Navy Lifts Ban on Sailors Putting Hands in Pockets, Rolls Out Various New Uniform Changes

Male and female Chief Petty Officer covers
Male and female Chief Petty Officer covers served as a table centerpiece during the 125th birthday of the U.S. Navy CPO ceremony at Surface Warfare Officer School Unit Great Lakes April 6, 2018. (U.S. Navy photo by Brian Walsh)

SAN DIEGO -- The Navy has lifted its ban on sailors keeping their hands in their pockets -- a policy rule that drew wide dislike and some internet mockery.

The change was announced Wednesday, along with a host of uniform changes that include the return of a beloved cover for female sailors and loosening of the rules around PT uniforms.

An administrative message said the decisions were the result of "sailor feedback, command-sponsored requests and direction from Navy leadership." Among the raft of uniform tweaks and changes were also authorizations for chaplains to wear their new warfare insignia and for the Navy's forthcoming warrant officer drone pilots to wear their wings.

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Still, the biggest change for all sailors is the Navy decision on the hands-in-pockets ban.

"Sailors are authorized to have hands in their pockets when doing so does not compromise safety nor prohibit the proper rendering of honors and courtesies," the service memo said.

The rule was most fiercely policed in the Navy's boot camp and training schools and led to a host of memes, social media posts, and complaints that often derided the rule and the chief petty officers seen as the enforcers of the policy.

However, the rule, and the complaints, were not unique to the Navy.

Meanwhile, female sailors are the recipients of many of the new changes rolled out Wednesday.

The Navy is bringing back the female combination cover, also known as "the bucket cover." The head covering was first worn by women during World War II until its retirement in 2018.

Then-Navy Secretary Ray Maybus retired the cover in the interest of making Navy uniforms more unisex but, since then, its return has been consistently advocated for by female sailors.

The female combination cover can be worn by sailors of any rank with the service dress and dinner dress uniforms and by chief petty officers and officers while in service khaki and summer white uniforms.

 The message, however, noted that "the bucket cover will not be available for personal purchase at Navy Exchange Uniform Centers and will need to be privately obtained if desired for wear."

Women are also now allowed to wear T-shirts "specifically designed for female bodies with Navy uniforms" -- as long as they still look like the regular service shirts in color, fabric and neck cut.

"The intent of this policy update is to address expressed dissatisfaction regarding the required wear of male or unisex T-shirts that are not designed to fit female bodies," the memo explained.

In addition, women can now wear false eyelashes or eyelash extensions that "project a natural appearance and are no longer than 14 millimeters in length as measured from the eyelid to the tip of the eyelash." 

Finally, all sailors are now allowed to wear black or Navy blue leggings or tights with the service's PT shorts and wear "commercially procured coyote brown backpacks" while in the Navy Working Uniform.

The new policy also notes that the Navy is continuing its efforts to provide maternity uniforms through its pilot program. It is gathering survey and fit data on the uniforms "that is crucial to planning, research and execution of uniform improvements and uniform and grooming policy updates."

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