Are your hair and nails in regs? Check out this chart

by Tommy Grant

For airmen wondering if that shaggy haircut, their favorite eyelash extensions or that fire engine red nail polish meet Air Force grooming standards, have no fear: The service now has a visual guide to help.

The Air Force released its updated dress-and-appearance regulations Thursday, codifying several previously released instructions in one place while also adding visual aids to take the guesswork out of airmen’s daily look.

It also allows pregnant airmen to wear commercial cold weather outerwear, and gives wing commanders the ability to approve traditional religious clothing and accessories — a decision that previously fell to the Air Force secretary.

“We’ve reviewed the policy in whole to make certain we are communicating standards clearly, making it an easier tool for commanders, supervisors, airmen and guardians,” Lt. Gen. Caroline Miller, the Air Force’s uniformed personnel chief, said in a news release announcing the update. “Revisions were made over a number of years, but we felt the need to revisit the entire document to remove redundancies [and] out-of-date information and decrease subjectivity.”

The latest instruction takes into account several changes made in recent years, including allowing female airmen to add slacks to their mess dress uniform as an option other than the floor-length skirt. Last year, the Air Force started allowing neck tattoos — following the Space Force’s lead in 2022 — as the services have relaxed their ink regulations in a bid to recruit and retain talent. Also included is an update that allows airmen in uniform to drink a beverage while walking, and longer mustaches for men.

But beards are still banned, unless authorized for medical or religious reasons.

“When it comes to standards, our airmen need the best guidance we can offer,” said Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force JoAnne Bass, the service’s top enlisted leader. “Part of being a profession of arms is embodying the higher set of standards that comes with serving our great nation.”

The service in recent years has sought to strike a balance between individuality and comfort for troops and presenting a professional, uniform image to the outside world. Bass has urged airmen to comply with even the smallest rules as a foundation for maintaining good order and discipline, arguing that “when standards erode, military capabilities and readiness decline.”

“Standards matter, wingmen,” she reiterated on Facebook. “Accountability matters.”

Courtney Mabeus-Brown is the senior reporter at Air Force Times. She is an award-winning journalist who previously covered the military for Navy Times and The Virginian-Pilot in Norfolk, Va., where she first set foot on an aircraft carrier. Her work has also appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, Foreign Policy and more.

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