7 Lessons on Appearance Learned in the Marine Corps

by Antonio on November 12, 2010 · 74 comments

in Dress & Grooming, Style

I was 23 years old and attending a wedding where I was a groomsman – it was at this event that I learned firsthand how The Basic School had prepared me for more than just leading Marines.  In a room with five other young men, I was the only one who knew how to properly wear black tie shirt studs, cuff-links, and the cummerbund.  Needless to say, I gave a quick class and we all looked great that evening.   Had we been in this situation just one year earlier, I too would have been at a loss as to what all the metal trinkets were for.  So what happened to my sense of style in Quantico?  Obviously the lessons I learned from various hard charging gunnery sergeants and detail-oriented officers had indirectly sharpened my understanding of civilian style and appearance.

The deadliest Roman gladiators are said to have paid special attention to the ornamentation on their armor and weapons.  Ukrainian Cossacks, before riding into battle, spent hours ensuring their hair was properly cut and braided.   Today, modern military warriors spend hours every week ensuring their wardrobes and personal appearance meet both regulation and their own standards of professionalism.  What is the connection?

Ukrainian Cossack

Never laugh at a Ukrainian Cossack's haircut. I mean Never.

This article covers seven lessons pertaining to style and appearance that I picked up while serving in the USMC – let this serve as advance warning that my views are biased due to my branch of service!

Lesson #1 – Your Personal Presentation Is Important

From day one, the power of what you wear is obvious in the military because in many ways it symbolizes who you are.   The way military personnel greet and interact with each other is based off a rigid rank system.  Two men who have never met pass by on a sidewalk – both pay attention to the other and greet with a customary salute.   The rules as to who initiates the salute and how it is performed are dictated by a set of century old guidelines that ensure order under all types of conditions.

Despite us living in a democracy where all are created equal, a less visible system of rank does exist in the civilian world.  This ranking system is not based on a written set of rules, but rather an unwritten code of events that has over our lives shaped our behavior.  Instead of quick decisions being based off an insignia, snap judgments are made based off the type of clothing you wear.   By simply dressing sharp in a nice pair of slacks and a sport jacket, a man goes from being ignored as he enters a busy restaurant to being helped immediately and addressed as sir.

I’ve written about the importance of presentation multiple times, so I won’t dwell on this point – for additional reading visit this classic AOM article: The Importance of Being a Sharp Dressed Man.

Lesson #2 – Do Not Judge Others Based on Their Appearance

When you work with other military men and women, you have little to judge them on besides their performance and communication skills.  You can easily spend a year working with another person and know nothing of how they dress, what type of car they drive, and what they do with their free time.  In many ways it’s a solid system – one that allows you to focus on the job and ignore factors that would under normal circumstances skew your perception.

So you can imagine my surprise when I ran into my one of my top performing Marines out on the town and found him to be dressed in a manner I associated with a man who would be a gang member.  My preconceived notions were challenged on the spot – here was a young man in the top 1% of his pay grade who had I met through normal civilian channels I would have discounted as a “gangster.” How many other people had I stereotyped because of my inability to look past appearances?  The lesson here is although personal presentation is important, we have to resist the temptation to judge others based solely off of what we see.

Lesson #3 – Details Define a Man’s Style

Douglas MacArthur - I'm not sure if this pipe is within Army regulations but it is memorable.

Most people assume the strict uniform rules of the military stamp out any inklings of personal style.  This is not the case.  Rather, the strict confines of military regulation magnify the small details that can be personalized.  Sunglasses, mustaches, haircuts, tattoos, and the degree to which your uniform is pressed and your boots are shined are all scrutinized.  To an outsider, a platoon of soldiers may look the same.  To a 1st Sgt, he’ll look at the details of the gear and presentation and be able to quickly pick out the hard-core and good to go from the average – he’ll also take special note on the one or two who need “special” attention.

The same is true in civilian style, especially in corporate environments where many men feel a company dress code eliminates individuality.  This is just not true – I have yet to see a dress code that specifies fit and style requirements for suits or dress shirts.  As such there is a lot of room to make even a mundane navy suit and white dress shirt stand out.  I have a client who works for AT&T corporate and despite wearing very common colors and patterns manages to be one of the best dressed in his department because he pays special attention to his clothing’s cut and the accessories he accents them with.  It is all in the details.

Lesson #4 – A Respect for Protocol


Pappy Boyington

Even Pappy Boyington wore the right uniform when required.

About once a month I receive an email from someone asking about a black tie dress code situation and whether they can be the exception to the rule and just show up wearing something like a blazer with trousers.  My answer is always the same – if the invitation calls for Black Tie, there is no room to negotiate.  You must have a respect for the dress code, as to ignore it is to show disrespect for the host who has worked hard to put the event together.

The military teaches a man early on the importance of dressing appropriately.  We have rules that prescribe what we should wear when checking into a new duty station, when traveling off base, when attending a ceremony, and serving as a pallbearer and escort.  Why all this attention to detail?  Because it sets the tone for the event, eliminates areas of confusion, and leverages history and experience to ensure success.  A healthy respect for tradition and dress code does not take away from the individual nor seek to exclude; rather, it is there to enrich important moments in our lives.

Lesson #5 – Always Have Your Equipment Ready


Indian Army soldiers from the 54th Infan

Don't be the guy who forgot to tuck his trousers into his socks - Be Prepared!

Making sure the men and women under your command are fully prepared and ready for deployment is the focus of peacetime military leaders.  As such, scheduled and unscheduled inspections ensure units of 10 to 10,000 are ready to go within hours of being called up.  For those who haven’t been through one, inspections range from a simple uniform check by a squad leader to an entire Battalion being looked over by the First Sergeant and CO over a period of hours to ensure combat readiness.  

Although I haven’t gone through a white glove inspection for over a decade, I still ensure my wardrobe is prepared for any opportunity or challenge that may come my way.  Shoes are put away polished, shirts are ironed before they are needed, and all my accessories are placed in a location where they are easily found.  Proper preparation takes time and discipline – the payoff is when you need to be dressed quickly, you are.  Compare this with being stressed out and showing up late to an interview, or worse, letting down the ones you care about.  Take a few moments to prepare today, and you’ll save time by not having to apologize tomorrow.

Lesson #6 – Our Appearance and Behavior Reflects on Our Associations

Pulling into a foreign port, the big worry on the mind of unit leaders is that some yahoo under their command is going to cause an international incident.  If one Marine or Sailor screws up, the whole ship, the whole US military, receives a black eye.  For this very reason it is stressed time and time again to every military man leaving post or ship – although you’re not wearing a uniform, you still represent the military in the eyes of others.

As men our appearance and behavior reflect not only on us, but on our entire family and the organizations we are closely associated with. Are you a student council member?  Then know the actions you take (or fail to take) in the classroom and off campus reflect upon not only you but the whole council.  Like to head to the local watering hole after work to unwind? Be careful about having too much to drink.  You might not be embarrassed about getting trashed and carried out the back door, but your family is.  Please note I’m not against a good time – rather I want to drive home the reality that very few of us live in a vacuum where our actions do not affect the groups we are a part of.

Lesson #7 – Appreciate Your History

USMC Dress Uniforms

I almost gave the USMC Boat Cloak its own article.

Ask any U.S. Marine what the Eagle, Globe and Anchor stands for and be prepared for a history lesson painted with pride and personal meaning.  From the cross on the top of an officer’s cover (the quatrefoil) to the blood stripe on a corporal’s trouser, the history embedded in military uniforms are vestiges of the past that units carefully chronicle and ensure new recruits study.  Why such a focus on tradition?

Having a strong history gives a man the strength to move forward when he is unsure.   He knows he can wear a flower in his lapel not because he saw it in the latest issue of Maxim, but because he knows French soldiers wore them in theirs as they headed off to combat.  He doesn’t try to fit into the latest pair of designer jeans to look younger or hip; instead, he realizes the clothing he wears should be timeless and compliment, not detract from, his personal style.

An appreciation of the past gives you the fortitude to resist fashion and embrace timeless, classic style.

See you in the comments.

Written by
Antonio Centeno
President, A Tailored Suit
Articles on Men’s Suits – Dress Shirts – Sport Jackets
Join our Facebook Page & Win Custom Clothing

{ 74 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Joshua_M1001 November 12, 2010 at 2:30 am

Great article and great lessons for anyone. Especially for myself, a twenty-three year old University student that needed this sort of thing right now. Thanks and keep up the good work.

2 Drew November 12, 2010 at 2:30 am

Excellent article! I have the utmost respect for the United States armed services, however, I’ve always admired the Marine Corps because of the emphasis placed on appearance, professionalism, attention to detail, and discipline.

I’ve adopted these qualities, and as far as dress goes for my job, it has made a huge difference; people take notice. I’m expected to dress sloppy (because of my age), and was even encouraged to wear jeans on Fridays (ugh). But my refusal to relax my standards has allowed me to maintain my professionalism and command authority when necessary.

Thanks for the lessons!

3 Adrian November 12, 2010 at 6:08 am

Great article. The one thing I always enjoyed about going out on a Friday night when I was in my 20s was that all the officer cadets from the nearby military academy always dressed neatly, cleanly and almost identically. This made it trivially easy to avoid them as they were uniformly obnoxious, arrogant prats who went out of their way to pick fights with anyone and everyone, especially when they outnumbered some poor “civilian three or four to one.

4 Steve November 12, 2010 at 6:33 am

Semper Fi !

5 eitan November 12, 2010 at 6:42 am

Mentioning the Cossacks as exemplary and “understanding history” in the same article is a joke…understanding history would bring to light that the cossacks fought with the Nazis and there’s nothing worth learning from them. They have a history littered with disreputable anarchism and anti-American, anti-democratic principles.
Find a better subject for your analogy next time.

6 RAMON LAZO November 12, 2010 at 6:51 am

This is a great article. Thank you for publishing it. I now fully understand the relationship of uniformity, protocol and standards as it relates to the military AND civilian life. A little bit about me: I never served in the armed services but I come from a long line of men who have served brilliantly in many different wars and who have achieved high-ranking in their branch of service. I am accustomed to seeing uniformity and military precision in terms of personal grooming, professional grooming and protocol when in the company of cadre and enlisted personnel (just part of being a kid in a military family). Many years later, as an adult, I was drawn to the sport of airsoft partially as a way to find comfort in the uniformity I respected and was expected to honour as a child. I am a member of an airsoft club in California which is considered by many to be the most strak and most disciplined and highly skilled players in the world. This is due to the owners/staff/leadership and club cadre that adhere to military uniformity, discipline and training. Many of the members are former and current military, law enforcement and from the special operations communities (Navy Seal, Green Beret, Army Rangers and USMC Force Recon). I do look forward to going out to the country a couple of times a month to ‘dress up’ and play soldier with the BDU’s, proper club patches that denote organization, unit, rank and name. The club event has different uniforms for opposing forces during the game. This definitely cuts down on friendly fire and gives the members a sense of team and camaraderie if only for one day or one weekend. Over time, I learned how to prepare my kit, make sure I have all my gear ready to go and good working order and that of my team mates as I am typically given command of small units during the game.

At some point, the uniformity, respect for rank, and protocol spilled over into my work life as I decided to make it a habit of being well-groomed EVERY DAY at the office because of the respect and dignity that it brings to me when interacting with co-workers. I don’t mind wearing a coat and tie a few times a month (when I can get away with it and not put others ill at ease), make sure that I look professional at every important business meeting with outside clients (proper business suit with crisp shirt and matching tie) and make sure to acknowledge everyone with the proper respect that their title and experience deserves as well as expect the same from others.

I am grateful to have my airsoft hobby and even more grateful to know that this type of thing has benefited my work life. This article just validates everything that I’ve seen and encountered for the last few years and continues to drive my personal goals to ‘be the best that I can be’ in my daily work.

7 Barry November 12, 2010 at 8:34 am

I really enjoyed this article. One of the best ones I’ve read here I think, although they are all really good. Just showing some love for AoM.

8 JB November 12, 2010 at 8:44 am

Ehhhh, You’re losing me, Art of Manliness!

If anyone I meet on the street gives a crap about the way I’m dressed, then that’s not someone I’d care to associate with.

My day to day life as a father/video producer is NOT the Marine Corps.

Now excuse me whilst I go attach a flower to my lapel.

9 Anthony November 12, 2010 at 9:00 am

Happy Belated Birthday Marine! Semper Fi and Ooh Rah!
Cpl. J.A. Redferin (96-99)

10 Dennie November 12, 2010 at 9:06 am

Outstanding article.
As a retired US Army NCO, I am always aware of the way I look, even now in civilian clothes. I see a lot of men my age (57) that don’t care how they look and cannot understand why they get treated differently that I do.
Semper Fi Marine…and thank you for the great article. Will be printing it off and giving to some of my younger friends.

11 Jeff November 12, 2010 at 9:10 am

Happy Belated Birthday Marine! Semper Fi and Ooh Rah!
Sgt. J. Wolff (90-96)

12 Patrick November 12, 2010 at 9:16 am

I have been out of the Army for 6 months now and I see how the discipline and attention to detail I learned in service have influenced my civilian life.

I go to job interviews in a suit. I have seen “men” show up to corporate interviews in slovenly looking khakis and lewd ties. Shoes that looked like slopped ass on a Sunday morning (thanks 1sg Jenkins for that line!) plus no jacket! These men children have haircuts that also look like slopped ass and most are unshaven! Not that a beard or mustache is bad, but please, if it isn’t grown in and squared away, shave! The lazy ass slacker looks makes you look just like that, a l;azy ass slacker!

I also try to work out everyday, but my service related injuries limit that. I still do my 120 pushups every morning and I am 31 years old! Some men my age can barely walk around the block with out taking a break. Fitness is key to controlling your self, emotions, and the rest of your life!

A belated happy birthday to Marine Corps.


13 Danny November 12, 2010 at 9:21 am

Well said Marine……

Semper Fi

14 John November 12, 2010 at 9:24 am

Couple of thoughts. First, bravo on a great article. Too much “casual” in our society today.

Basically it all boils down to having standards. With regard to the “individuality” issue, I would define standards thusly – it’s not a rigid set of rules you have to adopt to be the same as everyone else, it’s a rigid set of MINIMUM acceptable expectations you have to meet. Going above and beyond these minimums is how you “define” your individual style.

15 Mark November 12, 2010 at 9:28 am

Get your history facts right. Cossacks fought valiantly against the Germans in Russia, oftentimes raiding their positions at 3 am in a snowstorm while on horseback. Yes, there were Russians who joined-in with the Germans but it was far smaller than the Russian partisan effort! Most people are highly misinformed about the details of Operation Barbarossa……..

16 Danny November 12, 2010 at 9:34 am

Well said Marine……..

Semper Fi

17 G'roy Jones November 12, 2010 at 9:44 am

Lesson #8. Don’t join the service, any branch, in any country. It’s the biggest ruse going. But if you like other people to tell you what to do, it’s great. After all, they know more than you. Yet if they know more than you, how do you know they know more than you without asking them first? …Anyway, I was never too good at following orders. Especially any that told me to go kill someone for whatever good reason they could come up with. I know it’s really easy today to kill a bunch of people… just push a button and boom! You’re an instant “hero”. But it’s still killing, and killing’s never a good thing IMNSHO. Anyway, what do I know… it’s not like I ever killed anyone, right? The art of manliness? [sigh] Yeah, that’s the ticket.

18 Native Son November 12, 2010 at 9:46 am

Nice post!
Oddly enough, at my job, quite a few fellow employees are former military personnel and reservists. The “lessons learned” you present do do not seem to universally carry over into civilain pursuits.
Although the organization has an extremely rleaxed “formal dress code”, the number of guys who don’t understand “collared shirt, necktie and pants suitable for business wear” can be astounding. That’s the general rule, we can dress appropriately to the business at hand (i.e., matching the client’s style, or working in a venue that calls for more casual dress than a dress shirt and tie).

19 Turling November 12, 2010 at 10:32 am

Excellent article. Lesson two is particularly insightful. Well done.

20 Paco November 12, 2010 at 11:07 am

“By simply dressing sharp in a nice pair of slacks and a sport jacket, a man goes from being ignored as he enters a busy restaurant to being helped immediately and addressed as sir.”
Great point. I really need to push myself to put more effort into things like this.

@JB – I think AOM has always stressed the importance of a manly outer appearance. And it might not be someone you want to sit and have a beer with, but maybe, as the article says, getting seated in a restaurant, processing a return at a store, any time your placed in a scenario where you could be given the brush off, dressing the part of someone to be respected is important.

21 Rob November 12, 2010 at 11:13 am

‘The Situation’ might actually be embarrassed by this article. Great Job.

22 Barbara Leavitt November 12, 2010 at 11:28 am

Mentioning the Cossacks is a perfect tie-in for this article. They’re history stretches back far beyond WWII or American democracy. They were a feared fighting force with their own traditions.

Speaking as a woman, we really do love a sharp dressed man. That they spend the time and effort on their own gear tends to indicate they won’t hold a grudge for their female counterpart doing the same.

23 Ed November 12, 2010 at 11:44 am

One of the most necessary items in my desk is the shoe shine kit I picked up in the Exchange on Paris Island after finishing Boot Camp. I also keep a lint roller and a pair of cuticle scissors for the “Irish Pennants”. Allowing myself enough time to polish up my appearance before entering a meeting or business luncheon is an essential part of preparing to be “on the record”; the process of polishing my shoes, straightening my hair and clothes, and looking in the mirror (preferably a full length mirror) builds my confidence and gives me time to meditate.

Thank you for the article,


24 rkangell November 12, 2010 at 11:47 am

Where do I start?? Is it manly to be a lemming? Is it manly to talk one’s own book to the detriment of others? Did anyone ever wonder as they stood in the company of well dressed men, about to be led into slaughter, “How the hell did I get myself into this situation.?” There are many good articles on this site, but this one…that urges folks to put their heads down and don the uniform of a subservient class…is not one of them.

25 CWS November 12, 2010 at 12:17 pm

@JB…am taking the high road, but you missed the entire point of the article…

26 JK November 12, 2010 at 12:51 pm

Wow. There’s a couple two or three idiots around here. If you don’t want to dress like you respect yourself, fine, but does complaining about this article, site, or the military really make you feel better about that decision?

27 Dan Wilden November 12, 2010 at 12:53 pm

@G’roy Jones
Remember, the men and women you speak so arrogantly and ill-informed to, put their lives on the line to make sure you had the freedom to say whatever you felt like. Maybe a small bit of respect and perhaps a bit of manliness might go along way and its not a button its a trigger that haunts you the rest of your life.
SSG Wilden, US Army 2004-

It’s the soldier, not the reporter who has given us
Freedom of the Press.
It’s the soldier, not the poet, who has given us
Freedom of Speech.
It’s the soldier, not the campus organizer, who has given us the
Freedom to Demonstrate.
It’s the soldier, not the lawyer, who has given us the
Right to a Fair Trial.
It’s the soldier who salutes the flag, serves under the flag and
whose coffin is draped by the flag,
Who gives the protestor the right to burn the flag.
~Father Dennis Edward O’Brien, USMC

28 Chris Kavanaugh November 12, 2010 at 1:32 pm

‘Irish pennants’ are a racist term. The second large immigration from the famine brought people over in abject poverty. Their ragged clothing gave rise to the phrase.
They were the lucky ones. Read PADDY’S LAMENT and imagine an englishman riding in a carriage and seeing a nude girl running alongside begging a coin. I knew a black CPO who loved using the term around me. I finally got him squared away using the equally offensive nautical phrase of ‘n****r rigged.’

29 jason taylor November 12, 2010 at 1:46 pm

“Mentioning the Cossacks as exemplary and “understanding history” in the same article is a joke…understanding history would bring to light that the cossacks fought with the Nazis and there’s nothing worth learning from them. They have a history littered with disreputable anarchism and anti-American, anti-democratic principles.
Find a better subject for your analogy next time.

Read more: http://artofmanliness.com/2010/11/12/7-lessons-appearance-marine-corps/#ixzz155wRWZMK

In the first place “they fought with the nazis” is not an unforgivable fault. We fought with the Commies don’t you know and there was little to choose between them other then your political interest or your reaction to their respective preference in the aesthetics of evilness. If you wish to say some WERE nazis, or at least fascists that would be a better accuseation.

Second, while Nazis were evil it is odd to say they were unmanly. They were certainly ungentlemanly but that is different.

Thirdly, Nothing to learn from them? Well we certainly learned a lot from Nazis(not to mention their allies) that was worth learning. In fact the Nazis would have preferred we didn’t. Just to start with, we learned that having a lot of airplanes is useful, and getting tanks into ones enemies supply lines shuts down his whole army. There is never nothing to learn.

30 Antonio November 12, 2010 at 1:57 pm

@Joshua – Thank you!
@Drew – Thank you for the examples!
@Adrian – I hear that young men in groups around the world have this problem – I hope you are OK.
@Steve – Semper Fi
@Eitan – Having traveled to Ukraine 10 times and lived there for 2 years, I can only say that my understanding of their history is limited to the hundreds of people I’ve spoken to in Kyiv, Lyiv, Kharkiv and Odessa. And although my Ukrainian wife disagrees with your statement strongly, I assume you have some inside information and look forward to you sending me your evidence on this accusation. My PO box info is on my website.
@Ramon – GREAT comment and example. Thank you for adding to the conversation.
@Barry – Thank you sir!
@JB – As a video producer, do not the people in front of your cameras pay attention to their appearance?
@Anthony – Oo-Rah!
@Dennie – Thank you sir!
@Jeff – Oo-Rah!
@Patrick – Spot on!
@Danny – Semper Fi
@John – Agreed – solid point!
@Mark – Thanks
@Groy Jones – Is this connected to Style?
@Native Son – Make sure to share this article with them
@Turling – Thank you! Glad to hear you took care of the gopher problem.
@Paco – Thank you for highlighting that point!
@Rob – I had to research this – is this the Jersey Shore guy?
@Barbara – Thank you Mam!
@Ed – I do the same!
@rkangell – I didn’t cover lemmings – it was an article about style, not nature or politics. Thank you for commenting though!
@CWS – Thanks
@JK – Thanks
@Dan – Thanks SSG Stay safe wherever you are.
@Gal – Thank you for the great comment and love your site! Very solid content – loved your article on A Nation of Losers – great title that gets you thinking.

31 Jeb Raitt November 12, 2010 at 3:33 pm

A good article, but there’s one thing that puzzles me.

You said you learned about black-tie accoutrements at TBS, so I conclude that you were an officer – yet the Marine Corps is the one service whose officers mess dress does NOT include a bow tie (although enlisted mess dress does). Did they teach you about civilian dress as well?

32 Scott Brenner November 12, 2010 at 4:26 pm

Semper Fi, Mac!

33 Harper MacDonald November 12, 2010 at 5:25 pm

Great article! I agree that many people (particularly the most recent generation, which I am a member of) don’t pay enough attention to their appearance. One ought to present a professional, polished look.
My boyfriend teases me for reading the articles on this site, but, as I always reply, ‘why shouldn’t I know these things too?’ After all, I can beat him in a boxing match. ;)

34 Fr Eric November 12, 2010 at 7:37 pm

Great article!
As a college senior I took time to show a few freshman how to dress appropriately before they went to dances. Often made them dress a second time.

Once I was walking through Dillards during a shift change in the Men’s dept. I was in clerics and I noticed two young men in their 20s passing off there ties to the next shift without undoing the knot. None of them knew how to tie a shelby, reverse shelby, or a windsor. I walked over there and asked for the tie. As a priest and being prior Army I knew how to address the issue. I taught them how to don the tie.

Fr Eric

35 Al November 12, 2010 at 10:59 pm

I did a four year enlistment in the Air Force (2000 to 2004) and ever since then my appearance was always an impeccable part of my daily life. I still shave every day, work out regularly, iron and press my clothes, shine my shoes, and even when I’m wearing casual wear (tshirts and jeans) I’m making sure I am clean and acceptable. What do I do now? I’m an artist in the entertainment industry, and contrary to what they show on TV, dress is a big deal to how you are perceived and trusted with millions at stake. That attention to detail didn’t just help me be a good dresser, it also became part of my work ethic as an artist and I’m glad I went through it.

36 Wobble November 13, 2010 at 6:54 am

Super article! I hope you can submit more.
I have bookmarked AoM just because of the quality of this article.

37 Steve November 13, 2010 at 12:53 pm

Thanks for the excellent article, Antonio: as an Army Airborne infantryman, I had a strong lesson on the importance of personal appearance. Semper Fi, Marine!
“We sleep soundly in our beds because rough men stand ready in the night to visit violence on those who would do us harm.” – Winston Churchill

38 Brew November 13, 2010 at 12:57 pm

My in-laws are retired USAF, lieutenant colonel and colonel, and I now work as a contractor on an Air Force base. Your article gives me grand insight to the culture I see daily and strive to understand better. Thank you!

Now if only you could explain to me what made every Marine I’ve known (especially a roommate of one year) uniformly tough as nails and nearly insane! Or does the Marine mind need to be experienced to be understood?

39 Richard F. November 13, 2010 at 6:04 pm

Centano! – you knucklehead – drop and give me twenty! And after you’ve finished that read the article below. Are you eyeballing me?…I said, ARE YOU EYEBALLING ME!!!?

Lesson #2, Do not judge others based on their appearance….Centano, that advice smells like #2 to me me.


40 Brucifer November 14, 2010 at 12:19 am

I weary greatly of the uncouth dullards who view dressing well as somehow unmanly. Most of them seem to be those sorts who couldn’t do their own laundry on a bet and have always conned their mommy or some other woman into picking up after them all their lives. How manly is that?

I also weary of those of you who equate military service to some sort of “subservient class.” I dare say you sort of chaps, wouldn’t know the first thing about class, social or otherwise.

As to the Cossacks, yes many of them sided with the Nazis. But this was due to them being eager to overthrow Stalin, who was bent upon their genocide. They didn’t like the Nazis either. But hey, “the enemy of my enemy” is what it was about They fought very bravely against the Soviets. At the end of the war, they surrendered to the British. Unfortunately, the lame-ass Brits blithely handed them over to the Russians. Thousands of them were summarily executed by Stalin’s henchmen in less time than it takes to talk about it. Is both the actions of the Brits and the Russians “disreputable” enough for you, Eitan?

41 Chris G November 14, 2010 at 12:37 am

Great article Marine! I drew some of those very same lessons during my 11 years in the Corps. Even though I’ve been out for five years, I’m often told that I stand out in a crowd. Not that I’m particularly good looking, but because I still carry myself in a certain way. I’ve become very fond of the sports coat these days. I feel more comfortable in my own skin and people approach me in a different way when I’m wearing one. Those guys can criticize you for making personal appearance important, but I’d guess they spend a lot of time wondering why older men don’t seem to show them any respect.
@ rkangell- We were not led into slaughter, we followed men into battle.(In case you haven’t been paying attention to the last 60+ years of warfare, the U.S military doesn’t get slaughtered. We dispense them.) Everyone in our military is a volunteer that knew what they were getting into and had ample opportunity to change their mind. It is not a “subservient class”, its is a calling of service to others out of love and selflessness. Next time you feel like making us out to be victims, don’t. Just say thank you, give a polite nod, or shut up.
@G’roy Jones – Service is not a “ruse” its a calling. I imagine your unwillingness to “follow orders” has made you very successful. (Just how many people work for you anyway?) And no, its not like you’ve ever killed anyone, so by what standard do you have to judge whether killing is “never a good thing”? Murder is never a good thing, but few in the military actually commit murder. Now, killing a terrorist that just walked into a crowd of my Marines just before he blows himself up and kills my men (and a lot of nearby civilians) is probably the right thing to do. Thereby, not being a bad thing to do. Finally, how do we know whether people telling us what to do, know anything or unless we ask them? First of all, they are usually in charge for a reason. (Especially in the military.) Usually, a good leader doesn’t have to be asked what he knows. He will demonstrate it in his thought, word and deed. Not being able to submit to authority figures does not make you a noble rebel or intellectually superior. It just makes you an @##hole that will never learn anything useful from people that have gone before you.

42 Levi November 14, 2010 at 12:51 am

Great article. I spent five years in the Marines. I got out six years ago. I’m fatter and lazier than I was in 2004, but I just can’t seem to leave the house without a belt on, and I’m literally ashamed of unshined shoes. If my hair touches my ears, I have to get rid of it.

One thing I have tremendous pride in: I showed up at work (I’m a teacher at a high school) on November 10, and everyone, from military brats to JROTC kids and even my administrators, wished me a happy Marine Corps birthday. In the chow halls on that hallowed day, we would get steak and lobster. Granted, it may as well have been a crawfish tail and a vension flank, but by God it was OUR crawfish tail and venison flank.

Every day, the kids tell me that I still walk and talk like I’m in the Marines. I try to be the redneck I used to be -try to be more accessible to them- but I can no longer pull it off. My time in the Marine Corps is written all over me, and I’m thankful for that.

43 Levi November 14, 2010 at 1:17 am

@ Chris G: I always chuckle when I hear a student say he can’t join the service because he “just can’t have somebody yelling in (his) face.” It’s his way of expressing superiority because he has very little in his own life that he CAN actually control. He deflects and tries to make discipline look like weakness, so his own lack of discipline looks more like strength to outsiders.

Example: When you have responsibilities and you can’t afford college, you go get yelled at for a couple of months, emerging stronger with a steady job and a heck of a benefits package. Then you make sure to sign up for the GI Bill and laugh all the way to graduation, where you soon realize you have a disciplinary edge and work experience that your fellow graduates just will not have.

So when someone berates my military service for no apparent reason, not only can I see why, I can also see how it’s a deflection of their own insecurities onto those who actually did what they never could. Semper Fidelis, brother!

44 Kyle Decker November 14, 2010 at 8:37 pm

After going to VMI for a year i really learned the importance of proper wear of my clothing and having a clean appearance. It really helps with getting jobs and makes you feel better about yourself as well. Also PT makes a difference too.

45 cwnidog November 14, 2010 at 11:33 pm

Patrick said: “I have been out of the Army for 6 months now and I see how the discipline and attention to detail I learned in service have influenced my civilian life.”

Patrick, I’ve been out of the AIr Force for almost 30 years but I still fold my clothes in thirds and check my gig line when I get dressed. There are a lot of little things that stay with us after we leave the military and we’re generally better off because of them.

46 JIttah November 15, 2010 at 2:08 am

I’m a bit confused after reading #2 on the list and then coming down to the comments where most of the people that have been in the service are saying how they hate it when people don’t dress right and blah blah blah…I have plenty of respect for servicemen and especially Marines as my dad and gramps were both in for a long time, but I’m not sure #2 is something you can learn from the corps. I have only recently gotten the sense to dress nicely around campus, and I agree it makes you feel better about yourself. But on the other hand I am completely against any type of uniformity, certain haircuts, suits, etc. I really value the freedom to do whatever I want with my hair, and I’d like to say thanks to you that have been in the service for allowing me to do so.

47 Mark Harrison November 18, 2010 at 12:31 pm

Please DO write an article on the boat cloak.

I am a 40-year-old civilian, but still wear one several times a year as part of formal wear. I find it combines elegance with practicality.

The cloak in question belonged to my late Father-In-Law. In deference to Royal Navy tradition, my wife replaced the buttons (which were specific to his ship) with non-insignia brass buttons.

48 Daniel November 22, 2010 at 11:53 am

Well written. I just discovered your website by mistake and have spent the last hour reading. I am currently a sailor in the USN and am serving with the Army in Afghanistan. One thing that I noticed right away when I got here is the Navy and Marine Corps take more pride in the uniforms in genral. I’m not saying there aren’t soldiers that don’t take pride because there most certainly are but Marines and Sailors are strictly critized on the slightest infraction and it shows. In my humble and maybe biased opinion, we are the sharpest looking branches, This does not always tranfer to the civilian side though, I have seen a plethera of Sailors who look like hoodlems when out in town but I digress. My complements, no man should be without a sharp suit, tie and all the accecories. I must say I found a new “favorite” site.

49 Benjamin November 22, 2010 at 2:29 pm

Ugh. Of course I respect the armed services and their dedication, but this article simply does not apply to everyone. What about people in any creative industry? Writers, filmakers, video game programmers, etc? I’m a writer, I dress however I freaking want and it makes no difference in my field OR on the street. I’m not sure why AOM has drifted from men’s interests and philosophy to a “high and tight, shine your shoes, and don’t be a ruffian” blog. None of my heroes were/are boyscouts. Some of the greatest men is history were slobs, psychos, and just plain weird.

50 Shane November 22, 2010 at 8:33 pm

@Benjamin, (and everyone else who’s too lazy to get dressed in the morning.)
I’m a writer and I dress well, even when I’m alone at home.

When you look your best, you feel your best.
When you feel your best, you do your best.
When you do your best, you’re at your best.

I’m always at my best brother. I can’t tell you how much my writing has improved since I started being “proffessional” even at home. Don’t try it though. I have a feeling that your frame of mind about the subject would prevent you sowing the rewards out of sheer spite.

51 Shane November 22, 2010 at 8:35 pm

Oops. Misspelled “professional”. Mabey I should go black tie tomorrow morning.:)

52 Sean M. Casey, Sgt, USMC, ret. November 24, 2010 at 1:09 am

That was a fine article, Skipper. I fondly remember the mundane details of life in the Fleet; junk on the bunk, standing guard mount, promotions boards, retirement ceremonies, etc. as fondly as I recall serving in the first Gulf War with 3/7 as an 0331 and the rigorous training all over the world. Marines have always had and will always have that little extra something that sets them apart form the other services; History! Our pride in our history, as you well know, carries over to every detail of our daily lives no matter what the uniform of the day. I still stow my skivvies a certain way, still arrange my crisp ironed shirts in color order and yes, I still show up at events with shined shoes, a neat shave, vertical alignment and that whiff of Aqua Velva. Semper Fi!

53 Carl November 24, 2010 at 3:25 pm

Every year I attend the Wounded Warrior Marine fundraiser with my Korea vintage retired Marine Captain father. I take lots of care with my clothes and appearance; I’m very fit, wear a perfectly tailored bespoke tuxedo and the best accessories money can buy. I polish my shoes to mirrors. Despite this, it’s painfully obvious that I don’t measure up to the lowest Marine in his Dress Blues. While I’m just a guy in a Really Great Suit, the Marine’s Dress Blues are a manifestation of the quality of the man himself as well as his service. And that’s another thing entirely.

54 Roger November 25, 2010 at 8:09 am

@ Rob… In order for “The Situation” to be embarrassed, he actually has to have shame, first…

55 Chris G November 25, 2010 at 8:33 pm

To all the guys that insist on missing the point of this article. (and the website as a whole) – The message that’s being conveyed here is, whether you like or not, that appearance is something that matters. No one is telling you to care what others think, nor are they telling you to conform to anyone’s predetermined mold. Its actually the opposite. Dressing well and having a neat appearance makes people respond to you in a more positive and respectful way without even realizing they’re doing it. When you put together a neat appearance that is unique and presents an outward expression of what you represent and who you are, people respond even more intently. Having bushy feminine hair, wearing ratty jeans and sporting a red star tattoo (that has no meaning or significance) a non-conformist, does not make. It just makes you like every one else. If you’re going walk around looking like you slept in clothes, don’t spend a lot of time wondering why you can’t find a quality woman or get in the door for an interview for a better job. If you come to the AofM website to learn about manhood, then you need to pay attention to what is being said, about being a man, by people who are already men. These lessons are, all-too-often, hard learned and are exceptionally valuable. Manhood is not achieved by reaching a certain age, nor is it something that happens over night. There are a lot of young men out there who were raised by their mother and the nanny state. If you want to move beyond your peers and succeed, then you better let go of the ideals that are shared by your slacker friends and pay attention to the men who’ve been there. They’ll be happy to teach you if you’d just remember, that the everything that you think you already know, is of very little use.

56 James December 6, 2010 at 1:58 am

Nice article.

I always had the philosophy that how you look communicates the same things as how you smell. Before a date, job interview or religious service you groom it up a bit because it shows that you care. I am not an esteemed cinematographer or hipster, but this mentality got my college paid for by knocking out scholarship interviews. I dress “nice” for my classes to show my professors that I respect them and their (well earned) academic position. If a friend invites me into their home for the holidays or to an important event in their life, the least I can do in return is respect them by dressing it up a bit.

I am a self-proclaimed redneck. I love guns, camping, and my 4WD, but I have trouble believing that anyone who can afford a computer has never had to put on a tie before.

57 Charles Hammond December 6, 2010 at 8:30 am

Thank you for the great article, I was recently medically seperated from the U.S. Marine corps and pride my self in maintaining the the same principles and visual standards I learned in the Corps.

Oorah and Semper Fi!

58 Jeff December 9, 2010 at 12:37 pm

As an Army Field-Grade, I must say: “Out-freakin-standing” article.

59 Navy Man October 21, 2012 at 12:30 pm

Bravo Zulu on an article well written. — ENS, USN

60 Al Maloney November 10, 2012 at 6:06 pm

After serving eight years in the Royal Canadian Signal Corps, I went into medicine in 1966. I wouldn’t trade one of those years for anything. The lessons learned then, I use to this day. In particular dress.
Prior to joining, I couldn’t understand the value of the uniform. I learned to pay attention to detail. I learned to take pride in my appearance and in my work. I learned to organize my thoughts. I saw the respect that proper dress brought.
How I wish that the nurses in the various hospitals I have worked in would return to a dress code that engenders pride, authority, self-respect, respect of others, organized thinking! It would help them to know who they are.

61 Mark November 10, 2012 at 6:22 pm

First off, Happy Birthday Marine. As a retired Army Officer now working for Homeland Security, I can tell you the lessons we learn in the military service us well and set us apart from those that have not learned these lessons. A coworker that serviced in the 82nd as a young Captain and I were in a training program where we had a fellow classmate that had not learned these lesson. My coworker was always frustrated with this classmate for his lack of discipline, and as I pointed out to my coworker, this classmate did not have the training we get.

62 John M. November 14, 2012 at 11:16 am

Also on #5, don’t be the guy looking down the barrel of your own rifle….ever!

63 suchitra December 8, 2012 at 7:53 pm

All of us throughout our lives, play a role. that of child, daughter, student, woman, man, father, employee, boss and so on.
Each role has a defined role, a set of codes and we all conform to those. This is taught to us as our culture or beliefs or even values. So grooming is actually about having imbibed these role play rules well. grooming applies to the clothes you wear, the way you speak, your reactions to what happens around you, and similar things.
Some of these rules apply to all roles, like cleanliness, neatness, modesty, sincerity, etc. Other rules- there is a scope to express ones individuality, like the clothes, accessories, make up you wear;but, within the ambit of some dos and don’ts.
We know for example that at a funeral, one wears black or white-depending on ones culture. We talk softly, don’t laugh loudly and our expression mirrors the grief one is expected to feel…Á tangible evidence of for others to see and comprehend.
At work, too we must give tangible evidence of being well groomed. This signifies many things, that we were taught all the rules, we learnt them, we exercise those codes, while keeping our unique style and individuality. We conform and play the role.
If you are the boss, you set the dress code; you try to look successful, you try to be nurturing, and display your control by asserting yourself. Your clothes, and your demeanor express the role boss.
As a doctor, one must have a high standard of personal hygiene and cleanliness, One must dress well; tangible evidence of success-, speak well, be efficient and make the patient feel well from the moment he meet you. Of course your actions will give cues as to your knowledge, skill etc.
If you don’t play the role, you confuse the others, they need to sift through the wrong cues they are getting to understand what you are actually all about. These wrong cues, obstruct you at every step, as a student, employee employer, man or woman.
So grooming to my mind, are the external cues of what you are and what you want people to think you are

64 Eric December 13, 2012 at 11:13 pm

As an Officer in the Army now I agree with your article full heartedly. I grew up with a Marine 1st SGT as a father and he instilled all of these into me. As an Officer I always have my uniforms spotless and have back ups ready if something would happen. I have learned to always be prepared for what every happens and spend the time to ensure you are ready for the worst but dressed for the best. I did spend 6 years in the Navy enlisted prior to my time as an Officer in the Army, but that time only pushed the ideals my father gave me in deeper. I try to tell my soldiers in my command that they should be able to present an inspection ready uniform at any time. I also tell them to dress presentable in public but can’t truly enforce that. I just want to say again this was a great article.

65 J.J. Vicars January 15, 2013 at 7:39 am

Sometimes I think Antonio is a fellow musician. #6 is very important and too often overlooked. Time and time again I’ve had to remind musicians I hired for a gig that everything they do at the gig, not just on stage performing, reflects on the group as a whole and me as a bandleader. Dress sharp and act professional if you want more gigs. Otherwise don’t give up your day job.

66 Rupa January 20, 2013 at 2:43 am

Hi, wonderful article…..just what is that White thing worn on boots by the indian army soldiers? thanks

67 Doug P January 24, 2013 at 3:53 pm

Well said Devil Dog.
The lessons learned in the USMC DO pay off in the civilian world. I give my personal work wardrobe (suit and tie every day) 1/2 the attention I gave my Dress Blues while I was in. It still set me apart from my contemporaries and well before I broke into management, I looked better than most VP’s of my company. It’s not just the clothes either. It’s the way one carries himself. Walking with confidence, standing up straight, looking coworkers in the eye, being polite but not a doormat, the list goes on.

Semper Fi Brother

68 Derek January 25, 2013 at 11:54 am

I’m a teacher and I dress for the job (i.e. shirt and tie or suit). I find that small people who are stuck wearing khakis and a polo daily appreciate a grown-up who takes time to work on his appearance and look professional. It’s about mutual respect.

69 Brown February 20, 2013 at 6:20 pm

Semper Fi, Devil Dog.

70 Jerry May 11, 2013 at 3:27 pm

There is a high correlation between a rookie police officer having minor discrepancies with his uniform and being implicated in a corruption scandal ten years later.

71 Will May 21, 2013 at 9:28 pm

Just to chime in,
Aesthetics has always been a very subjective area. One that I still struggle with to this day. Also, the current culture doesn’t help. That is, “under-dressing is cool, over-dressing is stiff, boastful, etc.”. Some older people used to tell me that they would never go to a nightclub (in Montreal) in the 60s or 70s without a shirt, tie, and jacket. Now, wearing anything but jeans and a T-shirt is “over-dressing”. You go to nice restaurants, and people are ultra casual. Even in churches, you see women in skin tight, low-neck outfits, full makeup (suitable for clubbing) whereas in the 50s and 60s, no woman entered a church without wearing a hat and her Sunday best. T-shirts used to be considered underwear. Really. No matter what your job, you always wore a shirt with a collar. Now, everyone has met in the middle where casual is it. It’s even gone further than that. I know engineering contractors who purposefully drive crappy cars not worth over $1000 just so people won’t think they have any money. Maybe it’s the “tall poppy” syndrome.

Oh, and about the military debate, my opinion is the military is a powerful tool, used for good or bad purposes, depending on the government. You can find examples of both throughout history.

I like sharp-dressed people, but I don’t think it gets the respect it once did. Everyone is mainly concerned with entertaining themselves, let alone care about their own appearance.

72 Norwood (Woody) BayBridge October 13, 2013 at 10:12 am

It must be remembered that an individual’s perception is his or her reality. It will always be that way; a day from now; a century from now; a millennium from now.
What you are perceived to be, based accordingly on the overt clues you openly display; will be, overall, what you are genuinely thought to be.

If you dress with the distinct plan and attitude of respecting others without regard to their gender, race, religion, age, or any other personal characteristics; people will notably recognize, and believe, that you respect them.

Genuine respect for others has the effect of limiting or eliminating inequities; resistance; and, ultimately, conflict.

That is all good.


73 Isaac Rodriguez October 14, 2013 at 1:49 pm

You should totally write an article about the boatcloak.

74 JC Wright November 4, 2013 at 12:06 pm

I have been attached to this site for several months now, and I never understood why I enjoyed it so much. I had no idea you were a Marine Corps Officer, as myself, until now! Semper Fi brother.
2ND LT Wright. (current)

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