Marine Corps Grooming Standards (Hair, Uniform, Tattoos)

U.S. Marines Grooming, Appearance, Tattoo Policies

Women in the Marines in uniform
Women Attend Marine Boot Camp At Parris Island, South Carolina. Scott Olson / Getty Images

Each of the military services have grooming standards for their military personnel, as part of their Dress & Appearance or Uniform regulations. For the United States Marine Corps, grooming standards are contained in Marine Corps Order (MCO) P1020.34F - MARINE CORPS UNIFORM REGULATIONS and are shown below:

General

Head or facial body hair cannot be grown or cut in a way to yield eccentricities from the Marine appearance.

Hair coloring must be natural colors and complement a person's skin tone must appear professional. Fingernails will be kept clean and neatly trimmed so as not to interfere with performance of duty, detract from military image or present a safety hazard. Nail polish for male Marines is not allowed. Nail polish as it applies to female Marines will fall under standards explained below.

Men

Men will be well groomed at all times and will abide by the following:

Hair and sideburns will be neat and closely trimmed, cut tight and with no flare and will not be over 3 inches in length fully extended on the upper portion of the head. Sideburns will not extend below the top of the orifice of the ear. The length of an individual hair of the sideburn will not exceed 1/8 inch when fully extended.

Head hair will be styled so as not to interfere with the proper wear of uniform headgear. Hair which protrudes from beneath properly worn headgear in an unsightly manner is considered excessive, regardless of length.

Keep it high and tight.

Male Marines are required to have hair completely clipped to the scalp while a recruit at recruit training, but if he so chooses can maintain the clipped look is he so desires. 

Facial Hair

A mustache maybe worn after recruit training, but the face must be clean shaven daily. The mustache will be neatly trimmed and must be contained within imaginary vertical lines from the corners of the mouth and the margin area of the upper lip.

The individual length of a mustache hair fully extended must not exceed 1/2 inch.

Except for a mustache, eyebrows, and eyelashes; hair may be grown on the face only when a medical officer has determined that shaving is temporarily harmful to the individual's health. In these cases, the medical officer may issue a temporary "shaving chit" - a waiver to stop shaving.  You will need to carry it around with you at all times as you will likely be stopped by numerous higher ranking Marines throughout your day.

No male Marine will be required to have his chest hair clipped except that which is so long as to protrude in an unsightly manner above the collar of the long sleeve khaki shirt.

Women

Female Marines are required to maintain hair that is standard within the Marine Corps population. No trendy or eccentric styles are allowed and all Marines will be well groomed at all times when in uniform. 

Hair length may extend to the Marine's uniform collar, but will not fall below the collar's lower edge. However, a Marine with long hair may neatly pin and fasten the hair as long as it maintains a neat look. During physical training periods in which physical training clothing is worn, hair will be allowed to fall naturally, without being fastened or pinned.

This does not apply when conducting physical training in the utility uniform.

Hair will be styled so as not to interfere with the proper wear of the uniform headgear. All headgear will fit snugly and comfortably around the largest part of the head without distortion or excessive gaps. Hairstyles which do not allow the headgear to be worn in this manner are prohibited.

Tattoo Policy as of 2017

Under MCBUL 1020, the official way to measure tattoos to make sure Marines are in compliance are the following: The elbow-measuring tool and knee-measuring tool. Along with that Marines will use their own hands in order to measure how big the visible portion of a tattoo may be. If a single tattoo exceeds the bounds of the individual Marine’s hand then it is prohibited.

Rule #1: Any tattoo, regardless of where it is cannot express sexism, nudity, racism, vulgarity, or anything that is offensive and brings discredit to the Marine Corps.

Rule #2: Marines when wearing a properly fitting standard physical training uniform - green t-shirt and green shorts - can have an unlimited number of tattoos as long as they are covered by the PT uniform.

Rule #3: Marines are prohibited from getting tattoos on the head, neck, inside the mouth, wrists, knees, elbows and hands with the exception of a single band tattoo of no more than three-eighths of an inch in width on one finger (wedding ring tattoo).

Other Hair Fads and Cosmetics

Trendy fads and exaggerated styles to include shaved portions of the scalp other than the neckline, designs cut in the hair, unsecured ponytails and styles which are distinctly unbalanced or lopsided are prohibited.

Multiple braiding is authorized and if hair extensions are used in the braiding of the hair, the extensions must have the same general appearance as the individual's natural hair. Barrettes, combs, rubber bands, etc. are authorized if concealed by the hair. Inconspicuous hair pins and bobby pins, if required, are authorized. Hair nets will not be worn unless authorized for a specific type of duty. Wigs, if worn in uniform, must look natural and conform to the above regulations.

Cosmetics, if worn, will be applied conservatively and will complement the individual's complexion tone. . If worn, nail polish and non-eccentric lipstick will harmonize with the scarlet shade used in various service and dress uniform items (i.e. scarlet cord on green service cap, scarlet trim on blue dress uniform, and scarlet background on enlisted insignia of grade), in shades of red, and may be worn with the service, blue dress, blue-white dress and evening dress uniforms. Colored nail polish will not be worn with the utility uniform. Fingernails with multiple colors and decorative ornamentation are prohibited. Nail length will be no longer than 1/4 inch from the tip of the finger.

No female Marine will be required to remove leg hair except where considered unsightly and cannot be covered with appropriate hosiery.