanish army regulations. visible tattoos are expressly forbidden while wearing any uniform of the Armed Forces.

Before the change, female recruits would generally wear army trousers (that in turn could serve to conceal tattoos) but were not always allowed to.

One other woman was expelled from the selection process for sporting a tattoo on her foot, yet two men with tattoos on the heel and on the calves were accepted in. 

For thirty-year-old Martín, who had quit a hospital job to prepare for the army entry exams, the unfairness of her dismissal merited a visit to Spain’s public ombudsman, who deemed the Armed Forces’s uniform regulations discriminatory. 

Her dilemma has been widely covered by the Spanish press in recent days, spurring Spain’s Ministry of Defense to rethink their outdated uniform rulebook.

On Monday July 9 they announced the inclusion of a modified paragraph that reads "tattoos, earrings, spikes and inserts, self-mutilation or similar will not be visible while wearing the uniform of the Armed Forces, common to both women and men."

Therefore as seen below, female recruits will now be able to wear the same uniform as men (including those concealing trousers) for official military occasions. 


Source: Spanish Ministry of Defence 

The uniform clause adds that "in formations with weaponry female personnel will wear trousers” while in “formations without weaponry the head of the unit may authorise the optional use of a skirt”.

This seems to imply that the choice will also be extended to official occasions when army skirts were once obligatory for female recruits.

It is unclear if Martín, from Madrid, will be allowed back into the selection process. 

Even before the uniform amendment, she had pointed out that the skirt uniform includes black tights, which would effectively conceal any leg or foot tattoos, rendering the whole crisis unnecessary in the first place. 

Worth noting as well is the fact that the Armed Forces no-tattoo rule is also only applicable to new recruits, not to individuals who are already part of the army.

Not to mention La Legión, an elite military unit, whose soldiers are known for being heavily tattooed without any consequence.


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