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File:Charles R. Broom (United States Marine Corps) 001.png
Circa 1817, First Lieutenant Charles Rumsey Broom, USMC, sports the high collar that gave rise to this moniker.

Leatherneck is a military slang term for a member of the United States Marine Corps, or of the British Royal Marines.[1] It is generally believed to originate in the wearing of a leather "stock" or collar around the neck, which kept the posture erect.


The term "leatherneck" was derived from a leather stock once worn around the neck by both American and British Marines. In the United States, beginning in 1798, "one stock of black leather and clasp" was issued to each Marine every year.[2] Its use as a synecdoche for Marines began as a term of ridicule by sailors.[3]

The dress blue uniform of the US Marines still bears a tribute to that stock collar today, with its stiff cloth collar.[4]

Leather neck collar

This stiff leather collar, fastened by two buckles at the back, measured between 2.5 and more than 3 inches tall in front, tapering toward the back.[5][6] The origin of the leather neck collar, also known as a "stock", has to do with early 19th century military fashion trends in Europe and North America; its use among enlisted men supposedly improved their military bearing and appearance by forcing the chin high and posture straight.[7]

The stock was uncomfortable, but Marines would be punished for failure to wear them on duty, so some would have the stock stitched to their coats to ensure it was always on their uniform.[5] General George F. Elliott, recalling its use after the American Civil War, said the "effect of the stock when buckled around a man's neck was to hold his head high in the air, like geese looking for rain".[8]

The stock was dropped as an article of American Marine uniform in 1872, after surviving through the uniform changes of 1833, 1839, and 1859.[9]

As protection

While the stock is mistakenly understood to have been worn only for posture, popular belief and Marine Corps History tells that it was worn to protect the neck from sword cuts,[10] such as cutlass slashes while boarding ships.[11] the leather stock was adopted three years prior to the Barbary War in which United States Marines first fought Arabic Muslim troops armed with scimitars. It was specifically designed as protection against sword slashes to the throat, and should not be seen just as a 'dress' item.

Alternative etymology for Royal Marines

While the American Marine Corps nickname "leatherneck" is generally attributed to the wear of the leather stock, some argue that the use of the term for British Royal Marines is not based on that garment, but instead on the tough and "leathery" nature of a weathered and unwashed neck, noting that "roughneck" is also a British slang term for a marine.[12]

See also


  1. Gordon L Rottman (1 January 2012). FUBAR F***ed Up Beyond All Recognition: Soldier Slang of World War II. Osprey Publishing. pp. 137–. ISBN 978-1-84908-653-0.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. "Legends of the Marine Corps". Marine Corps Historical Reference Series. USMCHangout.com. 1963. Retrieved 2014-06-22.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. Lighter, Jonathan (June 20, 2014). "How World War I gave us 'cooties'". CNN. Retrieved 2014-06-22. Now accepted by Webster as a synonym for Marine, the term "Leatherneck" was derived from a leather stock once worn around the neck by both American and British Marines--and soldiers also. Beginning in 1798, "one stock of black leather and clasp" was issued to each U. S. Marine annually.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. "Lore of the Corps". National Museum of the Marine Corps. Retrieved 2014-06-22. This leather collar served to protect the neck against cutlass slashes and to hold the head erect in proper military bearing. Sailors serving aboard ship with Marines came to call them 'leathernecks.' Use of the leather stock was retained until after the Civil War when it was replaced by a strip of black glazed leather attached to the inside front of the dress uniform collar. The last vestiges of the leather stock can be seen in today’s modern dress uniform, which features a stiff cloth tab behind the front of the collar. The term 'leatherneck' transcended the actual use of the leather stock and became a common nickname for United States Marines.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. 5.0 5.1 Robert H. Rankin (1970). Uniforms of the Marines. Putnam. p. 26.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  6. Lawrence F. Lowery (2007). The Golden Age of Big Little Books. Educational Research and Applications LLC. p. 155. ISBN 978-0-9762724-8-9.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  7. Our Navy, the Standard Publication of the U.S. Navy. 1918. pp. 2–.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  8. The Leatherneck. Leatherneck Association. 1953. p. 32.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  9. USMC uniforms during the Civil War. Marine Corps Association
  10. Edward F. Dolan (1 September 2009). Careers in the U.S. Marine Corps. Marshall Cavendish. pp. 23–. ISBN 978-0-7614-4637-8.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  11. Richard S. Lowry (2006). US Marine in Iraq: Operation Iraqi Freedom, 2003. Osprey Publishing. pp. 63–. ISBN 978-1-84176-982-0.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  12. Scott Keller (2004). Marine Pride: A Salute to America's Elite Fighting Force. Kensington Publishing Corporation. pp. 23–. ISBN 978-0-8065-2603-4.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>