The U.S. Navy is known for running a tight ship (no pun intended) when it comes to hair, mustache, and grooming standards.
Navy hair regulations are known for their neat, professional demands.
According to the guidelines presented by the U.S. Navy, commanding officers must enforce that haircuts and facial hair do not impede the ability to safely wear and properly utilize emergency equipment.
For this reason, along with the long-standing tradition that U.S. Military members are “clean-cut,” we examine Navy grooming standards in this article.
You will learn the different policies in the Navy regarding haircuts, facial hair, body art, and other grooming standards.
Related Article – Army Grooming Standards
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Navy Hair Regulations
Navy hair regulations for men are what you would expect from your typical branch of the U.S. Armed Forces.
The official policy of the U.S. Navy mandates that hair must be “kept neat, clean, and well-groomed”.
Navy Haircut Regulations – Men
- Hair above the ears and around the neck must be tapered from the lower natural hairline upwards at least 3/4 inch and outward not greater than 3/4 inch.
- Hair on the back of the neck must not touch the collar.
- Navy hair regulations require that strands be no longer than four inches and do not touch the ears or collar, extend below eyebrows when headgear is removed, show under the front edge of headgear, or interfere with the proper use of headgear.
- The bulk of the hair cannot exceed approximately two inches.
The Navy defines “bulk” as the distance that the “mass of the hair protrudes from the scalp”.
They have a crudely demonstrated illustration of exactly what that means on the official Navy.mil site, which you can see below:
Naval members are not allowed to color their hair differently from a “natural look”.
According to official guidelines, “Multicolored hair is not authorized.”
There are exceptions that are made for unique types of hair, like curls or waves, that in some cases may be difficult to maintain a 3/4 inch taper from the back of the neck.
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In terms of hairstyles, the Navy authorizes certain looks (i.e. afro) so long as the criteria of the maximum length and bulk, as well as tapered neck and sides, are not neglected.
The hairstyle must also not interfere with military-assigned headgear.
Braided or plaited hair is not allowed while in uniform.
The Navy considers sideburns a part of the haircut and requires that they are neatly trimmed and tailored.
They are not allowed to extend below a point level with the middle of the ear.
The Navy demonstrates this again in their crudely demonstrated drawing below:
Sideburns must also remain even in width and must end with a clean-shaven horizontal trim.
Related Article – Air Force Grooming Standards
Navy Haircut Regulations – Female
Female Sailors are required to maintain similar standards while on duty or in uniform.
- Navy grooming standards maintain that women’s hairstyles and haircuts must present a professional and balanced appearance. The allowance of a hairstyle is evaluated by its appearance when headgear is worn.
- Headgear must fit snugly and comfortably. If the hairstyle gets in the way of these two aspects, it is always deemed inappropriate.
- Like men, women must not show hair from under the front of headgear. It may not protrude from the opening in the back either, except when wearing a bun or ponytail.
According to the policy, “lopsided and extremely asymmetrical hairstyles” are prohibited.
Furthermore, angled hairstyles must have no more than 1 – 1 1/2 inch difference between the front and back length of hair.
Layered hairstyles are authorized if the layers are presented smoothly.
The length of hair, when in uniform, may touch yet not fall below a horizontal line level to the lower edge of the back of the collar.
There is more leniency when dealing with jumper collars.
Longer hair like braids or cornrows must be neatly fastened, pinned, or secured to the head, and bangs cannot extend below the eyebrows.
Hair bulk (not including the bun) is measured from the scalp and cannot exceed 2 inches.
When the bun is considered, bulk may not exceed 3 inches when measured from the scalp and the diameter of the bun shall not exceed the width of the back of the head.
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Hair dyes for women are allowed to only resemble a natural hair color (blonde, brunette, brown, black, red, gray).
Strands that are dyed with unnatural colors are not authorized.
Like men, the Navy recognizes unique hair textures like curls and waves. They still must minimize scalp exposure.
Hair extensions must match the current hair color. Wigs and hairpieces must be of a natural hair color.
Click here for additional standards on specific types of female hairstyles and how the Navy requires you to maintain them.
Related Article – Marine Corps Grooming Standards
Navy Beard and Mustache Regulations
The U.S. Navy requires that the face be clean-shaven unless a shaving waiver is authorized by a Commanding Officer.
The waiver is sometimes used to grant religious accommodations or other special interests.
A Navy mustache is the one exception.
Mustaches are allowed by the Navy, yet must be kept neat and closely trimmed.
Abusing the privilege will result in stricter facial hair restrictions. (IE no mustache at all)
Navy mustache regulations specify that no portion of the mustache may extend below the lip line of the upper lip.
It is also not allowed to go beyond a horizontal line that extends across the corners of the mouth.
The Navy put out a crude drawing that demonstrates this, which you can see below:
Additionally, no more than 1/4 inch beyond a vertical line drawn from the corner of the mouth.
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The length of the mustache “fully extended” cannot exceed approximately 1/2 inch.
So, for example, handlebar mustaches or goatees are not allowed.
The same rules apply to beards and other facial hair.
The only thing that is permitted is Navy mustaches that fit within the limitations described above.
According to the U.S. Navy, the following personnel are not authorized to wear facial hair of any kind, unless granted a medical waiver or religious accommodation:
- Brig prisoners
- Brig awardees
- Personnel in a disciplinary hold status
- Personnel assigned to a transient personnel unit and are awaiting separation
Navy Piercing Policy
The U.S. Navy outlines specific rules and regulations regarding jewelry, including piercings.
According to official policy, jewelry is authorized for all personnel as long as it doesn’t “distracts from the professional military appearance.”
The items must also not present a safety or FOD (Foreign Object Damage) hazard.
Earrings have two different guidelines, one for men and one for women.
Male Navy Members:
- Are not authorized to wear earrings while in uniform.
- Are not authorized with civilian attire while on duty status, or while in/abroad on a ship, aircraft, or any military vehicle. Also not within a base or other place under military jurisdiction.
Female Navy Members:
- Are allowed one earring per ear when in uniform. It must be centered on the earlobe.
- Earrings must be a 4mm to 6mm ball or round-cut clear stone. They also must be plain with a shiny or brushed matte finish.
- Errings may be silver, gold (yellow or white), white pearl, or colorless diamond (or colorless synthetic diamond).
As for body piercings, they are not permitted while in uniform.
Consequently, no articles other than earrings for women are authorized while on duty.
These include body piercings of any type, like nose or lip rings.
Body piercings are also not allowed in civilian attire when in a duty status or while on military ships, aircraft, or vehicles.
Body piercings are also not allowed in places under U.S. Military jurisdiction or participating in organized military recreational activities.
Related Article – Coast Guard Grooming Standards
Other Grooming Standards
Navy grooming standards apply to a number of other parts of the human anatomy.
Here are some other considerations you need to follow if enlisting in the U.S. Navy:
- Fingernails: They may not extend past the fingertips. Fingernails must also be kept clean and remain round to the contour of the fingertip. Colored nail polish is not authorized. Clear nail polish is allowed.
- Fragrances (Cologne): Navy grooming regulations do not prohibit aftershave or cologne outside of boot camp. It is generally acceptable so long as the scent is not overpowering.
- Makeup: Cosmetics allowed by the Navy must blend with natural skin tone and enhance natural features. Exaggerated or faddish makeup styles are not permitted while in uniform. Permanent makeup is only authorized for eyebrows, eyeliner, lipstick, and lip liner only. Long, false eyelashes are not allowed in uniform.
- Lipstick: Lipstick colors must remain conservative and complement, not distract the individual in uniform.
- Fingernails / Toenails: Fingernails may not exceed 1/4 inch measured from the fingertip. They must be kept clean. Fingernails may be round, almond/oval, or square in shape.
- Nail Polish: Nail polish is allowed but colors must remain conservative and “inconspicuous”. For example, white, black, red, yellow, orange, purple, green, hot pink, or glitter would all be colors that are not authorized by the Navy.
- Perfumes / Fragrances: Similar to men, women may wear perfume or another type of fragrance so long as it is not overpowering.
We actually have a full article on the Navy 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.
Quick Frequently Asked Questions
Can you have a beard or mustache in the Navy?
Unfortunately, because the Navy wants its sailors to be clean-shaven, beards are not allowed. Mustaches, on the other hand, are allowed under certain conditions.
Special Note on this: No doubt you have probably seen pics of Navy SEALs with full-on beards, and you’re probably asking yourself, “Why is this guy telling me beards aren’t allowed in the Navy?”
During the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, special ops forces (such as the SEALs) are / were commonly in contact with the local population.
Because of this, the Department of the Navy relaxed the rules on beards to help them adapt to the cultural norms in the area of operations.
It’s important to note that this was only applicable to SEALs in specific parts of the world.
As a frogman, you wouldn’t want to be sporting a full-on beard when doing underwater operations.
Are hair cuts mandatory in the Navy?
You need to meet certain grooming requirements, with hair length being one of them. All of this is discussed in meticulous detail in the article above.
Can I wear dreadlocks?
Like the Air Force, the US Navy allows female sailors to wear locks, provided they meet certain criteria. Men are not allowed to have dreadlocks.
Can I wear a ponytail?
Female sailors are allowed to wear a ponytail, provided they meet the mandatory criteria in regards to length and style of the ponytail.
The U.S. Navy has fairly strict guidelines for your presentation. Hair regulations are enforced tightly.
Navy grooming standards have specifics depending on if you are a male or female service member.
The best advice is to wear nothing obnoxious or overpowering that will get the attention of a Commanding Officer.
“Clean-cut” Navy members fit in with the culture of the U.S. Armed Forces.