Marine Corps Hairstyles

Background Information (this page is constantly evolving, so please be patient as we continue to develop it)

While the Marine Corps allows some individuality when it comes to hairstyles, all Marines are required to maintain their hair in neat and professional MILITARY hairstyles.  There is a difference between a neat and professional civilian hairstyle and a neat and professional military hairstyle.  The guidance below is provided as a tool to help commanders and Marines decide what is within the spirit and context of the Regulations and what isn't. 

There are two guidelines you must keep in mind when deciding how to style your hair.  First, hairstyles may not interfere with the wear all uniform headgear, to include helmets.  If your hairstyle does not allow you to properly wear your headgear (in your proper size), you will need to change your hairstyle and remain within the hairstyle guidelines detailed in the Regulations.   Second, there are “bulk of the hair” limitations.  As you hair lies flat on your head it may not extend beyond 2 inches from your scalp.  So, if you wear a hairstyle that adds a lot of depth to your hair, you need to take into account the bulk limits.  These limits apply to all hair textures and styles.  Buns cannot be wider than the head or extend out more than 3 inches from the scalp. 

Helpful hint:  a CAC card is 3 inches long, you can use that to determine if the bun is too big.

The pictures below are not all-inclusive, but just what has been collected to date.  It is impossible to depict every hairstyle ever created, but if you are interested in one of the below hairstyles or an element of a below hairstyle, you need to read the regulations and if there is any doubt, contact the Uniform Board before you commit to the style (provide a picture please), as there is a chance that the hairstyle will be out of regulation.  If you have a picture you would like posted on this site, please send a digital picture here (all facial features of the individual will be removed before posting).  This page is intended as a tool to aid in the decision making process (to style or not to style) and to aid in the enforcement of existing regulations.

Bottom line – If your hairstyle does not fall within the guidance detailed in the Uniform Regulations you will have to restyle it, and that might require you to take drastic action (i.e. cutting the hair short to get back into the required standards).


FEMALE HAIRSTYLES  (male hairstyle information is below the female information)

CMC decisions from Uniform Board 215:  Locks, twists and braids are now authorized hairstyles for all female Marines.  Some of these hairstyles will be limited by hair texture (curlier hair textures works better with some styles, as straight hair will not hold the style).   

TWIST HAIRSTYLE:  Two sections of hair twisted together, which forms a rope or cord-like appearance.

LOCK HAIRSTYLE:  One section of hair that twists from or near the root to the ends of  the hair, which creates a uniform ringlet or cord-like appearance.

MUPTIPLE BRAIDS: Three or more sections of hair interlaced.

NATURAL HAIR:  Is authorized, no matter the texture of the hair and must conform to all existing style regulations (to include bulk of the hair, not to exceed 2 inches, and hair may not interfere with the proper wear of headgear or protrude at distinct angles).


Multiple Braids (also known as microbraids and cornrows) – authorized as long as the grooming regulations are followed.  A multiple braid is defined as more than 2 braids.  If you are going to wear multiple braids it must encompass the whole head (except hangs maybe left unbraided).  You may not inter-mix multiple braids with locks and twists (only one style is authorized at a time).  If you are wearing one or two braids, the below “rules of thumb” do not apply.

Rule of thumb for braids:

1.  Braids may be worn in long and medium length hair only.

2.  Braids must not interfere with the wear of all headgear.

3.  Braids must continue to the end of the natural hair in one direction (no zig-zagging, curving or ending before the end of the natural hair to dangle as a wisp or loose hair-braids should go in a straight line, back to front) and should encompass the whole head (except when bangs are worn).  Loose hair at the end of the braid must then be secured up in a manner approved for long hairstyles.

4.  There should be no more than 3/8 of an inch visible scalp between each braid and the individual braid diameter may be no bigger than 3/8 of an inch (you can mix the size of the braids within your style).

Helpful hint:  a standard pencil diameter is slightly smaller than 3/8 of an inch, but is a good target size to shoot for.  A standard paper clip’s width is 3/8 of an inch.

5.  Commanders have the ultimate responsibility for determining when a hairstyle is eccentric or faddish.

6.  Read the regulations before you commit to this hairstyle to ensure you are within guidelines.  Remember, it is a time intensive and expensive hairstyle, do your homework before you get it styled.  Do it wrong and you will have to take it out and start over.  Styles that exceed or deviate from the established guidelines are not authorized.

Examples of Multiple Braids:

A.        B.  C.  D. Hair1  E.

Notes:  Pictures A and B depict authorized braid hairstyles.  Picture B shows long, partial multiple braids that have been pulled up into a bun (notice the bun has unbraided hair in it).  Picture C shows multiple braids that would not be authorized because it results in a bun that extends more than three inches from the scalp.  Remember, braids and extensions add bulk to the hair and you must consider that before adopting the hairstyle.  Pictures D and E would be unauthorized hairstyles because the patterns in the braids/root area and the direction of the braids.

Locks and Twists Per Uniform Board 215, CMC approved the wear of both locks and twists.   A properly styled lock and twist hairstyle provides a military appearance similar to the multiple braid a hairstyle and all three hairstyles have the same basic dimension regulations. 

Rule of thumb for locks and twists:

1.  Twists may be worn in medium and long length hair.  Locks may be worn in short, medium and long length hair.

2.  Locks and twists must not interfere with the wear of all headgear and cannot extend beyond the “bulk of hair” limits.

3.  Locks and twists must continue to the end of the hair in one direction (no zig-zagging, curving or ending before the end of the lock or twist to dangle as a wisp or loose hair) and should encompass the whole head (except when bangs are worn.  Locks partings must be square or rectangular in shape in order to maintain a neat and professional appearance.

4.  Only braids and twists may be secured to the scalp (hair is continually added to the braid or twist (kind of like a French braid) as it continues to follow the contour of the head, in one direction).  When secured to the head, individual braids and twist will be s mall in diameter (no more than 3/8 inch) and will be tightly interlaced or twisted to present and neat and professional military appearance.  The amount of scalp visible in “secured” twists and braids depends on the thickness of the individual’s hair.  Individual lock/twist diameter may be no bigger than 3/8 of an inch (you can mix the size of the locks/twists within your style).

5.  Braids, twists and locks can be loose (free-hanging, where no hair, other than hair extensions that are attached at the end of the natural hair, is added to the braid, twist or lock once it is started).    When worn loose, individual braids, twists and locks will be spaced no more than 3/8 inch apart, will be small in diameter (no more than 3/8 inch), and will be tightly interlaced/twisted to present a neat and professional military appearance.

6.  New growth (defined as hair that naturally grows from the scalp and has not yet been braided, twisted or locked) will not exceed ½ inch at any time.  Braids, twists and locks that do not meet these standards and do not present a neat and professional military appearance will not be worn in uniform.

7.  Commanders have ultimate responsibility for determining when a hairstyle is eccentric or faddish.

8.  You may not mix braid, lock or twists in the same style.  You may however braid, twist or lock your hair, then further secure it into a French braid or bun (as depicted in picture C below).

9.  Read the regulations before you commit to thEse hairstyleS to ensure you are within guidelines.  Remember, these styles are time intensive and expensive, do your homework before you get it styled.  While some locks can be undone with a lot of time and effort, some cannot, so if you are not within regulations and can’t repair the style to get within regulations, you will have to cut the locks out. 

A.         B.    C.     D.   E. Utilities_No_Cover_Back_2[1] F.

Note:  Picture A is a twist hairstyle (notice how similar in appearance it is to multiple braids).  Picture A depicts long, loose/free flowing (not secured to the head beyond the initial twist location) twists.  If you have long twists, you must further secure it up per long hair regulations (in a bun, in a French braid…).  With hair this long and twists in the maximum diameter (3/8 in), there is a lot of added bulk.  If this hair were further pulled up into a bun or French braid there is concern that both the bulk of the hair and bun size standards would be exceeded, so you need to take that into account before adopting the hairstyle.    Pictures B and C depict a Marine with a secured twist hairstyle further pulled up into a bun.  The twists are within the 3/8 diameter restrictions and because the twist is secured to the head (actually attached to the head by adding hair to the twist as it continues down the head to the nape of the neck, where it is then becomes loose twists), there is no visible scalp restriction (this restriction only applies to loose/free flowing locks/twists/braids). Pictures D through F depict authorized lock hairstyles in uniform.  As you can see, a properly styled lock is very similar in appearance (same 3/8 inch diameter restrictions) to multiple twists and braids.  Because the Marine in pictures D and D has long locks she has to  further secure it up without exceeding the bun or bulk of hair restrictions (the bun is close to exceeding the width of her head). Picture F is medium length locks (the lighter color at the bottom is an issue). 

Helpful Hint:  The width of your CAC card is 2 ¼ inch.  You can use the width of the card as a basic measurement tool if you don’t have a ruler handy (keeping in mind that it is ¼ inch too wide).

Gallery of Authorized Female Hairstyles (under construction)



Male Marines, like female Marines, are charged with maintaining a neat and professional appearance.  While male hairstyle options are more limited than females, there is still plenty of room to express your individuality.  There are some basic rules you must follow (no longer than 3 inches, bulk of hair cannot exceed 2 inches…), you can use hair products and can grow your hair out to the maximum length (as long as it is graduated from zero) or shave it clean, your choice.  There is no Marine Corps rule that dictates how often you have to get your hair cut.  You cut your hair as often as you need to in order to stay within the regulations.  Like female Marines, if you decide to get eccentric with your hairstyle you might have to cut your hair to get back within regulations.  Below are some basic rules you must follow with your hairstyle of choice.

Basic Rules

1.  Hair may be no longer than 3 inches long and the bulk of the hair (as you hair lies flat on your head it may not extend beyond 2 inches from your scalp) restriction applies equally to male Marines.

2.  Even graduation at the hairline from zero, at the nape of the neck is the rule of thumb.  If your hair at the nape of the neck starts at any length other than zero and does not evenly graduate up to zero, then you our out of regulation and need to visit a barber.  This style is what the Uniform Board likes to call a “Navy low regulation” or business hairstyle or “little boy” haircut.  To be an authorized Marine Corps low regulation haircut, remember you need to have even graduation from zero at the hairline at the nape of the neck.

3.  No sideburns.

4.  Bangs are authorized.

5.  Parts are authorized but need to be off center, must go straight back and can be placed no further out then the outside corner of the eye, and cannot extend over the back of the head.  If it is on the side of the head it is not authorized.  A part can be carved into the hair if desired.

Gallery of Authorized Male Hairstyles (Under Construction)


Headquarters Marine Corps