On his very first day of deployment in Baghdad, Iraq, in 2005, U.S. Air Force Captain Mark Harper received an unexpected crash course in U.S. military grooming policies. It occurred when, as Officer In Charge of the Joint Combat Camera team, he was assigned to the joint environment of U.S. Army headquarters at Camp Victory.
“I found out that there’s a big difference between what the Air Force deems an appropriate haircut and what the Army does,” Harper said. “It’s my first day on deployment and I know I’m going to be spending it entirely with the Army, so I make sure my uniform looks its best and I’m clean shaven. As I’m walking into headquarters, literally every single soldier turns to look at me and laugh. Apparently, my Air Force hair wasn’t up to the standards of the United States Army. I’m mocked … and it stings. I wasn’t going to endure this ridicule on day two, so that night I had a plan.”
A busy schedule didn’t allow for a trip to the base barber but, thankfully, the Post Exchange sold Wahl clippers. Even though Harper had no experience cutting his own hair, his new Wahl kit was easy enough to use that he not only gave himself a 2 A.M. trim, he even managed to taper it on the sides, as well.
“So, I walk into the Army headquarters (the next day) and it’s silent,” Harper said. “Someone stands up in the back and starts a slow clap, which turns into a standing ovation.”
Harper’s experience indicates why Wahl clippers have become such a welcomed C.A.R.E. package or homecoming gift.
Whether it’s assignments to joint environments, off-FOB missions, preparing for leave or simply trying to adhere to branch grooming standards, Wahl clippers and trimmers (many have long-lasting Lithium Ion power) can be invaluable for any member of the military.
Wahl clippers include attachment guards and taper guides, making it easy to adhere to the standards of any military branch. Here are some quick reminders:
The Marines are the most particular branch when it comes to grooming standards. They typically require weekly haircuts but, contrary to popular belief, they are not required to be shaved down to the scalp on the sides and back. Marine policy calls for the bottom of the hairline to be cut at “0” but tapered as it goes up. There is actually leeway for some style on top because hairs on the top of the head can measure up to 3 inches extended, while bulk hair (the measurement of the hair resting flat) can be up to two inches. Hair should not protrude beneath properly worn headgear in an unsightly manner. Sideburns are not permitted beyond the top of the opening of the ear, while mustaches can’t be bushy, cover the upper lip line or extend past the corners of the mouth.
Army grooming standards are slightly more relaxed than the Marines and there’s room for a bit more style. Hair must be tapered as it goes up and it can’t touch the eyebrows, ears or collars. AR 670-1 stresses a “neat or conservative” look but it is ultimately up to leaders to determine the appropriateness of a particular hair style. Mustache regulations are the same as the Marines but sideburns can be longer, as long as they don’t extend past the bottom of the opening of the ear. Sideburns should be no longer than 1/8” and can’t be styled to taper, flair or come to a point.
Navy grooming regulations allow for even more choices and styles than the Marines and Army, although it still must be tapered from the bottom on up (up to ¾”). While hair can’t touch the ears, eyebrows or collars, it can measure up to 4 inches extended and 2 inches in bulk. Sideburns can’t extend past the middle of the ear but mustaches may be longer than the other branches, as long as the length is ½” or less and it doesn’t extend more than ¼” past the corners of the mouth.
Typically, the envy of the other branches, the Air Force tends to have more relaxed grooming standards. The bottom line is that haircuts must be professional looking, although the word professional is never formally defined. There is no restriction on the length of the hair but the bulk must be no more than 1 ¼” and hair must not touch the eyebrows, ears or collar. Sideburns must be an even width with a horizontal bottom and can’t extend beyond the bottom of the ear opening. Mustache regulations are the same as the Army.
As Captain Harper showed, Wahl helps you adhere to the standards of each military branch. Visit WahlUSA.com for the cutting, trimming, shaving and grooming products that will help any enlisted man look his best, as well as lots of helpful video instructions and tips.