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Army Haircut Guide for Men

The U.S. Army is famous for enforcing strict haircuts, but the actual regulations might surprise you.

Photo by marketlan / Depositphotos.com

If you’ve always thought that the Army made recruits get a buzz cut or something similar, you’re not alone.

That’s largely due to the amount of outdated information out there. Most articles on the Army haircut for men are going off of regulations that are years, sometimes decades, old.

It is true that the Army requires shorter hair for a professional image. However, the rules are pretty flexible — and they’re probably not what you think.

What Is an Army Haircut?

The term Army haircut can be taken two ways. The first is a haircut that’s allowed under the United States Army’s guidelines. The second is a haircut that’s associated with the Army (though often people mean the military in general).

For the purposes of this article, we’ll be focusing on haircuts that could actually be worn by Army soldiers.

History of the Army Haircut

Most people believe the Army has extremely strict hair guidelines, but that’s because they’re conflating the Army with the Marines. The Marines do have strict standards, but the Army takes a less rigid approach.

Historically, the Army has required soldiers to have short hair, but it’s hard to find any specific length requirements.

To make things more complicated, there have often been discrepancies between official regulations and actual practices. There are plenty of examples of decorated soldiers who didn’t sport incredibly short regulation cuts.

Overall, there’s little evidence that the Army required specific types of haircuts. Rather, it seems that styles like the buzz cut and induction cut emerged because they were short and low maintenance. (This would also explain the variation in hairstyles among Army Soldiers.)

Army Haircut Regulations Today

The Army’s hair and appearance guidelines outline the limitations on men’s hair, and surprisingly, they’re not all that restrictive.

Here’s a summary of the Army’s major hair guidelines for men.

First, Soldiers must have completely shaved or closely shaved hair (i.e., closely trimmed hair). The Army doesn’t specify how close is closely trimmed, so there’s room for different lengths and styles here.

Generally speaking, anything over about an inch or so is probably too long.

Second, the hair can have a natural part, a hard part, or a styled part. Specifically, the guidelines state that hard parts or styled parts are appropriate if the hair doesn’t part naturally. This is a fascinating bit of information, especially because you’d probably assume a hard part would be a hard no.

Third, the sideburns can’t “extend below the bottom opening of the ear,” and they can’t be tapered, flared, or pointed.

Fourth, while the hair can be dyed, the color must be natural, and any highlights must be subtle.

Finally, the Army does allow for wigs or hairpieces to cover a bald head or any disfigurations.

Haircuts Not Permitted by the Army

There are only a few styling elements that are completely banned.

First, all braids, cornrows, twists, or locs are banned. However, this is only when Soldiers are in uniform or on duty in civilian clothes.

This is easily the Army’s most problematic rule — especially for black men in the Army.

It is possible that the Army will reverse this rule, though. In 2017, the Army lifted its ban on locs for women, so it’s feasible that it’ll happen again for men.

Second, Soldiers cannot have shaved designs. The one exception here is a hard part as described above.

And third, sideburns can’t be styled.

But besides those three guidelines, no other hairstyles or styling elements are explicitly banned.

Army Facial Hair Guidelines

The Army is a bit stricter with facial hair.

Mustaches are permitted but must be tapered and neatly trimmed. The Army doesn’t clarify how neat is neatly trimmed, but it’s safe to say you can’t rock a bushy ‘stache.

Beards may be permitted for religious reasons but are otherwise not allowed.

Somewhat confusingly, the guidelines also state that “facial hair must be clean-shaven.” Usually, clean-shaven is used to mean no facial hair at all, but here it’s apparently used to mean neat.

Army Cut Hairstyle Examples

Here are 9 hairstyles that would actually (probably) fly in the Army, according to the guidelines.

Fine Buzz Cut

Although the buzz cut isn’t required by the Army, it’s still a popular choice for Soldiers.

It’s an excellent, low-maintenance cut that doesn’t even require going to the barber. If you have clippers, you can easily cut your own hair.

Buzz Cut with Hard Part

As per the Army’s guidelines, Soldiers are allowed to cut a straight part into their hair.

This haircut follows those guidelines (at least technically) with its fairly subtle hard part. However, a hard part is usually more common with longer hairstyles.

Medium Fade

The fade is a style that’s always been closely tied to the military. Pair a high-medium fade with about half an inch of hair on top, and you’ve got a solid Army haircut.

If you want a more or less subtle look, you can opt for a lower or higher fade, respectively.

Short Crop

It’s pretty common to see Soldiers wearing cropped hairstyles. Crops are similar to buzz cuts despite being longer — they’re tidy, low maintenance, and fairly versatile.

You’ll want to keep the front nice and clean and go for a temple lineup if you want it extra crisp.

Faded Burr

The burr cut is essentially a longer buzz cut, but its exact length varies depending on who you ask. The style pictured here is a burr-style cut with a uniform top and high faded sides.

If you want more of a true burr look, go even shorter (about a #1 or #2 clipper setting).

Neat and Faded Crew Style

This is a great all-around Army crew cut variation. The super clean top is neatly trimmed with scissors, and the high fade adds even more cleanness.

The stubble here would probably have to go, though.

Textured and Cropped

This style isn’t exactly a French crop or a Caesar cut, but it shares many characteristics with both.

The longer on top displays the hair texture and the subtle fade on the sides provides fullness without any messiness. A nice detail is the razor-sharp fringe line that adds some angularity to the look.

Mini Quiff

Okay, this one might not pass in the Army, but then again, the guidelines say nothing about styling products!

This slicked-back look is refined and vintage at the same time, and it technically meets all the Army criteria. (That said, let us know if pomade isn’t allowed in the Army.)

Brush Up

If vintage military vibes are your thing, try out this retro brush-up. This particular variation has about an inch of hair on top and a zero fade on the sides.

It’s textured but not too loud, and it’s neat enough to be more than presentable.

Army Haircut FAQ

Confused about Army haircuts and want some fast answers? Here are answers to a few of the most common questions about haircuts in the Army.

What is the Army haircut called?

There is no single Army haircut. The buzz cut and its variations are common to find in the Army, as are crew cuts and crops.

What is the proper haircut for the Army?

Make sure that your haircut meets the Army’s hair and appearance guidelines. However, if you’re actually entering the Army, you should speak to your direct superior for confirmation.

How do you ask for a military haircut?

First, define what you mean by a military haircut. Each branch of the military has different rules for hairstyles. Second, determine the specific style you want and talk to your barber (and bring them a photo).

Army Haircuts: Soldiers Have Some Leeway

While you might think that all soldiers must sport buzzcuts, that’s not actually the case. 

There are a variety of haircuts that fall within grooming regulations.

If you served in the military, what haircut did you have? Let us know in the comments?

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