In one largely overlooked change included in the Navy’s sweeping update to its uniform policy, both male and female sailors now have the option to wear leggings under their physical training shorts.

“Black or navy-blue leggings/tights are authorized for optional wear with the Physical Training Uniform shorts and fitness suit pants,” according to Navy Administrative Message 031/24, which was released on Wednesday.

Both male and female sailors suggested that the Navy include leggings in the service’s approved PT apparel, said Navy Capt. Jodie Cornell, a spokeswoman for the Chief of Naval Personnel.

“Compression garments can increase blood flow to the muscle, which can enhance performance during and recovery following exercise,” Cornell told Task & Purpose. “It’s important that Sailors choose the correct type of garment for their local weather conditions to ensure they can regulate their body temperature appropriately.”

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The reason why sailors have to also wear the shorts is the Navy’s PT uniform includes both the shirt and shorts, Cornell said.

The Navy’s move to allow sailors to wear leggings while they exercise is a step forward for women, said Jenna Carlton, who served in the Navy from 2013 to 2017.

“When it is cold out, your only choice is to wear sweatpants which aren’t the easiest to move in,” Carlton told Task & Purpose. “Allowing sailors to wear leggings under PT uniforms will allow for more natural movement and also provide more warmth. It may also be more comfortable when performing PT test requirements such as push-ups and sit-ups.”

Navy Leggings
This picture from the Chief of Naval Personnel’s office shows how male and female sailors can wear leggings underneath their PT shorts. (U.S. Navy photo)

Carlton noted that another welcomed change from the Navy is allowing women to wear T-shirts that are specifically designed for female bodies with their uniforms.

“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,” NAVADMIN 031/24 says.

The Department of the Air Force already allows airmen and Guardians to wear “fitting sportswear (i.e. spandex, lycra or elastic)” under their PT shorts. Marines can wear tights as long as they don’t extend beyond their shorts.

The Army only allows soldiers with approved religious accommodations to wear leggings that are “black in a subdued material” under their shorts.

Women in the special operations community have complained that they face a double standard when it comes to PT gear, according to a study from U.S. Army Special Operations Command, which was released in August.

The women said they would often be reprimanded by male supervisors for “showing off their body” if they wore leggings, but men would not face any punishment if they wore revealing “Ranger panties,” according to the study.

“Most women do not have a problem with ranger panties, they simply loathe the double standard,” the study found.

The Navy’s approval of leggings under PT shorts is one of many changes announced on Wednesday. The most groundbreaking news was that sailors are now allowed to put their hands in their pockets. The Navy also announced that female sailors can once again wear the “bucket cover,” which the service had retired in 2018, as well as the taira.

Sailors can purchase “bucket covers” privately because they won’t be sold at Navy Exchange Uniform Centers, Wednesday’s Navy-wide message says.

“The tiara will be available for personal purchase as a special order item via Navy Exchange Online Customer Service with a lead time of approximately four weeks,” the message says.

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