The United States Army has a list of standards and expectations for all members regarding their uniform as well as physical appearance.
Tightly maintained and regulated Army grooming standards have been put in place by the U.S. Armed Forces in order to help enforce discipline. Even so, many policies have changed to promote inclusivity.
It’s assumed that when each soldier maintains a “clean-cut” appearance that the military unit as a whole is well organized and detailed.
It also helps foster an environment where soldiers feel proud and respectful about their daily appearance, adding to an overall feeling of self-worth.
Thus, U.S. Army hair regulations, facial hair, and other accessories (makeup, fingernails, etc) are considered daily essentials in order to maintain a high functioning, well-disciplined unit.
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The fundamental belief that all Army uniforms and personal appearance must be “neat and well-groomed” has served as a vital ingredient in making the U.S. Armed Forces one of the most cohesive and dedicated military forces in all of the world.
In this article, you will learn about Army hair regulations including female authorized hairstyles, facial hair rules, makeup policies and other standards for hygiene accessories.
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Army Hair Regulations
U.S. Army hair regulations are considered “necessary to maintain uniformity within a military population” according to the Army manual AR 760-1:3-2 – Hair and Fingernail Standards and Grooming Policies.
The document serves as the official standards and expectations for all members of the U.S. Army.
Since not every single hairstyle or personal appearance detail may be covered in AR 760-1:3-2, it is considered the responsibility of commanders to ensure that military personnel under their command represent a neat and tidy appearance.
Thus, in the absence of specific procedures or guidelines for gauging if a hairstyle is acceptable, commanders are asked to exercise personal judgment regarding the matter.
All in all, the manual is fairly straightforward yet detailed in providing what is acceptable or unacceptable for Army hair regulations in 2021. Many changes have been made this year in an effort to be more inclusive of all backgrounds.
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Male Army Haircuts and Hair Styles
According to official Army standards, personal appearance is determined by the appropriateness of the following guidelines, as well as the ability to correctly wear all types of military assigned headgear (beret, patrol cap, service hat, etc) and protective headgear (mask or combat helmet).
- Hairstyles that do not allow Army soldiers to correctly wear any headgear are prohibited. It includes any hairstyle where the length or bulk interferes with the headgear fit.
- Thus, headgear must also fit snugly and comfortably, “without bulging or distortion from the intended shape of the headgear or without excessive gaps”.
- Male hairstyles that pose health or safety hazards are not authorized under any circumstances.
- Hair color must remain natural or be used with a dye, tint, or bleach that reflects a natural hair color. A more recent addition to the grooming standards is the acceptance of highlights. Unnatural, artificial hair colors that “detract from a professional military appearance” is not allowed.
Hair Color Regulations
Soldiers may not change their hair color to outlandish ones such as purple, pink, green, orange, bright red, and fluorescent or neon colors.
Leaders are expected to use good judgment in order to determine if the hair color is considered appropriate.
Male Authorized (and unauthorized) Hairstyles In The US Army
Male hairstyles may cut a part into the hairstyle in circumstances where the texture of the hair does not part naturally.
Straight-line parts, not slanted or curved parts, are only authorized.
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Additional Army hair regulation updates remove the requirement that hair must present a tapered appearance. Multiple hairstyles are now allowed as long as it maintains a neat professional appearance and doesn’t impede the use of headgear.
The hairstyle is not considered acceptable if when combed it falls over the ears or eyebrows, or touches the collar.
An example of an unauthorized hairstyle:
Examples of prohibited hairstyles under this definition would include Mohawks, Horseshoes, or “Landing Strips” (see below).
The below haircuts would be prohibited in the Army:
Finally, under updated standards, soldiers are permitted to wear cornrows, braids, twists, and locks as long as the width is no greater than 1/2 inch in width.
Wigs and hairpieces are not allowed for male soldiers. The exception is when used to cover natural baldness or physical dis-figuration caused by a medical procedure or accident.
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Female Authorized Hairstyles In The Army
Like male soldiers, female members of the U.S. Army must maintain a hairstyle that is neat and professional.
However, there is some more leeway and types of permissions granted for female authorized hairstyles within the Army.
Female hair regulations in the Army are observed in order to maintain uniformity.
In general, 3 different categories provide basic explanations for what the U.S. Army allows, and does not allow regarding female soldiers:
Short length hair
It’s defined as a hair length that extends no more than 1 inch from the scalp (excluding bangs).
A recent update to grooming standards is the removal of female members having to observe a minimum length of 1/4 inch from the scalp.
The Army determined that females attending Ranger, Special Forces, or Sapper training desired short hair while training in austere training environments. The removal of the minimum length requirement is Army wide.
Medium length hair
It’s defined as a hair length that does not extend beyond the lower edge of the collar in all types of Army uniforms.
It also extends more than 1 inch from the scalp.
Medium hair is authorized when it falls naturally in uniform and does not have to be secured.
“Loose, graduated hairstyles” as well as “layered hairstyles” are permitted with extra clarifications.
Long length hair
It’s defined as a hair length that extends beyond the lower edge of the collar.
Long hair must remain neat in appearance at all times.
It also must remain “inconspicuous” with a pin or fastener that is above the lower edge of the collar.
Like medium length hairstyles, the bulk may not exceed 2 inches, except for the bun portion.
That portion of the hair may extend a maximum of 3 1/2 inches from the scalp as well as no wider than the width of the head.
Bangs are only allowed if they do not fall below the eyebrows.
They must not also interfere with the use of headgear, a major requirement for all branches of the U.S. Military when it comes to grooming standards.
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Unauthorized Hairstyles For Women
The U.S. Army has removed potentially offensive language such as “faddish or exaggerated styles” of hair to embrace diversity.
Examples of styles still prohibited by the Army include:
- Hair sculpting (like ‘spiking’) to produce an unnatural directional flow of the hair.
- Buns with loose hair extending at the end.
- Styles with severe angles or designs cut into the scalp.
- Loose, unsecured hair even when medium or long length hair is worn up.
“Unbalanced or lopsided” hairstyles are also not authorized. It must be styled so it never interferes with the proper use of all military assigned headgear.
The Army actually has a really good graphic demonstrating exactly which hairstyles are unauthorized, check it out below:
Army soldiers are allowed to wear braids, cornrows, dreadlocks, and twists, yet the types of hairstyles are closely regulated by the military branch.
For example, braids or fashionable styles must conform to all hair and appearance standards.
There must be less than 1 inch difference in the length of them from front to back.
For a complete list of requirements, please consult the U.S. Army AR 670-1:3-2 section of the manual.
Like men, female headgear must fit snugly and comfortably around the largest part of the head without bulging or distortion.
If the headgear does not fit the intended shape, or has excessive gaps, female soldiers will be expected to conform their haircut into acceptable standards immediately.
What about hair accessories for females?
Hair holding devices are allowed only for the purpose of securing the hair for longer lengths. Decorative hair accessories are prohibited.
The accessory must also be plain or a color similar to the natural hair color of the female soldier.
Hair extensions are permitted for female members of the Army. They must have the same general appearance as the natural hair color and conform to standard hair regulations.
Wigs are also authorized so long as they look natural and once again conform to standard hair regulations.
However, wigs are not allowed if it is simply used to “cover up unauthorized hairstyles”.
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Army Beard and Mustache Regulations
What about Army facial hair? Is it allowed? What do you need to know about Army mustache regulation?
Facial hair in the U.S. Army is not allowed, aside from mustaches.
Army mustache regulation is tightly enforced as soldiers are expected to otherwise keep their face clean-shaved when in uniform.
For starters, the Army released a graphic that demonstrates the policy with specific details.
Mustaches must look neatly trimmed, tapered, and tidy at all times.
They cannot present a “chopped off or bushy appearance”.
No portion of the mustache may cover the upper line of the lip.
It cannot extend past a sideways vertical line drawn from the upward corners of the mouth.
The facial hair must also not extend above a parallel line at the lowest portion of the nose.
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Army grooming standards regulate mustaches very closely.
Alternate versions like handlebar mustaches, goatees, or beards are simply not allowed.
The only exception is when granted a medical waiver by the U.S. Army.
Here are a few examples of mustaches and beards that are NOT allowed in the Army:
Sideburns, on the other hand, are allowed with certain specifications.
Army facial hair rules include sideburns so long as they do not extend below the bottom of the opening of the ear.
It may also not exceed 1/8 inch in length when fully extended.
Sideburns are also not allowed to be styled to “taper, flair, or come to a point”.
Army Piercing Policy
The U.S. Army has fairly strict guidelines for body piercings despite recently easing its stance on tattoos.
In uniform, they are not allowed for male members.
They are also tightly regulated for female members.
Members may not “attach, affix, or display objects, articles, jewelry or ornamentation to or through the ear, nose, tongue, or any exposed body part) according to official Army personal appearance standards.
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The one exception for women is they may wear one small spherical earring in gold, silver, or diamond. The earring can be screw in or clip-on.
The earrings in each lobe must match.
The jewelry may also not extend below the earlobe.
Other Grooming Standards
Soldiers are required to maintain good personal hygiene and grooming on a daily basis, as well as wear the uniform in a way that does not detract from the overall military appearance.
Here are some other Army grooming standards not covered above:
- Fingernails: All personnel is required to keep them clean and neatly trimmed. Males may not have fingernails extend beyond the fingertip. A recent change is that clear nail polish is now allowed for males.
- Fragrances (Cologne): It is allowed so long as it does not distract from the rest of the uniform, or with other soldiers.
- Makeup: According to Army makeup policy, females are authorized to wear cosmetics so long as it maintains uniformity and professional appearance. The best advice is to apply makeup modestly and conservatively in order to stay within Army makeup policy expectations.
- Lipstick: Females may wear shades of lipstick so long as they are with the natural color of the lips and do not detract from the uniform.
- Fingernails / Toenails: Females can have longer fingernails than male members. Fingernails may not exceed a nail length of 1/4 inch as measured from the tip of the finger. However, a commander can still demand they are cut shorter if it presents a safety concern or interferes with the performance of duties.
- Nail Polish: Females may wear nail polish when in uniform, or while in civilian clothes on duty. Acrylic nails are also allowed so long as they have a natural appearance and conform to Army standards.
- Perfumes / Fragrances: There are not a lot of guidelines regarding perfumes and fragrances for female soldiers. Discretion is granted to leaders. The best advice is to apply conservatively so it does not distract from the rest of the uniform.
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We actually have a full article on the Army Tattoo Policy here.
Read that article to get the most up-to-date info on what tattoos you can have, and which ones you can’t!
If you’re looking for a cost-effective, at home, DIY type of tattoo removal, check out our review of this tattoo removal laser pen kit.
It’s a safe and convenient alternative to expensive visits to a laser tattoo removal professional service.
U.S. Army hair regulations and grooming standards are comparative to other branches of the Armed Forces.
A conservative, neat, and tidy approach are best recommended. For any clarification, please consult the AR 670-1:3-2, Hair and Fingernail Standards and Grooming Policies link below.
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