The U.S. Marines Corps is considered one of the most elite forces in not only America but the world. Soldiers are held to extraordinarily high standards in all facets of life, including grooming standards.
Marine Corps hair regulations are stern, as are the rules related to facial hair, body pierces, and other personal hygiene.
Are you considering joining the U.S. Marines if you can make it through training? Your ambitions deserve praise. Before you get too far you should understand what your personal appearance expectations will be if becoming a fully qualified member.
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According to the U.S. Marines Corps, members are expected to “present the best possible image at all times and continue to set the example in military presence.”
Marines Corps uniform and USMC hair regulations are established as specific as practicable in order to established the parameters in which Marines must conduct themselves.
The official personal appearance policy of the U.S. Marines Corps notes that it is impossible to provide examples of every appropriate as well as unacceptable hairstyle.
In this article, however, we will break down the general expectations and what the U.S. Armed Forces often refers to “conservative” as opposed to “eccentric” grooming and personal appearance.
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Marine Corps Hair Regulations
Since it is not possible to list every single hairstyle that is acceptable or not acceptable in the U.S. Marine Corps, the official policy states that leaders should use good judgment in deciding what is appropriate.
Enforcement of U.S. Marine Corps grooming standards is comparable to those of the U.S. Navy.
Consequently, Marine Corps hair regulations as well as other grooming standards while in uniform is expected to remain “neat and professional” at all times.
Marine haircut for men policy:
Expectations for male Marines are as defined:
- Must be kept neat, clean, and well-groomed.
- Hair above the ears and around the neck must get tapered from the lower natural hairline upwards at least 3/4 inch and outward not greater than 3/4 inch in order to blend with the regular hairstyle.
- Hair on the back of the neck may not touch the collar.
- Hair is not permitted to be longer than three inches and may not touch the ears, collar, extend below the eyebrows (when headgear is removed), or show under the front edge of headgear when on.
- All in all, hair must never interfere with the safety or practicality of military headgear.
- The bulk of the hair may not exceed approximately two inches. Bulk is defined by the U.S. Armed Forces as the distance that the mass of hair protrudes from the scalp.
- Hair coloring is only allowed in natural colors and must “complement the individual”. Faddish and “outrageous multicolored hair” is not authorized.
Like other branches of the U.S. Military, the Marines do not recognize hairstyles that are considered unique in texture or quality, such as curls or waves.
Therefore, it acknowledges that in some situations it may be difficult to maintain the 3/4 inch taper at the back of the neck. In those circumstances, Marines are allowed to present a graduated appearance that may combine the taper with a line at the back of the neck.
Marines primarily sport cut, clipped, or shaved hairstyles. Special hairstyles (i.e. afro) are permitted if the hairstyle meets the criteria of maximum length as well as bulk. The neck and sides also must be tapered and never interfere with the proper use of military assigned headgear.
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Men are not allowed to have braided or plaited hairstyles when in uniform or in a duty status. During recruit training men must have completely clipped hair to the scalp.
Sideburns must also remain neatly trimmed and tailored similar to the Marine haircut. Sideburns are not allowed to extend below the top of the orifice of the ear. The length of an individual hair of the sideburn may not exceed 1/8 inch.
Furthermore, sideburns must not flare and be clean shaved with a horizontal line at the area level with the middle of the ear. “Muttonchops” or “ship’s captain” looks are not authorized by the U.S. Marines.
Marine haircut for women policy:
Expectations for female Marines is as defined:
- Females must present a professional and balanced appearance at all times.
- The appropriateness of a hairstyle is evaluated and determined based on appearance when headgear is worn.
- The hairstyle must not inhibit military assigned headgear. It must fit snugly and comfortably around the head without “distortion or excessive gaps”.
- Hair length may extend to the uniform of the Marine collar, but not fall below the collar’s lower edge. Marines with longer hair than that may neatly pin and fasten the hair so long as it maintains a clean presentation.
- Hair is not authorized to protrude from the opening in the back of a ball cap, except when wearing a bun or ponytail. Buns and ponytails must be positioned in the back of the head to make sure headgear fits properly.
- Hair bulk (not including the bun) is measured from the scalp and is not allowed to exceed 2 inches. When the bun is also measured, the bulk must be under 3 inches.
- Lopsided or “extremely asymmetrical hairstyles” are not allowed. Angled hairstyles may only have 1 to 1/2 inch different between the front and back length of the hair.
An exception is made during periods of physical training in which PT clothing is worn. In those circumstances, hair is allowed to fall naturally, and does not need to get fastened or pinned. However, the allowance does not apply when conducting PT in a utility uniform.
In general, no “trendy or eccentric styles” are authorized by the U.S. Marines when in uniform.
Braids are permitted so long as they are neatly fastened, pinned, or secured and follow the above guidelines when headgear is also used.
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Bangs may not extend below the eyebrows. Hair, regardless if natural or artificial (wigs, hair extensions, etc) must remain a natural hair color.
The U.S. Navy (which Marines also follow in terms of many hairstyle guidelines), defines natural hair colors like blonde, brunette, red, brown, gray, or black. Hair extensions must match the current color of the rest of the hair.
Wigs and hairpieces must maintain a presentable quality and fit with a natural appearance. Highlights and special hair tints must resemble natural hair colors and look similar to the current base color.
For more guidelines on specific hairstyles authorized by the U.S. Navy and Marines, please click here.
Marine Corps Beard and Mustache Regulations
Marine mustache regs and other facial hair is closely monitored by the elite force Commanding Officers.
A few of the most important things to note:
- A Marine mustache is allowed after recruit training. The rest of the face must be clean-shaven daily.
- The mustache is only permitted when neatly trimmed and must be contained within vertical lines from the corners of the mouth to the margin area of the upper lip.
- The individual length of hair on the mustache (when fully extended) must not exceed 1/2 inch.
- Aside from a mustache, eyebrows, and eyelashes, no other facial hair is allowed by the Marines unless a medical officer has provided a waiver, or “shaving chit”.
Facial hair grooming standards are enforced so tightly in the Marines that those that are granted a “shaving chit” should always have the paperwork on them at all times in the event they are stopped by higher-ranking Marines.
Though some Marines decide to have a mustache so long as it fits within the above guidelines, the majority of members are notoriously clean shaven.
The one exception is chest hair, which technically doesn’t fall within facial hair but is still specified under Marine personal appearance policy.
Marines are not required to have chest hair clipped except in cases where the body hair is long enough that it protrudes in an unsightly manner above the collar.
Marine Corps Piercing Policy
Marine piercings and body art are closely monitored by the elite force.
This branch of the U.S. Armed Forces takes up a similar approach to body piercings as the U.S. Navy.
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It allows jewelry that is conservative in certain instances with female Marines having more leeway than male Marines.
Like hairstyles, the Marines provides accommodations for body piercings so long as they are not eccentric. Men are not authorized to have earrings while in uniform.
They also may not wear them in civilian attire while on duty, abroad, operating with military-owned equipment/methods of transport, or jurisdictions.
Meanwhile, women are allowed to have one earring per ear while in uniform. There are many rules as to what type of earrings are authorized.
Earrings must be between 4mm and 6mm. Approximately 1/8 to 1/4 inch, the earrings must also look plain with a specified finish. There are different standards for earrings based on the uniform being worn.
For example, more leniency is granted in Dress Uniforms than with Working and Service Uniforms.
As for body piercings, they are not authorized in the U.S. Navy or U.S. Marines. Women are only allowed to have earrings, and men are not allowed body piercings of any kind.
The rule extends to not only being in uniform, but also in civilian attire when in duty status or while in/aboard U.S. Military jurisdictions. It is also not considered appropriate while participating in any organized military recreational activity.
Other Grooming Standards
Here are some other important considerations to have when thinking about joining the U.S. Marines Corps:
- Fingernails: They need to be trimmed often and cleaned. Officers consider this an important part of male hygiene.
- Fragrances (Cologne): It is allowed so long as it is not overpowering. The best advice is to use caution and only have a small bit of cologne or another fragrance on your body.
- Makeup: Cosmetics are allowed on female Marines but must be applied conservatively. They also must compliment the individual complexion of the soldier.
- Lipstick: It is permitted so long as it harmonizes and doesn’t distract from overall appearance.
- Fingernails / Toenails: Nails are allowed so long as they are no more than 1/4 inch from the tip of the finger. They must be closely maintained and cleaned.
- Nail Polish: It is allowed on female members but once again must not be considered eccentric in the eyes of a higher ranking Marine. The color needs to harmonize with the scarlet cord of the green service cap. Fingernails with multiple colors are not allowed.
- Perfumes / Fragrances: Like men, it is permitted so long as the scent is not overpowering.
Accessories like combs, barrettes, rubber bands, etc are permitted if concealed by the hair. Hairpins or bobby pins are also authorized if they remain inconspicuous.
We actually have a full article on the Marines Tattoo Policy here.
Read that article to get the most up-to-date info on what tattoos you can have, and which ones you can’t!
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The U.S. Marine Corps enforce strict standards in terms of haircuts and grooming standards. They are very comparable the U.S. Navy, which falls under its department.
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Marine Corps hair regulations, Marine mustache regs, and piercings are best followed with a conservative approach.
Grooming Standards for other Military Branches
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Are you allowed to have a beard or mustache in the Marine Corps?
Beards are not authorized. Mustaches, on the other hand, are. You need to meet certain criteria, and they are not allowed while you're in recruit training.
Do females have their heads shaved in Marine Corps Recruit Training?
Females do not have their heads shaved in recruit training. However, if the hair length falls below the collar, they will cut it to meet the standards.
Can I have tattoos in the Marines?
Marines can have tattoos anywhere on their chest, back, torso, upper thighs, groin area, and upper arms.
Are ponytails allowed?
Females are allowed to wear ponytails, provided they are positioned in the back of the head to make sure headgear fits properly.