Air Force Changes More Grooming Rules to Drive Inclusion

The Department of Air Force on Sept. 15 approved more tweaks to its dress and appearance rules for Airmen and space professionals in an effort to boost inclusion in both services, according to a Sept. 29 release

The following changes immediately took effect:

  • Higher hair bulk standards for both sexes. The hair bulk standard for male service members, previously 1.25 inches, is now 2 inches. The same standard for women also jumped from 3.5 inches to 4 inches.
  • Male service members can get a little more creative with their haircuts. “Men’s hair may have one (cut, clipped, or shaved) front to back, straight-line part, not slanted or curved, on either side of their head, above the temple,” the release stated. These hair parts, however, may not be more than 4 inches long or a quarter-inch wide, it noted. 

The update to Air Force Instruction 36-2903, “Dress and Personal Appearance of Air Force Personnel,” also clarified that USAF and Space Force personnel may dye their hair in “natural colors”—including “brown, blonde, brunette, natural red, black, or grey”—regardless of what color hair they were born with, the release said. This means that a naturally blonde service member wouldn’t be limited to a different shade of the same color when choosing a new hue, and that those with naturally dark hair may also lighten up their locks within the permitted hair color range.

“For more information, service members should view Air Force Guidance Memorandum 2020-02 and check Air Force Instruction 36-2903 for updates, which are available on the public website of the Air Force’s Personnel Center at,” the release advised.

These are just the latest in a recent series of inclusion-minded, appearance-related rule changes.

Earlier this year, the Air Force Surgeon General approved five-year shaving waivers for USAF and USSF personnel who suffer from razor bumps, and the Department of the Air Force permitted women service members to wear pants with their mess dress uniforms as an alternative to the previously mandated skirt.