The Army has a set of standards for uniform and appearance where discipline is judged. Therefore, a neat and well-groomed appearance by all soldiers is fundamental to the Army and contributes to an effective military force. A vital ingredient of the Army’s strength and military effectiveness is the pride and self-discipline that American soldiers bring to their service through a conservative military image.
It is the responsibility of commanders to ensure that military personnel under their command present a neat and soldierly appearance. Therefore, in the absence of specific procedures or guidelines, commanders must determine a soldier’s compliance with standards in this regulation.
Why Are There Grooming Standards?
The requirement for hair grooming standards is necessary to maintain uniformity within a military population. Many hairstyles are acceptable, as long as they are neat and conservative. It is the responsibility of leaders at all levels to exercise good judgment in the enforcement of Army policy. All soldiers will comply with the hair, fingernail, and grooming policies while in any military uniform or while in civilian clothes on duty as well.
The main issue to avoid is any hairstyle that does not allow soldiers to wear the headgear properly. Also any style that interferes with the proper wear of the protective mask or other protective equipment, are prohibited.
Grooming for Men
Soldiers who have a texture of hair that does not part naturally may cut a part into the hair. The part will be one straight line, not slanted or curved, and will fall in the area where the soldier would normally part the hair. Soldiers will not cut designs into their hair or scalp.
If soldiers use dyes, tints, or bleaches, they must choose those that result in natural hair colors. It is the responsibility of leaders to use good judgment in determining if applied colors are acceptable, based upon the overall effect on soldiers’ appearance.
The hair on top of the head must be neatly groomed. The length and bulk of the hair may not be excessive or present a ragged, unkempt, or extreme appearance. The hair must present a tapered appearance. A tapered appearance is one where the outline of the soldier’s hair conforms to the shape of the head, curving inward to the natural termination point at the base of the neck.
Males are not authorized to wear braids, cornrows, or dreadlocks (unkempt, twisted, matted, individual parts of hair) while in uniform or in civilian clothes on duty. Hair that is clipped closely or shaved to the scalp is authorized.
When the hair is combed, it will not fall over the ears or eyebrows, or touch the collar, except for the closely cut hair at the back of the neck. The block-cut fullness in the back is permitted to a moderate degree, as long as the tapered look is maintained. In all cases, the bulk or length of hair may not interfere with the normal wear of headgear or protective masks or equipment.
Males will keep their face clean-shaven when in uniform or in civilian clothes on duty. Mustaches are permitted; if worn, males will keep mustaches neatly trimmed, tapered, and tidy. Mustaches will not present a chopped off or bushy appearance and no portion of the mustache will cover the upper lip line or extend sideways beyond a vertical line drawn upward from the corners of the mouth. Handlebar mustaches, goatees, and beards are not authorized.
Males will keep sideburns neatly trimmed. Sideburns may not be flared; the base of the sideburn will be a clean shaven, horizontal line. Sideburns will not extend below the lowest part of the exterior ear opening.
If appropriate medical authority prescribes beard growth, the length required for medical treatment must be specified. For example, “The length of the beard will not exceed 1/4 inch.” Soldiers will keep the growth trimmed to the level specified by appropriate medical authority, but they are not authorized to shape the growth into goatees, or “Fu Manchu” or handlebar mustaches.
Males are prohibited from wearing wigs or hairpieces while in uniform or in civilian clothes on duty, except to cover natural baldness or physical disfiguration caused by accident or medical procedure. When worn, wigs or hairpieces will conform to the standard haircut criteria as stated above.
Soldiers may not wear hairnets unless they are required for health or safety reasons, or in the performance of duties (such as those of a cook). No other type of hair covering is authorized in lieu of the hairnet.
Cosmetics and Nails
Males are prohibited from wearing cosmetics, to include nail polish.
All personnel will keep fingernails clean and neatly trimmed. Males will keep nails trimmed so as not to extend beyond the fingertip.
Grooming for Women
Females will ensure their hair is neatly groomed, that the length and bulk of the hair are not excessive and that the hair does not present a ragged, unkempt, or extreme appearance.
Likewise, trendy styles that result in shaved portions of the scalp (other than the neckline) or designs cut into the hair are prohibited. Females may wear braids and cornrows as long as the braided style is conservative, the braids and cornrows lie snugly on the head, and any hair holding devices comply with the standards below. Dreadlocks (unkempt, twisted, matted individual parts of hair) are prohibited in uniform or in civilian clothes on duty.
Styles that are lopsided or distinctly unbalanced are prohibited. Ponytails, pigtails, or braids that are not secured to the head (allowing hair to hang freely), widely spaced individual hanging locks, and other extreme styles that protrude from the head are prohibited.
Hair will not fall over the eyebrows or extend below the bottom edge of the collar at any time during normal activity or when standing in formation. Long hair that falls naturally below the bottom edge of the collar, to include braids, will be neatly and inconspicuously fastened or pinned, so no free-hanging hair is visible. This includes styles worn with the physical fitness uniform/improved physical fitness uniform (PFU/IPFU).
Extensions, weaves, wigs, and hairpieces are authorized; however, these additions must have the same general appearance as the individual’s natural hair. Additionally, any wigs, extensions, hairpieces, or weaves must comply with the grooming policies set forth in this paragraph.
Females will ensure that hairstyles do not interfere with proper wear of military headgear and protective masks or equipment at any time. When headgear is worn, the hair will not extend below the bottom edge of the front of the headgear, nor will it extend below the bottom edge of the collar.
Hair-holding devices are authorized only for the purpose of securing the hair. Soldiers will not place hair holding devices in the hair for decorative purposes. All hair-holding devices must be plain and of a color as close to the soldier’s hair as is possible or clear. Authorized devices include, but are not limited to, small, plain scrunchies (elastic hair bands covered with material), barrettes, combs, pins, clips, rubber bands, and hair bands. Devices that are conspicuous, excessive, or decorative are prohibited.
Cosmetics and Nails
As with hairstyles, the requirement for standards regarding cosmetics is necessary to maintain uniformity and to avoid an unmilitary appearance. Females are authorized to wear cosmetics with all uniforms, provided they are applied conservatively and in good taste and complement the uniform. Leaders at all levels must exercise good judgment in the enforcement of this policy.
Females may wear cosmetics if they are conservative and complement the uniform and their complexion. Permanent makeup, such as eyebrow or eyeliner, is authorized as long as the makeup conforms to the standards outlined above.
Females will not wear shades of lipstick and nail polish that distinctly contrast with their complexion, that detract from the uniform, or that are extreme.
All personnel will keep fingernails clean and neatly trimmed. Females will not exceed a nail length of 1/4 inch, as measured from the tip of the finger. Females will trim nails shorter if the commander determines that the longer length detracts from the military image, presents a safety concern, or interferes with the performance of duties.
Specific Grooming Standards by Military Branch
- Marine Corps Grooming Standards
- Navy Grooming Standards
- Air Force Dress, Appearance, Uniform Standards
- Military Uniform Wear by Veterans & Retirees