A Guide to Shaving in the Army
Every third Saturday of May, the nation celebrates Armed Forces Day.
Published by Naked Armor
It used to be that each branch of our armed forces—the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, and Air Force—had their own individual holidays. This changed in 1949, when Secretary of Defense Louis Johnson announced the creation of Armed Forces Day.
Now we celebrate the day to commemorate all those who serve or who have served in the military. And as part of the festivities, the military branch gets to showcase its top-of-the-line equipment to the public.
Here at Naked Armor, we wanted to join the celebrations by highlighting how military beard regulations differ in each branch of our armed forces. Because yes, while shaving is universally the norm in the military, each branch has different guidelines on how to do it.
But before we go into that, let’s first understand why shaving is required among our soldiers.
History of Military Shaving
During the 18th century, facial hair was common among soldiers because there was a lack of barbers among the colonies. But though facial hair was tolerated, soldiers had to conform to a particular style. General orders published by commanders during that time required male soldiers to wear their hair short or braided up.
It was only during the Army in the early Republic that beards began to be forbidden. Soldiers who are assigned to the garrison were required to shave three days a week, at the very least.
Before the Civil War, Army regulations stipulated that mustaches could only be worn by those in cavalry regiments. This changed by the time of the Civil War, when senior Army and Navy officers began wearing beards and mustaches. The only regulation was that it should be kept short and neatly trimmed.
It took World War I to require that soldiers begin shaving again.
Beards were outlawed and the hair lengths were kept at one inch. The reason for this was two-fold: one was for hygienic purposes and the other was because it was hard to get a proper fit and seal on the gas mask if one had facial hair.
In these modern times though, military rules on grooming have somewhat relaxed but the general rule still applies: shorter is better. Still, this rule varies among the different branches of the armed forces.
Army Shaving Regulations
In the U.S. Army, facial hair is not allowed, aside from mustaches. This regulation is tightly enforced as soldiers are expected to keep their face clean-shaven when in uniform.
Even then, Army mustaches must look neatly trimmed, tapered, and tidy at all times. They should not look bushy or chopped off. Handlebar mustaches or goatees, therefore, are not allowed.
According to US army regulation, no portion of the mustache may cover the upper line of the lip. It also cannot extend past a sideways vertical line drawn from the upward corners of the mouth. The facial hair must also not extend above a parallel line at the lowest portion of the nose. The only exception is when one is granted a medical waiver by the U.S. Army.
Interestingly though, sideburns are allowed with certain specifications. They’re okay as long as they do not extend below the bottom of the opening of the ear. They should also be simple, not tapered, or with a flair at the end. It should also not exceed 1/8 inch in length when fully extended.
Air Force Shaving Rules
The Air Force allows mustaches and sideburns but are subject to strict guidelines.
In the case of mustaches, the Air Force specifies that they must “be conservative, moderate, being within reasonable limits, not excessive or extreme, and will not extend downward beyond the lip line of the upper lip.”
It also notes that the facial hair must not extend sideways beyond a vertical line drawn upward from both corners of the mouth.
Sideburns are also permitted if they have a straight appearance with an even width. They also may not extend below the bottom of the orifice of the ear opening. It must also end in a clean-shaven horizontal line.
Unfortunately though, beards in the Air Force are not allowed. But in certain instances, one can have a beard as long as one has a medical waiver.
Also, during tours of less than 30 days, Air Force Reserve (AFR) and Air National Guard (ANG) may request a beard waiver for religious observance if consistent with their faith.
With all these strict requirements, one needs the right type of US army razor that will do the job effectively and efficiently. That’s why one needs to have a straight razor.
— D'Rock, Naked Armor Founder
The Marine Corps is probably the strictest when it comes to shaving regulations. Like other branches, mustaches are allowed but are closely monitored by their Commanding Officers.
Facial hair grooming standards are enforced so tightly in the Marines that those that are granted a “shaving chit” should always have the paperwork on them at all times in the event they are stopped by higher-ranking Marines.
A shaving chit is the equivalent of a medical waiver which is issued by a medical officer.
Marines are required to shave daily. Mustaches are permitted only after recruit training and only when it's neatly trimmed and contained within vertical lines from the corners of the mouth to the margin area of the upper lip.
The individual length of hair on the mustache (when fully extended) must not exceed 1/2 inch.
Marines are not required to have chest hair clipped except in cases where the body hair is long enough that it protrudes in an unsightly manner above the collar.
Shaving in the Navy
Last year, the Navy updated its guidelines on facial hair grooming to make it even stricter for those needing shaving waivers.
Normally, a navy man who has chronic razor bumps can get a permanent shaving waiver. But under the revised guidelines, only temporary shaving waivers can be provided while the enlisted personnel is undergoing medical treatment for the condition.
Otherwise, mustaches are allowed by the Navy as long as it is kept neat and closely trimmed.
According to the US Navy, “no portion of the mustache may extend below the lip line of the upper lip. It is also not allowed to go beyond a horizontal line that extends across the corners of the mouth.”
Additionally, no more than 1/4 inch beyond a vertical line drawn from the corner of the mouth. The length of the mustache “fully extended” also cannot exceed approximately 1/2 inch.
Best Razor for Shaving
With all these strict requirements, one needs the right type of US army razor that will do the job effectively and efficiently.
That’s why one needs to have a straight razor.
Unlike a cartridge or a safety, a straight razor blade has a narrow profile that can make short work of your stubborn stubbles. When used properly, it also lessens the incidence of razor bumps because it cuts the whiskers easily and close to the skin.
Here at Naked Armor, our straight razors are not only made from world class materials like Japanese steel and exotic sandalwood or stainless steel handles, but they are also uniquely designed so that the blades are versatile for all types of hair and all levels of skill set.
They are designed in between a full hollow and a half hollow grind. This makes it easy for them to cut coarse and thick hair or thin and soft hair.
We gave away one set to a lucky veteran last year and boy, was he so over the moon with excitement. Our razors are that good.
Intrigued? Check out our site for more of our products.
Hi Randy! You are very welcome. Thank you as well for forwarding that photo to us. We are so glad that we were able to be a part of such an awesome and meaningful event organized by amazing people like you.
I’m so stoked to see our picture here. I’m the guy that was running the Veterans Day Celebration for Gwinnett Medical Center. You guys were awesome and so helpful. Thank you again for being a part of it.
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