If you’re a civilian, the word “jarhead” may conjure up the gory image of a person’s noggin encapsulated in a cylindrical glass container.

But if you’re a U.S. Marine, you know the term as a loving moniker. What you might not realize, however, is where that nickname originated.

“The term first appeared as early as World War II and referred to Marines’ appearance wearing their dress blue uniforms,” according to the National Museum of the Marine Corps. “The high collar on the uniform and the Marines’ head popping out of the top resembled a Mason Jar.”

At the time, it was intended to be an insult, but much like today’s stereotype of crayon eating, the Marines chose to own it as their own.

“Since World War II, the term has been applied more widely to Marine Corps recruits with their ‘squared head’ appearance because of the close-cropped haircuts,” the museum archive added. “Some Marines refer to the ‘high and tight’ haircut as a ‘Jarhead cut.’”

So synonymous has the term become with Marine Corps service that author Anthony Swofford, who served during the Gulf War, gave the name to his 2003 memoir. That book then served as the basis for the 2005 movie “Jarhead,” starring Jake Gyllenhaal.

According to the National Museum of the Marine Corps, the jarhead moniker has “become a source of pride for all Marines.”

Sarah Sicard is a Senior Editor with Military Times. She previously served as the Digitial Editor of Military Times and the Army Times Editor. Other work can be found at National Defense Magazine, Task & Purpose, and Defense News.

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