The Marine Corps is contemplating a uniform change that would create a unisex service cap. The Marines are also exploring whether to have women use a slightly modified version of the hat used by male Marines instead of the distinctive "bucket cap" they now wear. If the unisex design is chosen it would be the first change to that part of the Marine uniform since 1922.
A Marine official says that recently the Marine Corps Uniform Board, comprised of non-commissioned officers and officers, discussed a change in the headgear known as a "cover" as a means of streamlining uniform rules for men and women. Since 1952 female Marines have worn distinctive service caps known as "bucket cover." About 6 percent of the 195,000 Marines in active duty are women.
A survey was emailed to all active duty and reserve Marines earlier this week to gauge their preference about moving towards a new hat or requiring female Marines to wear a modified version of the male version of the cover. The survey will conclude on Friday.
Members of the Marine Corps Uniform Board working this issue do not seem to support the switch to a unisex cap. According to a copy of the survey obtained by ABC News none of the working group members supported the idea of a universal cover.
The board will meet next Tuesday and use the results of the survey to help them decide if a change is necessary. Whatever recommendation they make will then have to be approved by Gen. James Amos, the Marine Corps Commandant.
The proposed smaller unisex hat is known as the "Dan Daly" hat and would be a throwback to the type of hat used prior to 1922. Daly was a two- time Medal of Honor recipient who served in the Marine Corps near the end of the 19 th century and early part of the 20 th Century. Photos of Daly show him wearing the smaller thinner cap of the time period which resembled the Kepi style hat worn by the French military.
The members of the working group were evenly split between choosing the two options. Those who did not like the Daly Cap said "it looked like a 'porter's' cap."
The Marine Corps is currently testing out a new unisex jacket for its dress blue uniform that is being test worn by female Marines at the Marine Barracks in Washington D.C. That high-necked collared version of the uniform is the one currently used by male Marines, it could replace the current female version of that uniform which has a lapel collar over a white dress shirt under the blouse.
Over the summer, female Marines at this base also wore the male version of the white cover during the parades that take place at the Marine Barracks.
A Marine official says that if one type of blouse or cover is used it might be easier on the supply process . The cost of switching to a new unisex Marine cap would cost $6.9 million, but a switch towards having female marines wear the male version of the cap would actually save $600,000.
A Defense official said preliminary responses to the Marine survey indicate it has not been popular within the ranks of Marines. As reports of the possibility of a headgear change emerged on Thursday there has been vocal criticism online.
The Navy is also currently testing a switch to a unisex hat, but instead of proposing a new style it is testing whether all of its female sailors should use what is known as the standard male cap.
For the past year female midshipmen at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland have been wearing the male version. Female members of the Navy's Ceremonial Guard and the Navy band have also switched out their bucket hats as part of the testing. Enlisted members of those groups have also been testing the Dixie cup style hats.