Beyond Military Ribbons and Military Medals

Striving for Professionalism

In the United States' Army, it is absolutely imperative that fundamental rules regarding haircuts, fingernails, and general grooming, be conveyed down to the lowest level. Where worldwide operations continually occur at a very fast pace, it is of upmost importance that uniformity in the way servicemembers present themselves is maintained. Fortunately, AR 670-1 serves as the "go-to" manual of regulations and US Army policy as it pertains to every facet of the wear and appearance of the many US Army uniforms. Clearly, this regulation extends beyond just the placement of material objects on a uniform, such as military medals and military ribbons, but it also speaks of the overall general professional appearance that both male and female Soldiers should strive hard to maintain. Not only should they do this themselves, but it is absolutely important that leaders continually reinforce these standards to their subordinates.

General Hair Standards

Many Are Accepted

Because there are just so many hair styles that one can have, the US Army has taken great strides to empower leaders to be proactive in determining what is acceptable and what is not acceptable when it comes to enforcing the standards. Generally speaking, AR 670-1 makes allowance for just about any hairstyle just so long as it is "neat and conservative". Ultimately, because of the many possible variations in hair styles, the US Army does rely significantly on the better judgment of leaders to determine what Soldier hairstyles are within compliance and which are not in compliance.

Across the board, with both male and females, the general standard regarding the appropriateness of a particular hair style rests in the appearance of headgear as worn by a Soldier. While many different forms of headgear do exist, an item such as the digital ACU patrol cap should be worn comfortably, with the seem of the hat parallel to the ground. When wearing this piece of headgear, the patrol cap should not be unnecessarily canted to either side as a typical baseball cap may be in the civilian world. With regards to hair styles, for both male and female Soldiers, any hairstyle that impedes the proper wear of any piece of headgear, as documented in AR 670-1, would be unacceptable per US Army standards. Because it is possible that a Soldier may have to operate in a CBRN (Chemical, Biological, Radiation, and/or Nuclear) environment, it is also imperative that a Soldier's haircut style not impede the wear of any protective equipment, such as the CBRN protective mask.

Natural Hair Color is Allowed

Not Trendy or Eccentric Styles and Colors

In the civilian world, it isn't too uncommon for one to see individuals with a mosaic of different hair styles and colors. While the US Army does allow for the natural color dying of hair, the standards in AR 670-1 list a plethora of hair colors that are deemed to be overly eccentric and inherently compromise the professionalism that Soldiers are required to embrace. Such prohibited colors, in AR 670-1, include neon colored dyes, purple, green, blue, and fire engine red. Where any grey line exists in this standard, once again, the US Army has gone to great lengths to empower leaders to be proactive in the enforcement of this standard. If you are a leader in the military, it is important that you be attuned to what your subordinates are doing and, if their appearance or behavior violated US Army standards, you are obligated to quell it immediately before it becomes a serious issue.

More Specific Hair Standards

Males vs. Females

Obviously, while trained alike, male and female Soldiers aren't exactly the same in fundamental aspects like body composition, physique, and needs. Likewise, US Army hair and grooming standards are different for both males and females. Where one would not expect a female Soldier to have a mustache, a male Soldier is, in fact, authorized to have a mustache just so long as it is neatly groomed and presentable. While some civilians may prefer to wear lengthy sideburns that are similar to Elvis' flared sideburns in appearance, male Soldiers are not permitted to have sideburns that are excessively lengthy. Instead, male Soldier sideburns must be cut horizontally at the base, and they must not extend past the lowest part of the exterior ear opening.

For female Soldiers, like male soldiers, they must not present with a ragged, unkempt, or unprofessional appearance. Braids and cornrows are accepted just so long as they are neat and conform to Army standards. Any item used in the hair, such as a device meant to hold hair, must have a functional purpose that goes beyond just simply decoration. As you can see, the US Army has really gone to great lengths to ensure uniformity in its regulations, while discouraging the expression of individualism through excessive decorations. Simply put, many of the hairstyles and devices seen in the civilian world just simply wouldn't be allowed in the US Army.

Fingernail Standards

Short, Clean, and Nicely Trimmed

US Army standards for fingernail presentation involves the adherence to professionalism by mandating that the Soldier continually keep their fingernails short, clean, and nicely trimmed. When measured from the top of the fingernail, a female Soldier must not have fingernails that exceed 1/4 inch. It is, however, the unit commander's discretion about whether an actual Soldier's fingernail length is appropriate or not. Ultimately, the Army has put these standards in place in order to ensure uniformity, as well as individual Soldier safety while performing a wide array of potential duties and missions. As consistent with US Army standards, again, it is very important that leaders maintain a degree of proactiveness when applying and enforcing these standards to their subordinates.

Body Grooming and Hygeine

Just Do it.

Soldiers may have to operate in a wide variety of training and operational environments. Whether a Soldier is within a garrison barracks stateside, or living in a tent in Iraq or Afghanistan, it is of upmost importance that they maintain proper body grooming and hygeine in accordance with US Army standards. While body grooming will manifest in a highly unprofessional appearance, the failure of a Soldier to excersice proper hygeine can serve to impact both themselves, as well as, the Soldiers around them. As with enforcing hair, fingernail, and grooming standards, it is also important that leaders continually reinforce the importance of maintaining proper hygeine.