OCEANSIDE, Calif. – The Marine Corps is taking on the role of fashion police.
Earlier this year, the Marine Corps commandant updated the regulations on what Marines can and cannot wear, on duty and off, in the United States. Among the fashion don’ts: No shiny metal or gems on your teeth, no designs carved in your hair, no flashy jewelry and no bare midriffs or excessive cleavage.
But it is Gen. James Conway’s ban on the wearing of camouflage uniforms, or “cammies,” off base that is getting the most attention, changing not only the appearance of the Marines but also the look of their communities.
Under the new regulation, Marines in camouflage cannot get out of their vehicles to run an errand or grab a meal on their way to or from the base. No pumping gas, running into the post office or picking up a cup of joe, either.
Although Marines were always largely prohibited from wearing uniforms off base, they were allowed to make brief stops during their commutes. Now they can stop only for a medical emergency, a traffic accident or a breakdown.
Around Oceanside, a community about 35 miles north of San Diego where Marines from neighboring Camp Pendleton are a common sight, the most noticeable effect is at fast-food drive-throughs. Long lines are forming because Marines in uniform are not allowed to get out of their cars and go inside.
John Alexander, who works at GI Joe’s, a military surplus store, said customers don’t drop in during the middle of the day anymore, though business picks up in the late afternoon.
“There’s no such thing as a quick trip anymore,” he said.
Marines caught in uniform off base can get a warning; for repeat offenses, they can be restricted to their barracks and their pay can be docked.
While the military has always had strict guidelines for what service members can wear, even out of uniform, Conway said the updated regulations are about maintaining Marine “uniformity and pride in appearance.”
Some businesses are getting creative to cope with the no-cammies-off-base rule, which was issued in July.
In Oceanside, the Colimas Mexican Restaurant, popular for its takeout lunch, now runs a sort of carhop service for Marines, who call in their orders and then wait in their cars for delivery out front.
Andrea Cerda, who works at Dorothy’s Military Shop, a tailor shop, said it is not uncommon to see Marines changing clothes in their car, wriggling out of their pants and boots and into civilian wear.
“You see them bending around their steering wheel or moving back and forth in the driver’s seat, and you know what they are doing,” she said.
Under the updated Marine regulations, women are prohibited from baring their midriffs, wearing any lingerie-type clothing on the outside or wearing low-slung pants or blouses that show excessive cleavage.
“On the topic of wearing lingerie as outerwear, is the commandant kidding?” said TV style guru Tim Gunn of Bravo’s “Project Runway.”
“Has this really been an issue? Surely, the Marines aren’t accepting Britney into their ranks.”