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Military Hairstyles - the long and the short of it!

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The military rules on haircuts have been changing since the American Revolution. With few, if any, barbering facilities, soldiers in the Continental Army usually had long hair. According to author Randy Steffen in The Horse Soldier: 1776-1943, general orders required male soldiers "to wear their hair short or plaited (braided) up." But he also had the option of wearing his long hair "powdered and tied." The rules were relaxed when soldiers were on the march. Those who did powder and tie their hair did so with a mixture of flour and tallow, a hard animal fat, and usually tied it in a pigtail. To keep the hair in place during action, cavalrymen preferred gathering the hair at the back of the neck, tying it in a firm bundle, folding it to the side, and then tying it again in a club shape. Beards were forbidden. Soldiers were required to shave a minimum of three times a week, at least while in garrison.

In 1801, Major General James Wilkinson, commanding general of the Army, abolished the pigtail or "queue." The order caused soldiers to "howl in protest, until their resentment swelled almost to mutiny," according to a February 1973 article by Dorothy van Woerkom published in "American History Illustrated." Lt. Col. Thomas Butler Jr., a 30-year veteran, refused to cut his hair and, as a result, was court-martialed in July 1805. A panel of fellow officers found him "guilty of mutinous conduct in appearing publicly in command of troops with his hair queued." He was suspended from command without pay for 12 months.

By the time of the Civil War, hairstyle standards had changed. Senior officers like General Ulysses S. Grant wore beards and moustaches, so general orders stated that a "beard could be worn at the pleasure of the individual" but was to be "kept short and neatly trimmed."

Shaving was required by World War I to get a good seal on the protective gas mask and for personal hygiene. Beards were outlawed. The maximum permitted hair length was one inch.

During World War II, Field Manual 21-100 instructed soldiers "to keep your hair cut short and your fingernails clean." In the last half of the 20th century, styles reflected civilian trends. In the late 1980s, long hair was popular; soldiers who refused an order to get a haircut received non-judicial punishment under Article 15 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice. In the 1980s, the moustache was popular. Though still permitted, it's rare. And short hair is again the norm for both men and women.

The requirement for hair grooming standards is necessary to maintain uniformity with a military population. Many hairstyles are acceptable, as long as they are neat and conservative. All must comply with hair and grooming policies while in any military uniform or while in civilian clothes on duty. Hairstyles that don't allow soldiers to wear the headgear properly, or that interfere with the proper wear of protective equipment, are prohibited. Dyes, tints, or bleaches? You have to ask?! Colors that detract from a professional military appearance are not allowed: no purple, pink, blue, green, orange, fire-engine red, or fluorescent or neon. Only ones that match natural hair colors are permitted. Even parts are covered in the regs. If soldiers have a hair texture that does not part naturally, they may cut a part into the hair - one straight line not slanted or curved that will fall in the area where the soldier would normally part the hair. Designs cannot be cut into the hair or scalp.

Four current (and au courant) military hairstyles ...

The Induction Cut
It's the shortest one in the military

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