The Basics of Marine Corps Grooming Standards

The Rules for hair, tattoos, uniform, and more

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

The grooming standards of the U.S. Marine Corps may have changed a bit over the years, but not that much.

The grooming standards are contained in Marine Corps Order (MCO) P1020.34F - Marine Corps Uniform Regulations. Here are some highlights.

General Rules

Head or facial hair cannot be grown or cut in a way that yields eccentricities in appearance. Hair coloring must be a natural color and complement a person's skin tone. Fingernails must be kept clean and neatly trimmed so as not to interfere with the performance of duty, detract from the military image, or present a safety hazard. Nail polish for male Marines is not allowed.

Male Grooming

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 three inches in length. 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 in recruit training, and may retain this style if desired. 

Facial Hair

  • A mustache may be 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" or 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.

Standards for 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 that do not allow the headgear to be worn in this manner are prohibited.

Tattoo Policy

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 can have an unlimited number of tattoos as long as they are covered by the standard physical training 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 (a wedding ring tattoo).

Other Fads and Cosmetics for Women

Trendy fads and exaggerated styles including shaved portions of the scalp other than the neckline, designs cut in the hair, unsecured ponytails, and styles that 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.

If worn, nail polish and noneccentric lipstick will harmonize with the scarlet shade used in various service and dress uniform items, such as the scarlet cord of the green service cap. 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.