Do they cut women’s hair in basic training?

Yes, women typically do get their hair cut short in basic training for the military. The exact haircut requirements vary somewhat between the different branches of the military, but in general women are required to wear their hair short, off the collar, during basic training.

Why do they cut women’s hair short in basic training?

There are several reasons why women’s hair is cut short in basic training:

  • Uniformity – Part of military training is learning to act and look the same. Short haircuts make everyone look more uniform.
  • Hygiene – Short hair is easier to keep clean and free of lice.
  • Safety – Long hair can get caught in equipment and pose a safety hazard during exercises and training.
  • Discipline – Getting a short haircut is one way trainees learn to follow orders and military protocol.

What is the standard women’s haircut in basic training?

The exact haircut standards vary by military branch, but in general women are required to wear their hair no longer than the bottom of the collar. Bangs can be no longer than the eyebrows. The bulk of the hair cannot exceed 1 1/4 inches from the scalp and the hair must present a tapered, neat and feminine appearance. Hair may be pinned up in braids or a bun as long as all loose ends are secured and hidden.


In the Army, women must cut their hair to a length between the lower edge of the collar and no more than 2 inches from the scalp. Bangs can be no longer than the eyebrows. A tapered cut is required so that the outline shape conforms to the shape of the head, curving inward to the natural termination point. No eccentric or faddish styles are permitted.


For women in the Navy, hair cannot fall below the lower edge of the back of the collar. Bangs must be above the eyebrows, and hair cannot be longer than the distance from the corner of the mouth to the chin. The bulk of the hair cannot exceed 2 inches from the scalp.

Air Force

In the Air Force, female hair must not extend below an invisible line drawn parallel to the ground, both front to back and side to side. Bulk is limited to 1 1/4 inches from scalp and hair must present a tapered appearance. Bangs must not extend below the eyebrows.


For female Marines, hair must not go below the collar and the bulk of the hair cannot exceed 3 inches. The Marine Corps has the strictest hair regulations of all the military branches.

What happens if a woman refuses to cut her hair in basic training?

If a female recruit refuses to cut her hair to meet military standards in basic training, there can be serious consequences. She would typically be considered in violation of regulations and could face the following:

  • Verbal reprimands from drill instructors
  • Formal counseling statements or warnings
  • Demerits or loss of privileges
  • Being held back from training exercises
  • Fines or docked pay
  • Disciplinary action
  • Discharge from basic training

Continually refusing direct orders related to grooming standards could potentially lead to more severe actions like an entry level separation or a court martial. However, most women comply with the haircut order to avoid any disciplinary issues.

Do some women get exemptions from short haircuts?

In some cases, exemptions from the short haircut standards may be granted on the basis of religious beliefs or medical conditions. Examples include:

  • Sikh women may receive permission to wear uncut hair covered by a turban.
  • Black women may get an exemption from cutting very tightly coiled natural hairstyles.
  • Alopecia or other medical conditions causing hair loss may warrant an exemption.

However, these exemptions are not guaranteed and must be requested and approved on a case by case basis. The military prefers to keep grooming standards uniform whenever possible.

Are there any options for women who don’t want short hair?

If a woman is firmly against cutting her hair short, her options are limited in basic training. She could:

  • Request an exemption based on religious beliefs or medical reasons
  • Wear a wig or hair extensions to meet length requirements
  • Pay to have her long hair chemically relaxed or straightened
  • Withdraw from basic training

However, each of these options has drawbacks. Exemptions may not be approved, wigs and extensions may not meet regulations, chemical relaxers can be harsh on hair, and withdrawing means not completing training. Generally, the recommendation is to comply with the haircut order as an important part of the military socialization process.

What is the haircut experience like?

Getting your first military haircut in basic training is a memorable experience for most women. Here’s a quick overview:

  • You line up with fellow recruits and wait your turn in the barber chair.
  • Some women feel nervous or emotional about losing their long locks.
  • The barbers are very quick – they buzz cut after cut in an assembly line.
  • Clippers buzz loudly as your hair falls to the floor.
  • Some women feel lightheaded seeing large amounts of hair removed.
  • It’s over in 5 minutes or less, then you see your new short hairdo.
  • Most recruits feel pride in their uniform new looks and commitment to their service.

What’s it like maintaining short hair in training?

Once their hair is cut, women have to adapt to having short military hairstyles throughout basic training. Some things to get used to include:

  • Learning new styles like buns or ponytails to meet regulations
  • Using bobby pins, hair gel, and spray to keep stray hairs in place
  • Getting frequent haircuts to maintain approved lengths
  • Taking just minutes to style short hair versus long hair
  • Feeling the air and sun on the exposed neck
  • Using different hair products for short hair

Having short, easy-to-manage hair is considered practical for the active, intense nature of military training. Hair care is also simplified with shared open bathrooms and quick mornings.

What happens after basic training?

After completing basic training, regulations on women’s hair lengths are sometimes relaxed a bit, depending on military occupation. Some options include:

  • Letting hair grow out to collar length or ponytail length
  • Allowing some conservative styling products and accessories
  • Permitting natural black hairstyles like twists or braids

However, short haircuts may still be required for disciplines like the infantry. Safety regulations often mandate maintaining shorter hairstyles, especially around aircraft and equipment. Most women continue keeping their hair above collar length for convenience and conformity.


Getting short military haircuts is a rite of passage for most women in basic training. Though emotionally difficult for some, it teaches discipline, uniformity and self-sacrifice. Keeping hair short and neat is also practical for the rigors of military life. While exemptions are sometimes allowed, the vast majority of women comply with hair regulations during their training and service.

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