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Air Force to allow bangs, ponytails, braids for women next month

From left to right, Capt. Margaret McCord, pilot, Maj. Tammy Mosley, nurse and Maj. Jacqueline Jackson, flight nurse. (Senior Airman Laura Turner/U.S. Air Force )
January 21, 2021

Female Air Force service members will be allowed to wear their hair in a single ponytail, or one to two braids as part of changes implemented by the 101st Air Force uniform board.

The new hairstyles cannot exceed the width of the head and must be shorter than “a horizontal line running between the top of each sleeve inseam at the under arm through the shoulder blades,” according to a statement from the Secretary of the Air Force Public Affairs.

Air Force to allow longer braids, ponytails, bangs for women (U.S. Air Force/Released)

Women are also able to have bangs that touch their eyebrows, but the hair must not cover their eyes.

“As I outlined in Action Order A: Airmen, this decision is a commitment to supporting the Airmen We Need and sustaining the culture and environment of excellence that will continue to make the Air Force an attractive career choice for Airmen and families,” said Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Charles Q. Brown, Jr. “I’m thankful for the feedback and research conducted from a number of women leaders, the Women’s Initiative Team, the Air Force uniform board, and our joint teammates.”

The changes go into effect in February when the Air Force Instruction standards are published.

“In addition to the health concerns we have for our Airmen, not all women have the same hair type, and our hair standards should reflect our diverse force,” said Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force JoAnne S. Bass. “I am pleased we could make this important change for our women service members.”

The changes stemmed from a crowdsourcing campaign in which Airmen across the Air Force shared ideas for the Air Force uniform board, which convened virtually in November last year.  

According to the Air Force, the board reviewed a number of ideas, including feedback from thousands of Air Force women regarding constraints to hair grooming standards that caused “damage to hair, migraines and in some cases, hair loss.”

The policy was approved after the Air Force chief of staff considered feedback from the Air Force and the uniform board recommendation, in addition to “the professional image and standards of the Air Force and U.S. military.”

“We remain committed to removing barriers to service,” said Lt. Gen. Brian Kelly, Air Force deputy chief of staff for manpower, personnel and services. “In an all-volunteer force, we want fully qualified volunteers who are representative of the nation to see us as a great opportunity to maximize their talent and serve.”