The New Marine Corps PT Gear Will Have Shorter Shorts — but Not ‘Silkies’


A new Marine Corps physical training uniform will have shorter shorts than previous versions, but they won’t be as short as the long-banned, skin-tight, still-beloved “silkies.” Photos courtesy of the US Marine Corps, Irreverent Warriors/Facebook.

Photos courtesy of the US Marine Corps, Irreverant Warrior/Facebook.

The good news is that the shorts in the Marine Corps’ new PT gear will be shorter. The bad news is that they still won’t be near as short as “silkies.”

Marine Corps Systems Command announced a new prototype for the next generation of the USMC’s official issued PT gear on Thursday, Oct. 6. But the uniform’s shorts — though shorter than previous prototypes — will still be almost 3 inches longer than long-abandoned, nearly skin-tight short shorts universally recalled as “silkies.”


Marines in the latest round of prototype PT gear, feartuing shorts with a 5-inch inseam. Photo courtesy of MCSC_OPAC

Photo courtesy of MCSC_OPAC.

“The beloved ‘silkies’ unfortunately will not be making a comeback,” according to a Marine Corps release.

“Silkies,” of course, are the 2.25-inch-inseam PT shorts that the Marines phased out in 2011. The light shorts were uniformly known as “silkies” for the soft and silklike nature of their very thin nylon. The short shorts still have no, er, shortage of fans. Facebook pages like Semper Silkies still recall their glory days, and several companies sell replicas in designs that range from OD green to American flag print to silkies with Gen. James Mattis pictured on them.

As the Marines acknowledged in introducing the latest PT gear, silkies remain beloved. At least one veteran-focused group, Irreverent Warriors, puts on events in which participants are encouraged to run or ruck in silkies or other extremely nonregulation — and usually revealing — versions of military gear.


Marines in “silkies” and not much else. Photo courtesy of SemperSilkies/Facebook.

Photo courtesy of SemperSilkies/Facebook.

The latest shorts, according to the Marines, will have 5-inch inseams, roughly akin to many athletic shorts sold by major athletic brands today.

Kristine Bealmear, the PT uniform project officer with MCSC’s clothing and equipment team, said the latest round of Marine PT gear offered several advantages over previous generations.

“I think they’re going to like them a lot better than the previous prototypes. I think the women are going to be a lot happier,” she said.


Sure, why not? Photo courtesy of Semper Silkies/Facebook.

Photo courtesy of Semper Silkies/Facebook.

The new uniforms will be lighter, have reflective striping down the back, and sizing will no longer be gender-neutral.

“We found that gender-neutral sizing does not work well for our women Marines,” Bealmear explained. “With the last prototype, for example, we found that, if the shirt fit them well across the bust line, it was too big in the neck. Same with the shorts — if they fit in the waist, they were probably tight across the hip line.”

“The results from last year’s [limited user evaluation] were clear. The material was heavy. The shorts were long. The reflective material was restrictive. And so, we just kind of took all of that information and we went from there,” Bealmear explained. “The Marines are the ones that have to wear this uniform, so it’s in our best interest to listen to what they have to say.”

During the current evaluation, which runs through October, 350 Marines will wear the new uniforms in regular duty.

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Matt White is a senior editor for Coffee or Die Magazine. He was a Pararescueman in the Air Force and the Alaska Air National Guard for eight years and has more than a decade of experience in daily and magazine journalism. He also teaches journalism at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
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