Embrace your civilian hair and beard options with these tips from some fashionable veterans and stylists.
This article originally appeared on Task & Purpose, a digital news and culture publication dedicated to military and veterans issues.
You've made career, relocation, and family decisions for what you'll do after receiving your DD-214, but have you thought about what you'll do with your hair?
Just think of the possibilities. You're no longer chained to hair-length regulations. And being clean shaven isn't a requirement because few civilians need to wear a gas mask in their daily lives. You've always had a unique personality, but now you can express it through your daily presentation to the world.
There's a term for this: personal style. Don't turn your nose up at it; embrace it. A great haircut and beard should make you feel great about yourself and your new lifestyle. We hear chicks dig great hair, too.
Task & Purpose spoke with haircare experts on best ways to grow your civilian hair and beard.
Let it grow.
"Just let the awkwardness happen," says Alyssa Sholl, a master stylist at New York City's Hairroin Salon with over 10 years in the industry. "Wait until the winter and buy an awesome hat. Within a month or so, you should have enough hair to rock a new style."
Nicholas Karnaze, a Marine Corps veteran and the founder and CEO of beard care company stubble & 'stache, added, "I knew I wanted [my hair] to be long, but no other idea of how I wanted it styled. Going from getting my 'low reg' every week, to having to choose the frequency and location of my haircuts proved to be a bit of a challenge … It was only when I linked up with an amazing barber in [Washington D.C.] did I get my beard and hairstyle game in check."
Know how to ask for what you want.
"What do you call a haircut? Is it like 'The Jenny'? You just name the celebrity whom you want to look like? 'Give me a Bieber.' 'Give me a George Michael, but still in the closet George Michael,'" said Marine Corps veteran Ben Feibleman.
Sholl does recommend the celebrity pic approach. "Feel free to bring in photos. Your stylist is a wealth of knowledge in not only your hair cut, but hair texture, and what will look best! Trust them and don't worry about figuring it out yourself. They have your back," she said.
This goes for your beard as well. Navy Reserves Lt. Ricky Ryba says, "I Google searched 'celebrity beards' and after hours of research and debate, I decided on David Beckham's beard style. Can't go wrong with the Becks, right?"
Having the right tools and products is everything.
There's a huge range of haircare and grooming products on the market, but you shouldn't be intimidated. Sholl recommends owning a soft bristle brush for just your beard. Ryba uses this one by Truly Genuine Man ($13.95). And a beard balm wouldn't be remiss here, either. Karnaze suggests stubble & 'stache's Beard Balm ($22) to keep your whiskers in line.
As for the hair on your head, Sholl said, "Must-haves are shampoo and conditioner! Other products include, but are not limited to, are pomades, matte or shiny pastes, and leave-in."
Feibleman's top choice is Paul Mitchell's Tea Tree Grooming Pomade ($10.40). Interested in splashing out? Sholl highly recommends Oribe's Original Pomade ($39). Still flummoxed? Ask your awesome new hairdresser. "Your stylist will also be very happy to recommend products with what you feel comfortable using," said Sholl.
"Keep it clean, keep it classy. It doesn't have to be short, but it would be nice if you could put on a tuxedo and not look like the best man at a 'Duck Dynasty' wedding," said Feibleman.
Karnaze agrees. "Another mistake some veterans make is holding on to the 'high and tight.' You are no longer in the service. Let it go. It is time to redefine yourself."
More articles from Task & Purpose: