Issue Date: September 13, 2004
Haircut rules are no more logical than maternity BDUs, blue camouflage
Recently, I was gently reminded that much of daily Air Force life is not about higher headquarters taskings.
While perusing the club’s lunchtime salad bar, I noticed a very pregnant officer being seated. In an idle moment the mixed message of maternity battle dress uniforms struck me. Think about it.
The oxymoron of “maternity BDUs” led to another mixed message — or at least one I’ve not fully understood after 30 Air Force years — regulation haircuts. Two recent “hair” rulings also piqued my interest.
The service standard for male haircuts during my Air Force career has been short hair, well-groomed and off the ears. The official explanation is that a neatly groomed haircut presents a professional, military image.
However, as a military history buff, I see a preference for long hair and beards in pictures of revered military leaders of the past. George Washington, U.S. Grant, Stonewall Jackson and James Longstreet (among notables) all had flowing locks, beards or both. No one would credibly challenge their martial abilities, so why can’t you wear your hair and beard like Stonewall Jackson? Would you recognize Jackson clean-shaven with a “high-and-tight”? After all, it’s what is in the head (and heart), not on the top and sides that counts most. Right?
From what I can “Google,” short haircuts appeared near the start of the last century when U.S. forces were first dispatched to the tropical climates of Central and South America during events like the Panama Canal’s construction, the Spanish-American War and the Marines’ expedition to Nicaragua in the early 1900s. A few years later, during World War I, short haircuts again contributed to the health and hygiene of American soldiers living in the unhealthy conditions of the trenches.
Military doctors figured out there were links between personal hygiene and health. Short haircuts helped GIs stay clean in the field, keeping bugs, lice and germs away from soldiers, which contributed to lower infestations and outbreaks of disease. Health and hygiene — not image — were the rationale for short hair.
The military at the turn of the 19th century was also almost exclusively male. Now, however, an increasing percentage of the military is female and haircut standards for women are far more generous than for men.
Today, field conditions — particularly for the Air Force — don’t demand such primitive means of hygiene, so men could safely wear longer hair. It’s military image driving regular barbershop visits.
But then we also hear that we’re all equal, interchangeable and part of the same team. If short hair is synonymous with military image, then you either have it or you don’t. The issue is asexual, and there is only one designation: airman. So, I’ve never quite understood why there are two standards.
Moving from the philosophical to the practical, when a young man enters Air Force basic training, his head is still shaved as part of his assimilation to the military. (“Got to break ’em down to build ’em up.” Right?) Yet, when a young woman enters basic training she is required only to comply with current Air Force regulations — basically, off the collar— that apply to everyone from airman to general. In fact, this summer new female academy cadets didn’t even have to experience the haircutting ritual if they were judged to already meet Air Force standards. Male cadets were not given that option, although a uniform board ironically ruled that men are now permitted to cleanly shave their heads.
So why is that standard —”comply with current Air Force regulations” — not sufficient for male inductees?
Heck, I surrender. I’ve accepted it for 30 years. There are bigger fish to fry.
At an adjacent table I overheard a group of captains discussing the Air Force Times picture of “the first” female officer to wear a male flight cap, apparently against regulations, to her change-of-command ceremony.
For a few more idle moments I mused, “Why do missileers wear flight suits?” and “Where can I hide in the new blue camouflage?”
The writer is an active dutty Air Force colonel stationed at the Pentagon. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
I think someday i am going to switch over to the Air Force and find a nice POG job. Screw sweating your ass off I want AC!
Long hair and facial hair do not allow for the proper sealing of a gasmask.
The big Fad AF hair cut today is the shaved baldheaded cancer patient look that looks very unprofessional imop.
Its actually against AF regs to shave your head if youre not naturally going bald. No one enforces the rule though.
IMO ALL military haircuts should be high and tight.
I heard a shaved head was acceptable but not a USMC style "high & tight" I heard an AF officer telling airman "Do Not get a high & tight" you are not Marines.
I'm an AF officer (used to be an NCO) and I can tell you that sometimes officers just say things so folks can hear them talk.
Due to recent joint deployments, Airmen have started wearing the high & tight.
That's a damn well thought out, well written piece. I've been wearing a pseudo-high & tight (active duty AF) for about 16 yrs now. One of the many things I have planned for after retirement is to let my hair grow HIPPIE LONG
AF should wear royal robbins pants or someething, notr that gay ass blue.
Don't let the zoomies get you down. It took me a few years of geeting over the first pregnant sailor I saw in cammie bdu's. A Chief. shudder. the mind boggles on many layers.
I used to get a kick out of showing the rietired soldiers at Hughes where I worked the the picture of Army Maternity BDU's. They really got shaken up by that.
The Rector at my Church was in the 12th Cav in Nam. Asked how my son was doing in AF Recruit Training, told him that one major complaint was the didn't turn on the A/C in the tent during the field ex. His jaw dropped along with those of several othe Vets. "Not in MY ARMY" and we all laughed. A/C in tents.
I believe the short hair custom actually goes back to the Romans, where long hair could be grabbed by an opponent in hand to hand combat.
As someone said earlier, excessively long hair can interefere with the sealing of a gas mask.
Personally, I think that today the military style cut makes servicemen stand out too much when traveling, and makes them a target for terrorists. I think standards should be relaxed.
FYI high and tight haircuts and shaved heads are now allowed by the AF.
SUBJ: 96TH AIR FORCE UNIFORM BOARD RESULTS
1. THE CSAF HAS RENDERED THE FOLLOWING DECISIONS CONCERNING THE 96TH AF UNIFORM BOARD THAT MET ON 18 - 19 JUNE 2003. VOTING MEMBERS INCLUDED REPRESENTATIVES FROM DESIGNATED AIR STAFF DIRECTORATES, EACH MAJOR COMMAND, AF RESERVE, NATIONAL GUARD AND THE CHIEF MASTER SERGEANT OF THE AIR FORCE. NON-VOTING MEMBERS INCLUDED REPRESENTATIVES FROM THE ARMY AND AF EXCHANGE SERVICES (AAFES), AF CLOTHING OFFICE AND DEFENSE SUPPLY CENTER PHILADELPHIA (DSCP).
1. REPLACE CURRENT USAF BAND CEREMONIAL UNIFORM WITH DISTINCTIVE AND COST-EFFECTIVE
2. AUTHORIZE A SPECIAL EVENTS UNIFORM FOR AF RECRUITERS
3. OFFER THE A-LINE SKIRT AS AN OPTIONAL ITEM
4. REDESIGN THE MATERNITY JUMPER AND BRING BACK THE MATERNITY SMOCK/TUNIC WITH ADDED
5. REVISE THE MATERNITY SERVICE UNIFORM SHIRTS BY ADDING EXPANSION TABS
6. AUTHORIZATION TO WEAR MATERNITY T-SHIRT EITHER TUCKED IN OR LEFT OUT WITH BDUS
7. ESTABLISH A STANDARDIZED AF PHYSICAL TRAINING (PT) UNIFORM
8. REPLACE BMT ISSUE SUMMER PT GEAR (T-SHIRT AND SHORTS)
9. REDESIGN THE FEMALE LIGHTWEIGHT BLUE JACKET
10. AUTHORIZE THE LIGHTWEIGHT BLUE JACKET TO BE WORN INDOORS
11. AUTHORIZE AS AN OPTION TO HAVE THE AF SYMBOL EMBROIDERED ON THE LIGHTWEIGHT BLUE
12. INCORPORATE IN AFI 36-2903 MINIMUM WEAR POLICY/REQUIREMENTS FOR WEAR OF FLIGHT SUIT
AND OTHER FLIGHT DRESS UNIFORMS AS A CREW DUTY UNIFORM
13. INCORPORATE IN AFI 36-2903 WEAR POLICY FOR FLIGHT ATTENDANT UNIFORM
14. INCORPORATE IN AFI 36-2903 WEAR POLICY FOR HOSPITAL SCRUBS
15. AUTHORIZE ONLY BLACK SCARF TO BE WORN WITH BDUS, DELETE ALL OTHER COLORS
16. AUTHORIZE ONLY BLACK SCARF TO BE WORN WITH ALL BLUE UNIFORM COMBINATIONS WHEN
WEARING THE LIGHTWEIGHT BLUE JACKET AND OVERCOAT, DELETE ALL OTHER COLORS
17. ELIMINATE WHITE, GRAY, OLIVE DRAB SCARVES; BLACK SCARF ONLY COLOR AUTHORIZED WITH
ALL AF UNIFORMS
18. AUTHORIZE CONSERVATIVE ORNAMENTATION ON NONPRESCRIPTION SUNGLASSES AND EYEGLASSES;
FRAMES MAY BE BLACK OR BROWN MATERIAL OR GOLD/SILVER WIRE; BRAND NAME GLASSES MAY BE
WORN WITH SMALL LOGO ON FRAMES OF LENS; LOGO MUST BE SAME COLOR AS FRAMES OR LENS
19. AUTHORIZE WEAR OF CONSERVATIVE WRAP AROUND SUNGLASSES; FRAMES MAY BE BLACK OR BROWN
MATERIAL BRAND NAME GLASSES MAY BE WORN WITH SMALL LOGO ON FRAMES OR LENS; LOGO MUST
BE SAME COLOR AS FRAMES OR LENS
20. AUTHORIZE ONLY ONE SMALL BLACK, NONDESCRIPTIVE PERSONAL DIGITAL ASSISTANCE (PDA),
PAGER, OR CELLULAR PHONE AT A TIME BE WORN ON THE UNIFORM BELT
21. ALLOW FEMALES TO WEAR SMALL BLACK SPHERICAL EARRINGS WHEN IN UNIFORM
22. ALLOW BLACK WEB BELT OR BLACK RIGGERS BELT WITH NONDESCRIPT BLACK BUCKLE AS AN
OPTIONAL ITEM WITH BDUS
23. STANDARDIZE ENLISTED GORE-TEX JACKET RANK INSIGNIA
24. REMOVE REQUIREMENT TO WEAR A TIE OR TAB WITH SHORT SLEEVE SHIRT OR BLOUSE WHILE
TRAVELING ON A COMMERCIAL AIRLINE
25. AUTHORIZE WEAR OF A BACKPACK OVER BOTH SHOULDERS
26. AUTHORIZE ONLY SOLID-COLOR BLACK BACKPACK WITH AF BLUE UNIFORM COMBINATIONS AND
SOLID-COLOR BLACK OR OLIVE DRAB, OR WOODLAND CAMOUFLAGE BACKPACK WITH BDUS
27. AUTHORIZE SURVIVAL, EVASION, RESISTANCE, AND ESCAPE (SERE) SPECIALIST THE WEAR OF A
PEWTER GREEN BERET
28. ALLOW SURVIVAL, EVASION, RESISTANCE, AND ESCAPE (SERE) SPECIALIST TO WEAR THE SERE
ARCH ON THE BDUS
29. REDESIGN OF SECURITY FORCE'S BERET
30. ALLOW THE WEAR OF PLAIN BLACK CONSERVATIVE HAIRPINS, COMBS, HEADBANDS, ELASTIC BANDS
AND BARRETTES WITH ALL FEMALE HAIR COLORS
31. ALLOW MALES TO CLEANLY SHAVE THEIR HEADS OR HAVE MILITARY HIGH-AND-TIGHT HAIRCUTS; FEMALES ARE NOT AUTHORIZED TO SHAVE THEIR HEADS OR WEAR HIGH-AND-TIGHT HAIRCUTS
32. AUTHORIZE BASEBALL CAPS TO BE WORN NOT ONLY AT HOME STATION BUT ALSO AT CONUS TDY;
NO OVERSEAS LOCATIONS
33. CREATE A METAL OR PLASTIC SECURITY FORCES FLASH FOR BERET
34. REDESIGN THE COMBAT WEAR TEAM BERET DEVICE
35. ADD IN AFI 36-2903, "NO HANDS IN POCKET AUTHORIZED"
36. PROVIDE ADDITIONAL DUTY BADGE PLACEMENT FOR WOMEN'S BLOUSE, MESS DRESS JACKET AND
37. REDESIGN AIR MOBILITY LIAISON OFFICER BERET FLASH AND AUTHORIZE A BLACK BERET BE
38. ADD GUIDANCE IN AFI 36-2903 ON MILITARY CREASES; NOT AUTHORIZED IN AF UNIFORMS;
CREASES WILL ONLY BE ON SLEEVES AND PANT LEGS
39. CLARIFY IN AFI 36-2903 THE INSTALLATION COMMANDER HAS OVERALL AUTHORITY FOR WEAR OF
UNIFORM DURING SPORTS EVENTS
From: Taylor Donald E SMSgt AFPC/DPFFOC
>Subject: Implementation of 96th Air Force Uniform Board Changes
> The attached message contains the results of the 96th Air Force
>Uniform Board. Para 1A provides the approvals of uniform and/or policy
>changes. Some of the items approved will require redesign and in some
>cases phase out dates to make sure current supplies are exhausted. The
>phase out and redesign phase could take between 3 - 5 yrs however some
>of the approvals can be implemented immediately.
> The following items below para 1A are authorized to be implemented
>immediately: 6, 10, 11, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 24, 25, 28, 31, 32, 35, 38
>and 39. All other items will be implemented when further guidance
>becomes available. All approvals will be incorporated into the
>revision of AFI 36-2903, which is currently in coordination.
> Questions should be directed to the local MPF Dress and Appearance
>POC. MPFs may contact their MAJCOMs and MAJCOMs may contact HQ
>AFPC/DPFFOC for additional clarification, if needed. SMSgt Taylor
> <<96TH AIR FORCE UNIFORM BOARD RESULTS.doc>>
I grew my hair out when I seperated, but I realized that long hair is too much of a pain in the ass to maintain. Get up in the morning, comb your hair, and if it is windy you have to keep combing it all day. I went back to my Air Force flat top after about a year.
Oh yeah, why do missleers wear flight suits anyway? They look like a bunch of underground pilots.
good question about the missileers. Only thing I can figure is that so many of them get to their silos via helicopter. As for my hippie hair comment, my dad was pretty strict about my appearance while growing up. (he's an Episcopal priest) I have ALWAYS had a short haircut, and I'd just like to try not shaving daily/haircut every 2 weeks once in my life. I'll probably wind up doing the dog clipper haircut/goatee thing eventually due to the maintenance, but I'm looking forward to it just the same....funny, it's about the ONLY thing I'm looking forward to--I'm actually gonna have to WORK on a REAL JOB in a few years!
You didn't let it grow long enough.
Wash my hair, put it in a pony tail, done for the day.
An USAF war storie related to this post
While I was stationed at Grand forks AFB in the Security Police, my crew was all standing in
formation (Gaurdmount) with M16's slung over the shoulders waiting to go to our posts,
we had got a new Lt. Little, While the new Lt was performing inspection, he came across
Ssgt Bohme, The Lt looks at him and says "Sgt your hair is getting a little close ain't it?
Ssgt Bohme takes off his Blue Beret and all he has hair about in a 2 inch band around his head,
he look like a monk, and looks at Lt Little and says " Please Lt at least let me keep what I got
left" at that point the whole 44 man crew lost it !
One of my favorite army memories was being part of an aggressor force against a Norwegian infantry unit, the same guys that had been making fun of the fact we all had high and tights and no beards. They claimed we would be to cold to fight.
We gassed them practically at every contact. Not a single one of them ever managed a seal on a mask.
Ever seen a bunch of pissed off Norwegians?
not anymore, that was just changed. its in regs as acceptable!
FWIW, the military has always had strict rules on hair care and length, since 1775, in imitation of the British Army on which it was modeled. Hair was usually about a foot long, greased, powdered, tied up in back in a queue or plait, depending on the regiment or type of soldier. The hair on top and in front was short. The hair looked like a high and tight with a ponytail in back, and curls on the sides in front of and over the ears.
Short hair came into the British army only in 1808, when soldiers in all units were ordered to cut off the long queues, to the pleasure of most, but the displeasure of others. The Royal Welch Fusiliers kept theirs for years after that, despite official orders. In both armies, by the War of 1812, hair length meant none touching the collar, ears uncovered. No facial hair, exc. on pioneers (beards), and on some cavalrymen (small mustaches). Even on campaign, men kept themselves shaved at least once a week.
In the American Civil War the full beard was now in fashion for all, at least until a few years after the war, but short hair was the rule, and has remained so to today.
Same thing with the Dutch Army. I remember seeing a lot of them in N. Germany when I lived in Bremen. Looked like a bunch of hippies that raided an army surplus store. Smelled bad, too....
I was raised in an Air Force family and grew up having a short haircut. I then spent time in the Air National Guard and spent more time with short hair. After my time in the guard was up, I habitually went to get a haircut at the end of the month. I stopped myself and said "Why am I doing this? Lets see how long it will grow.." After about 4 years my hair was down to the middle of my back.
The upside to having long hair was that I did not worry about getting to the barber shop every month. and in my work (I work in a clean room wearing a suit with a hood) I would just tie my hair back. The down side was that it took extra time every morning to get ready for work. And if I had to hurry to work, my hair would still be wet when I took it out of the pony tail at the end of the day.
I have since cut my hair. The only down side is that when it starts to get a little long, it looks funny when I take the hood off at work. It usually takes on some kind of random "Bob's big boy" curl.
As far as the military goes, it makes sense to me that military personnel have more important things to worry about than maintaning long hair. Just cut your hair short and concentrate on the more important aspects of your work.
If the gas mask issue is so important concering facial hair, why do we see Israelis with beards? Wouldn't they be at a higher risk, what with the whole Middle East pissed at them, terrorist attacks constantly, and all citizens seemingly armed for imminent danger? Seems that since US troops haven't actually encountered gas since WWI, government logic dictates that the barn door shouldn't be closed until the horse has escaped...
the "high & tight" is very practical and I think it will never lose popularity or go out of style, I think it goes well with everything.
personally I prefer the "Ivy league" hair cut, longer on top combed to the side and white walls on the side, nice and clean around the ears but not all the way up like the high & tight, more of a businesman's or gentleman's hair cut.
I don't know about the Air Force or the Army, but the Navy and Marines keep the hair short and no beards due to a tight seal when using OBA's / flight crew oxygen masks / gas masks.
They are considered 'rated', recieve flight pay, have to pass the same physical requirements as pilots, and such...
So they may wear the suit...
Originally Posted By CAR-10:
I'm an AF officer (used to be an NCO) and I can tell you that sometimes officers just say things so folks can hear them talk.
[sarcasm]An officer speak just to hear his own voice! Never in my life have I ever heard of such a thing![/sarcasm]
I saw a guy with longish hair have a buddy help him put on an OBA for the first time since boot camp and when he pulled the top straps tight he pulled a lot of hair through too. You get tell it hurt because he was tearing up although a lot of that was reaction. It hurt just looking at him unless we were laughing, so we kept laughing. He went to a high and tight for a while. He had to, the mess his buddies made cutting him out of the straps using knifes was pretty funny too.
There was an officer out at my Reserve Center that looked like he was always in need of a haircut, lots of curls although short, still too long in appearance. Our new enlisted and officers would always ask how he got away with it, he really did stick out. Well if he took of his hat you could see why, that was it, made Friar Tuck look like Fabio. 1 1.2 " at most from temple around the back to temple. Nobody had the heart to tell him to trim any more off. He did when he went to an active duty command and looked like hell for a month. These were the days when very very few men shaved their heads, and from what we could see his shape wasn't conducive. to shaaving anyway.
Seeing a lot of kids (wannabe, quasi-vatos and vatos) wearing variations on the high and tight around now.
It is legal as of the last AF Uniform Board.
The results were published three weeks ago.
AFI 36-2903 was just supplemented allowing males to shave their head.
Flame suit going on...........
Rated for what? Just because they pass a strict physical doesn't entitle them to call themselves "rated". Flying a console is pretty tough duty, I admit, but they need to go back to the blue bags they used to wear.
The USAF made their 1'st mistake letting cone heads wear the leather jacket. They then compounded their error by getting rid of the blue bag and letting the "space operators" wear the Flight Dress Uniform (flight suit, if you will)
The move to get rid of the blue bag was twofold: 1) cost savings in only procuring one type/color of uniform & 2) some flag officer who was a cone head had flight suit envy because he wanted to fly and couldn't--next best thing was steal the flyers duty uniform!
Those old time Civil War soulders might actually have needed the high collar and some hair to help protect them from a long sword swipe!!
At least I can say that now.