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Dress regulations often less restrictive than Marines realize

30 Sep 2013 | Mike DiCicco

With a uniform code that runs close to 300 pages, it’s perhaps no surprise that Marines have some confusion and misconceptions about their dress regulations. Some chapters of the code, though, seem to be better understood than others.

While everyone knows not to roll their sleeves anymore, other rules are the subject of frequent questions and perplexity, said Mary Boyt, program manager for the Marine Corps Uniform Board, part of whose job it is to field such inquiries.

She said one of the most common sources of clothing-related confusion is the Marine Corps running suit.

The running suit jacket can be worn anywhere, on base or off, whether the wearer is exercising or not, and it can be combined with “rainbow gear,” meaning commercial civilian clothes, Boyt said. The trousers can only be worn during physical training, and they can also be combined with rainbow gear.

“If you want to wear the trousers with a green T-shirt or a purple T-shirt, that’s fine,” she said, noting that most Marines think they can’t take their jacket off while wearing the trousers. “If you want to wear a pink Hello Kitty T-shirt with your running suit instead of a green T-shirt, that’s fine.”

She added that she nonetheless did not recommend that particular combination.

Neither piece of the running suit, however, may be combined with elements of the Marine Corps sweat suit.

Another regulation, or lack thereof, that she said may surprise many Marines regards the tradition of tucking in shirts. “The green T-shirt is not required to be tucked in, period,” Boyt said. But she added that commanding officers can require shirt-tucking if they please.

It may also come as a surprise to some that undershirts are not required to be worn with Marine Corps uniforms. “The only time an undershirt is required is at an event where uniformity is required,” Boyt said. The only other undershirt rule is that women may not wear crewneck undershirts under any uniform except combat utilities.

Boyt said many female Marines consider the skirt to be the more senior uniform item. But she said the skirt and the slacks are both appropriate for any occasion, with the exception of those that require uniformity, since the men can’t wear skirts.

Setting other common uniform questions straight: male and female Marines are allowed to wear one ring per hand, with the wedding and engagement rings counting as one; honor bracelets can be silver or black, metal or rubber, but can only be worn one at a time; and ear buds can be worn with the uniform in the gym, if the facility allows it.

Acceptable off-duty civilian clothes are generally dictated by the commanding officer, Boyt said, although the uniform board prohibits visible undergarments — such as boxers or bra straps — and anything obscene or derogatory, while requiring that a belt be worn with anything that has belt loops. Contrary to popular belief, Boyt said, even flip-flops are allowed unless prohibited by the commanding officer.

However, she emphasized that civilian dress must be appropriate to the occasion, and Marines in doubt about civilian dress expectations should look to their command for clarification.

“People complain to me all the time that the regulations are vague or that Marines don’t follow the regulations anymore,” she said, adding that she thinks confusion about the guidelines is more a question of Marines doing their research and staff noncommissioned officers educating and enforcing.

“The regulations are out there,” Boyt said. “I think it’s more a question of enforcement.”

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