Air Force Changes Hair Standards for Women to be Even More Inclusive

The Air Force is once again changing hair standards for women to better address differences in hair texture and density. 

Beginning June 25, women’s hair may extend six inches to the left of the point where hair is gathered behind their head and six inches to the right, as long as they can still properly wear headgear. The updated guidance follows the January announcement that women in the Air Force and Space Force can now wear a single ponytail, or single or double braids, as long as the hairdo reaches no farther than their upper back and doesn’t exceed the width of their head. The January guidance also allowed eyebrow-length bangs. 

“Change doesn’t happen overnight, and sometimes it takes another iteration to arrive at the best solution,” Chief of Staff Gen. Charles Q. Brown Jr. said in a June 11 release. “This updated guidance represents meaningful progress. The feedback we received from our Airmen highlighted the need to reevaluate the policy and ultimately make it more inclusive.” 

Women in the service had complained for years that wearing their hair up daily in tight buns was giving them headaches and even causing hair loss. Although the initial update was an attempt to acknowledge different hair types and textures among women of various ethnic backgrounds, women said they still struggled to find a hairstyle that didn’t extend beyond their head. 

“In developing policy, we try to address all angles and perspectives, but sometimes we have a blind spot,” said Lt. Gen. Brian T. Kelly, Air Force deputy chief of staff for manpower, personnel, and services, in the release. “The feedback we received highlighted the need to reevaluate the policy to make it even more inclusive.”

The new policy applies to both Airmen and Guardians for the time being, but the Space Force is working on developing its own grooming standards.  

The Air Force noted that safety standards must still be met and encouraged all women to reach out to their unit’s safety office for assistance in determining potential hazards, especially when dealing with machinery, power transmission apparatus, moving parts, or other equipment. 

“Whether we’re talking about hair, uniforms, or forums for sharing ideas, an approach that embraces diversity and fosters an inclusive environment is critical to ensuring our talented, dedicated Airmen stay with us on this journey,” said Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force JoAnne S. Bass in the release.