Navy Eases Up on Grooming Standards to Limit Virus Exposure

A sailor gets a haircut aboard the carrier Gerald R. Ford
Retail Service Specialist 3rd Class Raih Graham, from Orlando, Florida, assigned to USS Gerald R. Ford's (CVN 78) supply department, cuts hair in Ford's barber shop. (Zachary Melvin/U.S. Navy)

Sailors will be excused from meeting strict hair-length standards during the coronavirus crisis, Navy leaders announced Wednesday night.

Service leaders have been authorized to temporarily relax male and female hair-length grooming standards to help prevent exposure to the quick-spreading coronavirus, or COVID-19. Chief of Naval Personnel Vice Adm. John Nowell Jr. approved the move.

"Due to COVID-19 force health protection measures maximizing social distancing, commanding officers ... are authorized to relax the Navy hair length grooming standards," the force-wide message states.

Medical experts and government officials are advising people to avoid gatherings of more than 10 people and to keep at least 6 feet distance from other people as part of the social distancing guidelines to combat the spread of the coronavirus.

The relaxed grooming standards are just the latest announcement to shake up routine military life for service members and their families as a result of the virus. Earlier on Wednesday, Navy leaders announced physical training tests would be temporarily halted. Troops across the military also face severe travel restrictions as a result of the virus.

Related: Navy Suspends Sailor Fitness Tests as Other Services Eye Changes

The Navy has announced at least eight positive coronavirus cases, including four on ships.

While relaxing hair-length standards will likely mean fewer trips to the barber or salon, some rules still apply. The temporary grooming standards only apply to hair on the scalp. Normal standards on sideburns, hairstyles and shaving requirements remain in effect, the message states.

"[Commanding officers] may allow for additional hair length and bulk on the sides, top and back of the head, but at no time will relaxed grooming interfere with the proper wearing of Navy headgear and proper use of protective personal equipment (helmets, masks, hoods, etc.)," it adds. "Good judgement of leaders at all levels of the chain of command is required to ensure all possible COVID-19 force health protection precautions are being taken."

The Navy currently requires men to keep their hair neat, clean and well groomed. Hair is not currently allowed to be longer than four inches and may not touch the ears, collar, or fall below their eyebrows when headgear is removed.

Women, under normal regulations, can have hair that touches but doesn't fall below the lower edge of their back collars. Any longer, and it's normally required to be worn in a bun or ponytail.

-- Gina Harkins can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @ginaaharkins.

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