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Why Can’t Military Put Hands in Pockets? [Military Rules]

Written by Everett Bledsoe / Fact checked by Brain Bartell

why can't military put hands in pockets

You probably already know that the military has a lot of rules enforced on military members. But did you know that there is even a rule about keeping your hands out of your pockets?

That is actually why you will rarely see military hands in pockets. It is a protocol for military members to keep their hands out of their pockets. But why? Why can’t military put hands in pockets?

If we are being technical, members in the military cannot pocket their hands simply because there are no pockets available. Nevertheless, there is more worth knowing. Therefore, read this article until the end to get a complete understanding. 

We will dive into the details of the military’s “no hands in pockets” rule for each of these military service branches: the Army, Marine Corps, Navy, and Air Force.

The Military’s No Hands in Pockets Rule

We said earlier that there are no pockets available for military members to put their hands in. To explain this further, the front pockets of the uniforms for military personnel are typically welted or not cut and sewn to allow for an opening for hands to slip into. This prevents pocketed hands from showing a bulge through the pockets and ruining the uniforms’ clean lines.

  • Note: This used to be the case, but it is no longer the universal standard.

The prohibition also keeps military members from creating a habit of pocketing their hands. This ensures that their hands “never forget” to react fast and are always ready. For example, to render a salute or grab a weapon and use it. 

1. No Hands in Pockets Rule – In the Army:


According to the Army Regulation 670 of Wear & Appearance of Army Uniforms & Insignia, personnel in the Army cannot put their hands in their pockets. The only exception is when they are placing or putting something in their pockets and during inclement weather.

  • Note: This hands in pockets army regulation is also commonly denoted as ar 670-1.

To factor inclement weather out of the picture, the Army is currently experimenting with ways to heat up a soldiers’ forearms. The most recent innovation is the Personal Heating Dexterity Device.

It is operated by batteries and warms the blood flowing into the fingers by heating up the arm. The Army expects this to solve not only the problem of soldiers pocketing their hands but also performance issues, such as reduced mobility and dexterity, when encountering extremely cold temperatures.

The device is first being field-tested by the Alaska National Guard troops in Arctic Eagle 2022.

2. No Hands in Pockets Rule – In the Marine Corps:


Hands in pockets are as bad as chewing gum and chewing tobacco or cigarettes, according to the Marine Corps Order P1020.34G. Marines should not be putting their hands in their pockets because this detracts from the sense of professionalism that the branch wants to maintain.

3. No Hands in Pockets Rule – in the Navy:

Like the other service branches, it is inappropriate for members of the Navy to have their hands in their pockets. The proper manner for Navy uniform wear dictates that no hands should be in pockets, as it will belittle military smartness.

4. No Hands in Pockets Rule – In the Air Force:

If you have read through the afi 36-2903 publication that governs Airmen’s dress and appearance, you will know that pockets appear a lot. But it used to be that members of the Air Force cannot put their hands in their pockets.

It was not until recently (2021) that regulations were adjusted and Airmen were permitted to pocket their hands while in uniform.

But the no hands in pockets is also one of the more commonly broken rules.

Check out this photo series of famous military members (across all service branches) with their hands in their pockets:

  • Lieutenant Audie Murphy (The U.S Army) – Served from 1942 to 1969
  • General of the Armies John J. Pershing (The U.S Army) – Served from 1886 to 1924
  • Major General Smedley Butler (The U.S Marine Corps) – Served from 1898 to 1931
  • General Billy Mitchell (The U.S Army) – Served from 1898 to 1926
  • Rear Admiral John L. Hall (The U.S Navy) – Served from 1913 to 1953
  • Major General Carl Spaatz (The U.S Army & The U.S Air Force) – Served from 1914 to 1948
  • General Lewis B. Chesty Puller (The U.S Marine Corps) – Served from 1918 to 1955
  • General Curtis LeMay (The U.S Air Force) – Served from 1929 to 1965
  • Lieutenant Colonel James Stewart (The U.S Air Force) – Served from 1941 to 1976
  • Supreme Allied Commander General Dwight D. Eisenhower (In office from 1951 to 1952)
  • Sergeant Elvis Presley (The U.S Army) – Served from 1958 to 1960
  • Brigadier General Richard Clarke (The U.S Army) – Served from 1984 to Present
  • General Martin Dempsey (The U.S Army) – Served from 1974 to 2015
  • General Raymond Odierno (The U.S Army) – Served from 1976 to 2015

There is even a whole Facebook dedicated to military members defying the “no hands in pockets” policy.

The group is called “I’m in the Army, but my hands are in my pockets anyways,” which is self-explanatory. In it are photos of members with their hands in their pockets and excuses that some come up with to do so, like “I am trying to look for my keys,” or “I am searching for my pad.”

In keeping with today’s social media trends, there are also many memes making fun of the policy. Check out these 4 memes here:



Now that you have finished reading this article on “Why can’t military put hands in pockets?” you should know what to do and what not to do with your hands while serving in the military. If you have other questions, please do not hesitate to reach out to us in the comments down below. Leave your thoughts on this topic there as well! If you think this will be interesting to a friend or family member, please help us share it with them too. Thank you!

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