Guide to Military Grooming: Which Haircuts for Men are Not Allowed?

In the military, grooming standards play a crucial role in maintaining discipline and professionalism, with specific guidelines for hairstyles and appearance. When it comes to military haircuts for men, certain styles are strictly prohibited to ensure uniformity and adherence to regulations 1 2. The low fade, buzz cut, crew-cut, and navy haircuts are among the acceptable options that align with these standards 1.

This guide will delve into the prohibited hairstyles for men in the military, exploring the regulations surrounding braids, cornrows, twists, locs, and other unconventional styles 1. It will also cover guidelines for facial hair, religious accommodations, and accessory restrictions to provide a comprehensive overview of grooming requirements in the armed forces.

Prohibited Hairstyle 1

Braids, cornrows, twists, and locs are strictly prohibited hairstyles for men in the military when in uniform or on duty in civilian clothes 2. These styles, along with shaved designs (except for a hard part) and styled sideburns, are considered faddish or extreme and are not allowed 2 3. The reasoning behind this prohibition is to ensure uniformity and prevent any hairstyles that could potentially interfere with the proper seal of a gas mask 3.

The military’s stance on hairstyles has evolved over time, with varying degrees of strictness:

  • During the American Revolution, soldiers often had long hair but were required to wear it short or braided 4.
  • In the early 1800s, the Army abolished the traditional pigtail or “queue” hairstyle, causing significant protest from soldiers 4.
  • During the Civil War, senior officers in both the Army and Navy often wore beards and mustaches 4.
  • In World War I, shaving was required to ensure a proper gas mask seal, and hair length was limited to 1 inch 4.

While braids, cornrows, twists, and locs are currently prohibited, the military has made exceptions in the past. For instance, during World War II, the 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division (nicknamed the “Filthy Thirteen”) adopted the mohawk hairstyle and war paint as a morale boost 5. However, mohawks are generally not allowed in the U.S. military today per Army Regulation 670-1 5.

Prohibited Hairstyle 2

The Air Force has stringent regulations regarding acceptable hairstyles for men. One prohibited style is the mohawk, which is considered faddish and extreme 6. Mohawks, along with mullets, cornrows, and dreadlocks, are strictly forbidden, as they do not align with the military’s emphasis on uniformity and professionalism 6.

Permitted hairstyles for men in theAir Force include:

  1. Basic Training ‘High and Tight’ Haircut: A short, tapered cut with hair closely trimmed on the sides and back, leaving more length on top 6.

  2. Fades (Low, Mid, High): These involve gradually tapering the hair from longer on top to shorter on the sides and back 6:

    • Low Fade: Hair is tapered close to the skin around the ears and nape.
    • Mid Fade: Hair is tapered higher, around the middle of the head.
    • High Fade: Hair is tapered very high, close to the crown.
  3. Undercuts: Similar to a fade, but with a distinct line separating the longer hair on top from the closely trimmed sides and back 6.

  4. Quiffs and Pompadours: These vintage-inspired styles feature swept-back, voluminous hair on top with shorter sides 6.

  5. Classic Combovers: Hair is parted and combed neatly to one side, with tapered sides and back 6.

  6. Buzz Cuts and Crew Cuts: Short, evenly trimmed hair all over the head, with the crew cut leaving slightly more length on top 6.

  7. Textured French Crops: A short, textured cut with a slightly longer fringe on the forehead 6.

To achieve these styles, airmen can use clippers with varying guard sizes, techniques like temple fades and line-ups, and styling products 6. However, the overall bulk of the hair cannot exceed 2.5 inches 6.

Prohibited Hairstyle 3

The content does not directly discuss a specific “third prohibited military haircut for men.” Instead, it provides an overview of the general haircut regulations across different branches of the U.S. military 7.

For the Army:

  • Hair must be neat, trimmed, and closely cropped 7.
  • Hair may be clipped at the edges of the sides and back, and should be evenly graduated from the hairline to the top of the ear 7.
  • Hair length on the upper portion of the head should not exceed 3 inches when fully extended 7.
  • The bulk of the hair should not exceed approximately 2 inches 7.

For the Marine Corps:

  • Hair must be neat and closely trimmed 7.
  • Hair may be clipped at the edges of the sides and back, and should be evenly graduated (blended or faded) from the hairline to at least the top of the ear 7.
  • Hair length on the upper portion of the head should not exceed 3 inches when fully extended 7.
  • The bulk of the hair should not exceed approximately 2 inches 7.
  • Sideburns should not extend below the top of the ear opening and should not be styled to taper, flare or come to a point 7. Individual sideburn hairs should not exceed 1/8 inch in length when fully extended 7.

The U.S. Navy’s grooming standards for men’s hairstyles require that hair be neat, clean, and well-groomed, with hair off the ears and above the collar 8. Sideburns must be neatly trimmed and not extend below the middle of the ear 8. Mustaches are authorized but must be neatly and closely trimmed, not extending below the lip line or beyond the corners of the mouth 8. Beards are not permitted unless authorized by a medical or religious waiver 8.

The general guidelines for men’s hair in the military are that it cannot touch the collar, ears, or eyebrows, and it must be tapered or have a “moderate” block cut in the back 3. Allowed styles include shaved bald, buzz cut (all hair the same length), and tapered cut that does not touch the collar, ears, or eyebrows 3.

Prohibited Hairstyle 4

The U.S. Army’s regulations state that hair must be neatly groomed and not trendy, spiky, or disheveled 9. Hair must conform to the shape of the head, with a tapered neckline, and cannot fall over the ears or touch the collar (except the tapered neckline) 9. A classic taper or Ivy League haircut is normally the preferred style 9. Any hair coloring must be a natural shade 9.

The Marine Corps’ guidelines require hair to be evenly graduated from zero length at the hairline, with no outline or edging 9. Hair cannot be more than three inches long or protrude from the scalp more than two inches 9. It must be styled so it does not protrude beneath properly worn headgear 9. Hair coloring must look natural and complement the person’s complexion 9.

For the Air Force and Navy, regulations mandate that hair be neat, clean, well-groomed, tapered above the ears and nape of the neck, and not touching the ears, eyebrows, or collar 9. The Army also requires neatly groomed hair conforming to the head’s shape, with a tapered neckline and no hair falling over the ears or touching the collar 9.

Other general guidelines include:

  • Soldiers must have completely shaved or closely shaved hair, generally anything over an inch is too long 2
  • Hair can have a natural, hard, or styled part, as long as it doesn’t part naturally 2.
  • Sideburns cannot extend below the bottom of the ear and cannot be tapered, flared, or pointed 2.
  • Hair color must be natural, with any highlights being subtle 2.
  • Wigs or hairpieces are allowed to cover bald spots or disfigurations 2.

The strict hair standards are primarily to ensure a proper gas mask seal and maintain a neat, professional military appearance 3.


In the military, adherence to grooming standards is paramount to maintaining discipline, uniformity, and professionalism. The guidelines surrounding haircuts for men are explicit, prohibiting styles such as braids, cornrows, twists, locs, mohawks, and shaved designs. These regulations ensure a neat and consistent appearance, while also considering practical aspects like the proper seal of gas masks.

As members of the armed forces, it is crucial to familiarize oneself with the acceptable hairstyles outlined by each branch’s regulations. For those seeking a fresh military-approved cut, consider booking a haircut at BarberCraft, where skilled barbers can expertly execute the permitted styles while ensuring compliance with the strict grooming standards.


What are the guidelines for haircuts in the military?

Military personnel must adhere to specific haircut regulations when in uniform or on duty. Hairstyles must keep hair off the ears, above the collar, and not extend below the eyebrows when headgear is removed. Haircuts should not allow hair to show underneath headwear. The hair must not exceed 2 inches in bulk or 4 inches in length.

Is it possible to decline a military-regulated haircut?

No, military personnel cannot refuse to get a haircut that complies with regulations. If an order is given to get a haircut, it is not open to debate or refusal. Service members are expected to follow such orders without contention.

What are the specific hair restrictions for male Marines?

Male Marines must follow strict hair guidelines:

  1. Hair length cannot surpass 3 inches, and the bulk of the hair must not extend more than 2 inches from the scalp when it lies flat on the head.
  2. Hair must be tapered at the hairline, with zero length at the nape of the neck being a common standard.

Are cornrows permitted for men in the military?

Yes, men in the military are allowed to wear cornrows, provided they adhere to the current standards. Cornrows must be uniform and cannot be wider than 1/2 inch. Other acceptable styles under these standards include braids, twists, and locks.


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