Hands in Pockets, Phones While Walking, Untucked PT Shirts All Allowed Under New Air Force Rules

For years, Air Force rules prohibited Airmen from putting their hands in their pockets, using their phones, or taking a drink while walking, but no more.

A raft of new dress and appearance rules officially went into effect Dec. 3, loosening restrictions on what Airmen can do while walking in uniform, among other things. Service members are now allowed to drink water and use personal electronic devices while walking in uniform, and they can put their hands in their pockets while walking or standing.

The changes to the Department of the Air Force Instruction covering dress and personal appearance, recommended by the 2020 Air Force Uniform Board, were announced back in August and were initially expected to go into effect in October.

A total of 26 changes were made to the instruction, covering everything from actions while walking to hair length to morale patches to PT uniforms.

Among the changes not previously announced, women will now be allowed to have eyelash extensions, as long as they are the Airman’s natural eyelash color and do not exceed 14 millimeters. 

New PT uniforms are still coming—in August, the service announced that the new gear, the first PT uniform update in nearly two decades, is expected to be available in October 2022, with a four-year transition period following. 

More immediately, though, Airmen are now allowed to wear sweatbands during organized and individual PT. On top of that, PT shirts can now be untucked, though the shirt must “extend to the bottom of the side pocket on the shorts and pants but will not cover the shorts reflective material.” Commanders also have the authority to standardize whether shirts are tucked or untucked during organized unit physical training.

On the other hand, the new rules give commanders the authority to allow the ​​tucking in of Operational Camouflage Pattern (OCP) coat for duty as necessary, as well as rolling up the sleeves. 

The new rules also offer some clarification on previous updates. While the Air Force announced in September 2020 that all Airmen, regardless of their natural hair color, are allowed to dye their hair another natural color, the latest update adds that those natural hair colors can be blended together so long as they do not “present an unnatural appearance between colors.” For example, “salt and pepper” dyed hair is allowed, while “ombre” or highlights are not.

While the new rules still do not allow for Airmen to grow beards without a waiver, medical officials can now authorize waivers, instead of just commanding officers.

As previously announced, men will now be allowed to grow their hair to a bulk of 2.5 inches from the scalp, up from the previous 2 inches; double what was allowed up until September 2020. Men will also be allowed cosmetic tattoos on their scalp to create a natural hair appearance.

Women will now be allowed hair accessories up to two inches, up from one inch, and will not have to wear hosiery while in dress uniform.

Additionally, wing commanders will now be allowed to authorize the wearing of approved morale patches on Fridays and special occasions.