By Meaghan MacDougall
The military mustache has been a part of military facial hair regulations since the beginning of the 20th century. It’s become somewhat of a trendy mustache style for many service members. Recently, for some branches of the military, military mustache regulations have been loosened just a bit, allowing for wider variation of the iconic ‘stache.

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Regulations Change Regarding the Military Mustache

A memorandum was recently published by the USAF explaining the changes that are being made to the Department of the Air Force Instruction 36-2903. These changes are effective immediately regarding dress and personal appearance.

Recent Changes in the Air Force and Space Force

The Air Force has a draft guidance that will allow for acceptable military mustaches to be a quarter inch past the corner of the lips. The current facial hair policy in the Air Force requires members to have their mustaches fit between the width of their top lip. Airmen and women are also allowed to wear patches that represent the sister services they may be supporting. The Air Force has also recently changed their hair policies, allowing for men to have bulkier hairstyles and women to be able to wear ponytails, bangs, and longer braids. The Air Force is also developing a maternity flight suit and a wrap dress for female service members. The Space Force has also decided to allow the military mustache to follow the same regulations as the Air Force. But, unlike the Air Force, the Space Force now has a new tattoo policy allowing a singular neck tattoo, as long as it’s appropriate. The Space Force also changed many policies for women. Women in the Space Force are now allowed to have painted nails and are able to wear lipstick, but the color of the nail polish and lipstick must not be distracting from their uniform.

Recent Changes in the Navy

The Navy has also loosened its ties on the facial hair policy. For a long time, the Navy has had a ban on having a beard while in uniform. Recently, they have changed their policy slightly to allow more freedom for having facial hair while in uniform. The new policy allows for Navy Veterans who wear their uniforms during ceremonies to have facial hair, including beards. It’s required for them to make sure that their military mustaches and beards are neatly groomed and look professional. Many active sailors have been asking for changes regarding facial hair in the military because many suffer from pseudofolliculitis barbae, also known as PFB. This condition is prominent in Black men, as their facial hair is naturally tightly curled. PFB is a skin condition that happens when you shave too often, causing ingrown hairs, inflammation, and razor bumps to appear on the skin. With the strict facial hair regulations in the Navy, many sailors end up having this condition. The Navy currently provides sailors who suffer from PFB the option to grow out their beards and neatly outline them.

Why Does the Military Only Allow Mustaches?

Beards became prohibited in the military after the creation of chemical weapons and warfare. The military then changed their facial hair policies because beards did not allow for good hygiene or a proper seal when wearing gas masks, an issue that also arose to prominence in the civilian community, especially with healthcare workers, during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. The military mustache is already kind of a tradition for Airmen, so the new policy allowing them to add a little bit more to their mustaches is exciting. The tradition is in honor of the pilot Gen. Robin Olds, who was a fighter pilot in World War II and the Vietnam War. The pilot sported the military chevron mustache, and many airmen today commemorate him with the annual “mustache march.” Changes for the military mustache represent a step forward regarding policies for facial hair, military uniforms, and other military regulations that are being updated.

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