Air Force OKs Longer Hair for Male and Female Airmen

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An airman cuts hair for members of the 156th Airlift Wing.
Senior Airman Roberto Espada-Gali cuts hair for members of the 156th Airlift Wing at Muniz Air National Guard base, Puerto Rico Sept. 29, 2017. (U.S. Air Force/SMSgt Shane A. Cuomo)

In a new update to dress and appearance standards, the U.S. Air Force is allowing its airmen to grow their hair out a little longer.

Male airmen can now wear their hair up to two inches from their scalp, an extension from the previous mandate of 1 1/4 inches, according to a service release published Wednesday. The female hair bulk standard also increased, from 3 1/2 inches to 4 inches, the release said.

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"Following the Department of the Air Force's initial review, a diverse panel of Total Force Airmen completed a second review of Air Force grooming and appearance guidance in order to enhance inclusiveness while maintaining Department of the Air Force professional standards," the release said.

The review is part of an long-term effort to "improve dress and appearance policies," where applicable, Capt. Leah Brading, a service spokeswoman, told Military.com last month. The changes are part of a series of updates to the service's dress and appearance policy aimed at "creating a more inclusive culture," officials have said.

The Air Force in July approved nametape wear for airmen whose names contain accent marks or hyphens -- a small step in the larger effort to remove unfair barriers for Air and Space Force uniformed members.

A month earlier, the Air Force's surgeon general approved a five-year waiver allowing male airmen with a chronic inflammatory skin condition to keep their beards. The condition, known as Pseudofolliculitis Barbae, or PFB, causes razor bumps and painful ingrown beard hair; it commonly affects Black men. The change means that airmen no longer need to request an exemption on an annual basis and "allows them to more readily present a neat, clean, and professional image," the service said at the time.

As part of the latest update announced Wednesday, men can cut, clip or shave a straight-line part from front to back -- not slanted or curved -- on either side of their head and above the temple. The part can not "exceed 4 inches length or 1/4 inch width," it said.

The Air Force also noted that airmen can dye their hair another color as long as it is a natural hair color. Natural colors are brown, blonde, brunette, natural red, black or grey, the release said.

Earlier this month, the service asked airmen to submit their ideas for improved policies pertaining to dress and appearance. Airmen and civilians are encouraged to submit recommendations through the Air Force's website "Airman Powered by Innovation" via a Common Access Card, officials said Sept. 3.

"If we want an environment in which Airmen feel valued, we need to create transformative opportunities to foster a culture of innovation and then listen to their ideas," Lisa Truesdale, Air Force military force policy deputy director, said in a separate release. "Additionally, wearing the uniform and having pride in your personal appearance enhances esprit de corps."

-- Oriana Pawlyk can be reached at oriana.pawlyk@military.com. Follow her on Twitter at @Oriana0214.

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