Female Marine recruits get new high-collar blues coats
By CHAD GARLAND | STARS AND STRIPES Published: August 24, 2018
One week after the Marine Corps celebrated a century of women in its ranks, some of its newest female recruits will be issued blue dress coats designed to look more like those of their male counterparts.
On Tuesday, members of Platoon 4040, Papa Company, 4th Recruit Training Battalion, donned jackets with the mandarin collar, which has long been a distinctive part of the male dress blues uniform, according to Marine Corps photos posted on the Defense Department’s online photo and video site DVIDS.
Papa Company was the first to receive the new coat, according to the photo captions. The company is expected to graduate from the Corps’ 13-week boot camp in Parris Island, S.C., on Oct. 12.
Unlike the male uniforms, the new coats do not have breast or lower pockets. They will replace a version of the coat that featured an open collar and lapels.
The Corps announced its plans to adopt the modified female dress blues coat in 2016, coinciding with a Pentagon push for gender-neutral physical standards and job opportunities. That included the opening of combat job fields to women across the services.
Ray Mabus, then-secretary of the Navy, called for uniforms that “don’t divide us as male or female, but rather unite us as sailors or Marines.”
Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Robert B. Neller approved the modified blues coat in January 2016. The service had been developing and testing the new style coat since at least 2013, and it had been issuing them to female Marines in and around Washington for field testing.
The Corps had long opposed opening combat roles to women, but it recently appointed its first female infantry platoon commander — so far one of only two female Marines to pass the Marine Corps’ 13-week Infantry Officer Course at Quantico, Va., out of more than three dozen who have attended.
The coats are another sign of eroding gender barriers — something that hasn’t always been welcomed.
In 2015, two female Marine officers wrote an op-ed for the website Task & Purpose opposing the change and arguing that it would distance female Marines from their heritage and suppress gender differences and female identity. The authors noted that Molly Marine monuments at various bases depict a female Marine wearing the traditional open-collar uniform jacket.
The original Molly Marine statue dates to 1943 and was part of a World War II recruiting effort.
In a February 2016 survey, some senior-ranking female Marines said they preferred the older style, though only 8 percent of women and 18 percent of men who participated in the survey favored keeping that style for all female Marines, the Marine Corps Times reported. More than half of all Marines surveyed favored the new blues coat.
The new jacket isn’t the first instance of blues coats with mandarin collars for female Marines. For example, the women of the silent drill team at the Defense Language Institute’s Marine Corps Detachment at the Presidio of Monterey, Calif., were authorized to wear specially tailored male dress blues coats for their performances on base and in the community in the late 1990s.