Because the Blue Dress uniform is considered formal wear, Blue Dress "C" and "D" are rarely worn. The main exception are Marine Recruiters and Marine Corps Security Guards, which will wear the "C" and "D" in warm weather. Only the "B", "C", and "D" Blue Dress uniforms are authorized for leave and liberty wear; the "A" is not.
General officers have a two-inch wide scarlet "blood stripe" down the outer seam of each leg of their blue dress trousers; field and company grade officers have a 1 1/2-inch wide scarlet stripe down the outer seam of each leg of their blue dress trousers; and Staff NCOs and NCOs have a 1 1/8-inch wide scarlet stripe down the outer seam of each leg of their blue dress trousers. General officers wear trousers that are the same color as the coat, while other officers, Staff NCOs, and NCO's wear medium (sky) blue trousers.
A blue crewneck sweater, in the same color shade as that of the trousers, may be worn with the "C" and "D" uniforms, in which case rank insignia will continue to be worn on the collar by officers and all ranks will wear rank insignia on shoulder eppaulets (polished brass for enlisted). The collar is worn on the outside of the sweater in order to display the rated rank insignia of officers. When wearing the crewneck sweater with the long sleeve khaki shirt, a tie is not required.
Prior to 1998, the "Blue-White" dress uniform was authorized to be worn for the ceremonial units at Marine Barracks, 8th & I in Washington, D.C. (most famously the Silent Drill Platoon and Color guard). Since then, it has become the authorized summer dress uniform for all officers (it replaced, in 2000, an all-white uniform, similar in appearance to that of the Naval Officer/CPO white dress uniform), SNCOs (unless they are in formation with NCOs and junior enlisted personnel who are not authorized to wear the uniform), and by NCOs and junior enlisted personnel for ceremonies and social events only, if authorized and provided by the command structure.
Like the Blue Dress uniform, the Blue-White Dress consists of an "A" and "B" uniform, and is worn in the same manner as that of the Blue Dress uniform, except for the trousers, skirt, or slacks being white instead of blue. As with the Dress Blues, the "A" is not authorized for leave and liberty wear. The white trousers are not authorized for wear with either the long-sleeved or the short-sleeved khaki shirt, precluding "C" and "D" uniforms.
Like the Blue-White Dress uniform, musicians are not authorized to wear the khaki shirts with the Red-Dress Uniform. Should the condition warrant (summer heat), the band will wear the appropriate Dress or Service uniforms.
The Evening Dress is the most formal (and by U.S. Military standards, the most elaborate) of the Dress uniforms, and is the equivalent of white tie in usage. It is only authorized for wear by officers and SNCO's, and only a required uniform item for senior officers (Majors and above). It comes in three varieties:
Junior officers not required to possess Evening Dress may substitute Blue or Blue-White dress "A". It is appropriate for such occasions as State functions, inaugural receptions and dinners, and formal dinners.
Like the Blue Dress uniform, the service uniform is authorized for wear while off-duty (on leave or liberty).
The Service uniforms are designated:
There are three types of authorized headwear for the service uniform. Both males and females may wear the green soft garrison cap, sometimes nicknamed a "piss cutter". There is the option of wearing a hard-framed service cap (called a Barracks Cover). The design of these covers differ between females and males. As on the Blue Dress uniform, officers wear rank insignia on the shoulder epaulettes of their jackets and the collars of their shirts, while enlisted personnel wear rank insignia sewn on their sleeves.
A green crewneck sweater may be worn with the "B" and "C" uniforms, in which case rank insignia will continue to be worn on the collar by officers and all ranks will wear rank insignia on shoulder eppaulets (black for enlisted). The collar is worn on the outside of the sweater in order to display the rated rank insignia of officers. When wearing the crewneck sweater with the long sleeve khaki shirt, a tie is not required.
The Marine Corps Combat Utility Uniform or MCCUU is intended for wear in the field or for working parties, but has become the typical working uniform for all deployed and most garrison Marines and Sailors. It is rendered in MARPAT digital camouflage that breaks up the wearer's shape, and also serves to distinguish Marine uniforms from those of other services. Previously, Marines wore the same utility uniforms as the Army. It consists of MARPAT blouse and trousers, green undershirt, and tan (specifically "olive mojave") suede boots. There are two approved varieties of MARPAT, woodland/winter (green/brown/black) and desert/summer (tan/brown/grey). To further distinguish the uniform, upon close examination, the Eagle, Globe, and Anchor can be found within the pattern
The variety worn depends on the environment and season: Deployed Marines wear whichever color is more appropriate to the climate and terrain, Marines in garrison wear the woodland MCCUU with long sleeves, and the desert MCCUU with sleeves rolled up in summer months (the transition occurs simultaneously with Daylight Saving Time). When rolled, the sleeves of the blouse are tightly folded up to the biceps, exposing the lighter inside layer, and forming a neat cuff to present a crisper appearance to the otherwise formless uniform. In the past, when Marines wore the same utilities as the Army and Air Force, this served to distinguish them from the other branches, who folded the sleeves in with the camo facing out. In Haiti, the practice earned them the nickname "whitesleeves".
Both officers and enlisted wear rank insignia on each collar, which is affixed like a pin and not sewn on as in the Army/Air Force. Enlisted insignia is always black, while officers wear bright metal insignia in garrison and subdued insignia (or none at all) in the field. Most badges and breast insignia are authorized for wear on the Utility uniform, shined or subdued as appropriate. Landing Support Marines also wear the Red Patch insignia.
Unlike the Dress and Service uniforms, utilities are not permitted for wear on leave or liberty (while off-duty), except when traveling in a vehicle to or from a place of duty, or in emergency stops.
The approved headwear is the utility cover, an eight-pointed brimmed hat that is worn "blocked", that is, creased and peaked. In the field, a boonie cover is also authorized. The trouser legs are "bloused", or the cuffs are rolled inside and tightened over their boots with a spring or elastic band known as a boot band or blousing garter. With the introduction of the Marine Corps Martial Arts Program (MCMAP), Marines now wear color-coded rigger's belts instead of the old web belt, indicating their level of proficiency in MCMAP (the web belt was phased out in 2008 due to a requirement for all Marines to achieve a tan belt rank by then).
In combat, Marine will also wear one of two ballistic vests: the Outer Tactical Vest and the newer Modular Tactical Vest, as well as the Lightweight Helmet (replacing the PASGT helmet) and Improved Load Bearing Equipment. Marines in a combat area may also wear Flame resistant organizational gear, or FROG uniforms. These combat uniforms are designed to reduce fire-related injuries, and look quite similar to the MCCUU.
The wear of the MCCUU by civilian contractors deploying with Marine units was granted early in the Iraq War, but rescinded in early 2008.
The Physical training uniform or PT uniform consists of one of the following pairs:
Commanders will soon be able to authorize a new green tracksuit with gold and scarlet "Marines" lettering and reflective trim as the proper wear. It was unveiled during a tour of Iraq in December 2007, by Commandant of the Marine Corps General James Conway. It will be issued to Marines free of cost, having begun in February of 2008 and will be mandatory possession by the end of 2009.
Navy Officers and enlisted sailors assigned to Marine units are authorized to wear all USMC uniforms except the Dress and Evening Dress uniforms. If they choose to wear Marine uniforms, they must meet Marine grooming and physical regulations, as well as replace Marine insignia with Naval insignia whenever feasible. These members of the Fleet Marine Force include Doctors, Dentists, Chaplains, Nurses, Medical Service, Corpsmen, and Religious Program Specialists.
Like any uniform, Marine uniforms have many symbols whose function may not be obvious. One of the most notable adornments is the Eagle, Globe, and Anchor, found in some manner on most uniforms; it is even within the Marpat digital camouflage pattern. It is also the standard cap badge for all uniform covers.
The "blood stripe" is found on the outside seams of the dress uniform pants of NCOs and officers. It represents the high casualty rates of those leaders during the Battle of Chapultepec. Officers wearing the Evening Dress uniform also have additional gold trim on the trouser stripe.
Various uniforms display rank insignia differently. Enlisted Marines will wear chevrons on the sleeves of all uniforms but the Utility and other working uniforms: gold stripes on red for the Dress coat, green stripes on red for the service coat, green stripes on khaki for the khaki short and long sleeve shirts, and black metal or plastic pin-on insignia on the collar of the utility and other working uniforms and the all weather coat. The same insignia is pinned on the epaulettes of the wool sweaters and tanker jacket. Officers will wear large insignia on the epaulettes of dress, evening dress, and service coats as well as sweaters and tanker jacket; smaller insignia is worn on the collar of all other uniforms (officers in a combat environment may wear subdued insignia, where flat black replaces silver and flat brown replaces gold). Chief Warrant Officers who are designated "Infantry Weapons Officer" (MOS 0306) replace thier left insignia with a gold or black bursting bomb. Navy personnel authorized to wear Marine uniforms wear their assigned rating.
Marines wear awards in several ways. Large medals are authorized only on the Dress "A" uniform, while awards for which no medal was struck will have ribbons mounted on the opposite pocket. Miniature medals are worn on the Evening Dress uniform, and are authorized for wear with civillian tuxedos when appropriate to the event. Other dress and service uniforms are worn with ribbons and weapon qualification badges, though the unit commander may decide to forgo the latter. Breast insignia, also known as badges, are similarly worn, though individuals have the option of wearing subdued insignia on the utility uniform.
The buttons on the dress and service coats are reminiscent of Marine insignia prior to the adoption of the Eagle, Globe, and Anchor. The quatrefoil worn atop the cover of an officer's cover is a tradition from the pre-Civil War era, when officers wore a rope cross on their caps to allow sharpshooters high in the rigging of a sailing ship to identify his allies in a battle. Enlisted Marines wear service stripes on the cuff of the dress and service coats, each stripe denoting four years of service as a Marine. The standing collar of the dress coat is reminiscent of the uniform that earned Marines the nickname "Leatherneck".
Green cartridge belts and/or brassards can be worn by personnel in an authoritive or ceremonial duty status, wearing such items regards the individuals as "under arms" whether they are actually carrying a weapon or not. As such, they do not uncover indoors. During ceremonies, officers have the option of wearing a Sam Browne belt and the Mameluke sword, and Noncommissioned Officers may wear the NCO sword.
Marines are sometimes confused with U.S. Army and National Guard soldiers. This was more prevalent when both services wore the same utilities, but with the introduction of digital camouflage (MARPAT for the Marines, ACU for the Army), this is no longer a point of confusion. There are several other significant differences:
Traditionally, Marine officers forego the wearing of rank insignia in combat, on the theory that it simply makes them targets (as in Vietnam) and do not allow saluting in these situations. Enlisted Marines are supposed to know who their leaders are, regardless of whether they are wearing rank insignia.
On 5 September, 1776, the Naval Committee published the Continental Marines uniform regulations specifying green coats with white facings (lapels, cuffs, and coat lining), with a leather high collar to protect against cutlass slashes and to keep a man's head erect. Its memory is preserved by the moniker "Leatherneck", and the high collar on Marine dress uniforms. Though legend attributes the green color to the traditional color of riflemen, Colonial Marines carried muskets. More likely, green cloth was simply plentiful in Philadelphia, and it served to distinguish Marines from the red of the British or the blue of the Continental Army and Navy. Also, Sam Nicholas's hunting club wore green uniforms, hence his recommendation to the committee was for green.
At the second founding of the United States Marine Corps in 1798, the Secretary of War authorized a blue uniform edged in red; blue chosen for naval ties, and red with sentiment for Royal Marines and John Paul Jones's Marines tradition of wearing red. A year later, Marines were issued leftover uniforms from Anthony Wayne's Legion, blue with red facings. It was the beginnings of the modern "dress blues". The uniforms also came with a round hat, edged in yellow. In 1834, President Andrew Jackson reinstated the green and white jackets of the Colonial Marines, with gray trousers. However, the dye on these faded quickly and in 1841 the uniform was returned to the blue -- this time with a dark blue coat and light blue trousers with a scarlet stripe down the seam for officers and NCOs. In 1859, new dress uniform regulations were issued; the new uniform had a French-style shako with an unpopular pom-pon. There was also the option of a fatigue cap, fashioned after the French képi. In the expeditionary period post Civil War, Marines began wearing a khaki field uniform, better suited to tropical and arid environments. In the 1890s, the Marines adopted some practical changes to the field uniform, adding a "campaign" cover, with a large Marine emblem on the side, and canvas leggings.
When the size of the Corps grew in preparation for World War I, Marines were forced to adapt surplus uniforms from the Army to clothe its troops. The green service uniform was adapted with a standing collar, while khaki uniforms were worn in combat. This marked the first time Marines, as well as other U.S. servicemembers, wore distinct combat and non-combat field uniforms, in addition to dress uniforms. The service uniform was designated for ceremonies, garrison, and leave.
Sometime after World War I, the tradition of a "uniform of the day" designated by the unit commander was created to ensure uniformity of troops, now that there was a wide variety of uniforms available for wear. Also born was the tradition of reporting to a new duty station in the Service "A" uniform. Also sometime between the world wars, the standing collar on the service uniform was changed to a rolled flat collar, but the dress uniform collar remained standing. A khaki version of the service uniform was adapted as well, for use in summer months. The field uniforms were also replaced with fatigues. The garrison cap was introduced, originally to be worn overseas, but quickly became standard. The introduction of women into the Corps doubled the number of uniforms, as women had an equivalent for every male uniform.
During World War II, Marine combat uniforms were mostly adapted from Army inventories again, a tradition that would continue through until the adoption of the MCCUU in 2000. However, they made more extensive use of camouflage, due to the jungle environment being more suitable for era patterns. After the war, female uniforms became close to their male equivalents as women were more closely integrated into the Corps.