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I have often been asked how females should fix their hair before heading down to Basic Military Training. It can be confusing navigating the hair regulations, especially as a new enlistee. That’s why I have made a point to write this post. I didn’t fully understand the hair regulations during Basic Training, and I wish I could have found a post like this. All hair regs for females will be highlighted here, from long to short.
What is AFI 36-2903?
This AFI informs you of every personal grooming standard you could need while serving in the United States Air Force. I am going to highlight the hair portion here.
3.1.1.Hair-male and female. Will be clean, well-groomed, present a professional appearance, allow proper wear of headgear, helmet or chemical mask and conform to safety requirements. Will not contain excessive amounts of grooming aids (e.g. gel, mousse, pomade, and moisturizer), appear lopsided, touch either eyebrow, or end below an imaginary line across the forehead at the top of the eyebrows that is parallel to the ground. If applied, dyes, tints, bleaches and frostings must result in natural hair colors. The hair color must complement the member’s complexion and skin tone. Examples of natural hair colors are brown, blonde, brunette, natural red, black or grey. Prohibited examples (not all inclusive) are burgundy, purple, orange, fluorescent or neon colors. Commander may temporarily authorize cancer patients to wear approved caps (black/tan) or maintain baldness due to a temporary medical condition (i.e., radiation/chemotherapy).
126.96.36.199. Wigs/Hairpieces/Extensions. Are authorized and will meet the same standard required for natural hair, be of good quality, fit properly, and comply with safety, functionality and professionalism. (Note: Extensions are still prohibited for males.) Wigs/Hairpieces/Extensions will not be used to cover unauthorized hair styles. Synthetic hair or other materials are not authorized when prohibited by safety and mission requirements.
3.1.3. Hair-Female. Minimum hair length is ¼ inch, to a maximum bulk of three inches from scalp and allows proper wear of headgear. Hair will end above the bottom edge of collar and will not extend below an invisible line drawn parallel to the ground, both front to back and side to side. Bangs, or side-swiped hair will not touch either eyebrow, to include an invisible line drawn across eyebrows and parallel to the ground. When in doubt, assess correct length of hair with Airman standing in the position of attention. Exception:While wearing the Physical Training Uniform (PTU), long hair will be secured but may have loose ends and may extend below the bottom edge of the collar.
188.8.131.52. The intent is for pinned-up hair to be styled in a manner that prevents loose ends from extending upward on the head. For example, when using a clip or hairpins, hair will not present the appearance of a ―rooster tail. When hair is in a bun, the bun must be a single bun; no wider than the width of the head and all loose ends must be tucked in and secured. When hair is in a ponytail, it must be a single ponytail; that does not exceed bulk and length standards and does not extend below the bottom of the collar (except while in the PTU). As with all hairstyles, a neat and professional image is essential.
184.108.40.206. Hair accessories. If worn, fabric scrunchies, hairpins, combs, clips, headbands, elastic bands and barrettes must match the hair color (i.e., blonde, brunette, natural red, black, and grey). Hair must still comply with bulk and appearance standards. Headgear must fit properly. Headbands or fabric scrunchies will not exceed one-inch in width. Ornaments are not authorized (i.e., ribbons, beads, jeweled pins).
220.127.116.11. Braids, twists, micro-braids, French braids, Dutch braids and cornrows are authorized. A braid or twist is two or more portions of interwoven hair. If adding additional hair, it must be a natural looking color, similar to the individual’s hair color. It must be conservative (moderate, being within reasonable limits; not excessive or extreme) and not present a faddish appearances. Hair must not exceed bulk and length standards and must not extend below the bottom of the collar (see figure 3.6). Headgear must fit properly.
18.104.22.168.1. All braids/twists, when worn will be of uniform dimension, no wider than one inch, with natural spacing between the braids/twists and must be tightly interwoven to present a neat, professional and well-groomed appearance. When worn, multiple braids shall be of uniform dimension, small in diameter (approx. ¼ inches), show no more than ¼ inch of scalp between the braids and must be tightly interwoven to present a neat, professional appearance. A braid/twist must continue to the end of the hair without design and following the contour of the head, and may be worn loose or in a secured style within hair standards in paragraph 3.1.3 above. Exception: Micro-braids or twists are not required to continue to the end of the hair.
22.214.171.124.Unauthorized: Locs and shaved heads. Locs are defined as portions of hair that have been intentionally or unintentionally fused together to form a loc or locs. Shaved heads are defined as complete removal of all hair to the skin on the head or portions of the head. See figure 3.7 126.96.36.199. Hair color, highlights, lowlights, and frosting will not be faddish or extreme and will be natural looking hair color, similar to the individual’s hair color (e.g. black, brunette, blond, natural red, and grey).
If you look above, you will see a lovely drawing of what hair is supposed to look like in the early 1980’s. The rules still apply today.
I know all that is a mouthful, but do you get the gist? I’m going to share some Pinterest images of long and short hair styles that will work in the Air Force to help you have a better idea. The shorter styles will make your life easier in BMT, but I’m not one to judge. Some people really love their hair.
A Breakdown of the Air Force Hair Regulations:
- If you have long hair, it has to be in a low bun that allows you to properly wear a cap. Many people braid it and wrap it around the base of their pony with similar colored bobby pins and rubberbands.
- Gel helps keep flyaways down and assists with pinning bangs back.
- The bulk of the bun cannot sit more than three inches out from the head or three inches across the back. It can also not sit lower than the bottom part of the collar of your uniform.
- I cut my hair as a pixie cut when going and it made life so much easier. The big thing with pixies is they can’t look boyish or faddish. No shaved sides, etc. No extremely long wisps in relationship to the back of the hair.
- Pixies are great but the bangs grow out fast. You’ll have to keep some bobby pins to pin those back when they start getting close to the eyebrows because the hair cannot touch the eyebrows.
- You can wear hair over your ears with short styles. This is something I didn’t think was allowed. I always put my hair behind my ears thinking it had to be that way, but I was wrong. You can keep it a bit shaggy on the ears if you want.
Long Hair Bun Links
Because it’s illegal to post other people’s photos on here, I’m going to link to some really great images on Pinterest.
- This is a great demonstration of how to put your hair in a perfect bun.
- Another great bun for long hair.
- Aunie Sauce has a super great video showing how to do a bun for medium length hair!
Short Hair Links
I love short hair in the military. It is so easy, and one less stress during Basic Training.
- This is a cute style – easy to maintain, though you would have to pin the bangs back.
- Love this hair. Also easy to maintain and still keeps a little length.
- For the super brave: super short, no-hassle pixie cut.
I do not recommend getting a long bob style. If it is close to the bottom of the collar on your ABUs, they will make you go get a haircut at the place on base, and they are TERRIBLE. Go with something that won’t need cut or trimmed for more than two months. Don’t worry about how it looks – no one cares. I looked terrible during Basic, but I never wasted time on my hair like the other girls did.
Whatever you choose, follow the regs and you will be fine. Your MTIs will help you, in a firm and disciplined way, if you’re not getting it right.
Let me know if you have any questions! Learn more about the Air Force on my page “Interested in Joining the Air Force?“