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Female Marines now have more options as hair regulations are relaxed

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The Marine Corps Uniform Board No. 220, has relaxed the hair standards for women while wearing the uniform, and women will be allowed to wear ponytails for the first time. 

The Marine Corps is the last service allowing female troops to wear at least half ponytails. The Navy was the first service to allow ponytails back in 2018, the Air Force allowed them last year, and the Army followed suit in May 2022. 

The new regulations are effective immediately. 

The following illustration from the Marine Corps shows the hairstyles and proper regulations for female Marines’ hair lengths. 

Female Marines' new hair regulations

Marine Corps spokesperson Maj. Jim Stenger said in a released statement, “These changes are indicative of our disciplined approach to uniformity without sacrificing the health and safety of our female Marines.

“We are grateful for the continued feedback from our Marines in addressing uniform updates and modifications. It’s because of conversations like those that our leadership can make positive change,” he added.

The Corps stated that all hairstyles must lend a “neat and professional” appearance.

Related: The Marine Corps is facing a crisis that will shape its future identity

Female Marines in Fallujah, Iraq
Female Marines part of the Marine Corps FST, or female search team in Fallujah, Iraq. (USMC photo by Sgt. Geoffrey P. Ingersoll)

Female Marines are now discouraged from using the former practice of pulling their hair tightly back into a bun. That practice required a lot of alcohol-based hairsprays, damaged hair follicles, and resulted in many women Marines losing their hair in an ailment called traction alopecia, where the hair is literally pulled from its roots. 

“In order to minimize potential damage from daily hairstyling, Marines are encouraged to avoid alcohol-based styling products, styling wet hair, and hairstyles that cause undue tension on hair follicles,” the MARADMIN reads. “There is no requirement to have tightly pulled back or slicked back hair at any length.”

CW2 Jessica Brooks, 36, of Bradenton Beach, FL, told Stars and Stripes that she welcomes the changes, as the bun interfered with her weapons marksmanship. 

“I’ve shot in the burn before during fire drills, and I used to get in trouble because I would take my hair down so I could kneel down and shoot,” Brooks said. 

Wearing their hair in a bun is a safety concern and interferes with female Marines’ marksmanship training. It pushes the Kevlar helmet down and obstructs their vision when kneeling or in the prone position.  

Brooks added, “I think overall (what) the Marine Corps is progressing to is more of a safety concern because the Marine Corps has heard our voice and complaints, and this was a safety issue.”

Related: Mixed-gender Marine Corps Boot Camp units reveal surprising findings

Regs Separate Hair Into Three Categories

female marines hair regulations
U.S. Marine Corps enlistees Emily Warren, Carlota Rolden, Dylan Kowalski and Maria Daume meet Maj. Gen. Paul Kennedy, then commanding general of Marine Corps Recruiting Command, outside of the Fox News building in New York City, Aug. 17, 2016. (Photo by Cpl. Brandon Thomas/USMC)

The Marine Corps has divided the regulations into three separate hair categories: short, medium, and long hair length. 

Short hair: Short hair length is described as the length of hair no longer than one inch, not including bangs. The hair length may be no shorter than 1/4 of an inch but can be evenly graduated to within two inches of the hairline.

Women with short hair can now wear their hair with twists, something that was previously only allowed for female Marines with medium-length or long hair. 

Medium hair: Medium hair is described as hair length that does not extend past the lower edge of the collar of all uniforms and extends no more than one inch from the scalp.

Medium hairstyles are not required to be secured while in uniform, and graduated hairstyles are authorized only if the graduation does not exceed more than one inch in length, from front to back. The medium hairstyle will not exceed more than two inches in length.

Long hair: Long hair is defined as hair extending below the collar’s lowest edge. Long hair must be neatly and inconspicuously pinned, with no visible barrettes. The regulations also state bangs may be worn when hair is pinned up. Visible barrettes and unsecured ponytails are only authorized for physical training. Bangs, for all hair lengths, may not be visible when wearing headgear and must lie neatly against the head.

The new regulation authorizes a wider range of styles for female Marines with long hair.

Steve Balestrieri is a proven military analyst. He served as a US Army Special Forces NCO and Warrant Officer in the 7th Special Forces Group. In addition to writing for, he has written for and; he has covered the NFL for for over 11 years. His work was regularly featured in the Millbury-Sutton Chronicle and Grafton News newspapers in Massachusetts.

Feature Image: U.S. Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Jason Varnadoe, a native of Lubricity, Ga., and drill instructor at Marine Corps Recruit Depot, Parris Island, S.C., instructs the female poolees of Recruiting Station Detroit during the bi-annual female pool function at the Boys and Girls Club of Troy, Michigan, June 20, 2015. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Gunnery Sgt. J.R. Heins/Released)

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