The Air Force released an updated Air Force Instruction (AFI) 36-2903 on December 3. The guidance keeps the uniform changes trend moving forward, this time for Airmen and Guardians dress and appearance regulations. Besides republishing guidance from the Department of the Air Force guidance memorandum for female hair standards and incorporating other needed corrections identified in the AFI, there were also 26 additional changes added in the revised AFI. The Air Force is once again leading the way with changes that service members have been requesting for years and may influence other services to follow suit.

Changes on Hair, Pockets, and Drinking Water while in Uniform

There are so many changes in this updated AFI, but a key adjustment is a loosened focus on Airmen or Guardians putting their hands in their pockets. All military branches have prohibited the practice of putting your hands in your pockets while in uniform, but this is no longer the case. Also, the line preventing service members from talking on a cell phone or drinking water while walking has been removed.

There were also changes around both men and women hair standards. Male bulk hair standards increased from two inches to two- and one-half inches. Cosmetic tattooing on the scalp is authorized for men. The size of hair accessories width for women increased from one inch to two inches for females. And hair dye for all Airmen/Guardians is now authorized.

A major change for women is that false eyelashes are now authorized. They must be natural eyelash color and can not exceed 14 millimeters in length. Women are also no longer required to wear hosiery with dress uniforms – they have the option of wearing it.

The AFI also provided extra clarification regarding both male and female hair color. Stating that if applied, dyes, tints, bleaches, and frostings must result in natural hair colors. Examples of natural hair are brown, blonde, brunette, natural red, and black. Natural blending such as highlights or salt and pepper hair coloring are authorized. And all non-natural hair colors are still not authorized. Further information was provided for beards allowed for medical reasons stating beard length must not exceed ¼ and appear neat and conservative.

Other Uniform Updates Made

Updates relate to the Physical Training Gear (PTG) were also included. Shirt are no longer required to be tucked in. If a PTG shirt is not tucked in, it must extend to the bottom of the side pocket on the shorts or pants but cannot cover the shorts reflective material.  Undershirts are still authorized, but they cannot extend longer than untucked PTG. The AFI also authorized the wear of sweatbands with physical training gear.  The authorized colors are black, white, or dark blue with an Air Force symbol or U.S. Air Force painted/embroidered on the front.

There are also a number of changes around uniform wear. One of the biggest highlights is the authorization of commanders able to allow the tucking of Operational Camouflaged patterns (OCP) coat for duty as necessary and folding the cuff twice inward. An OCP tactical cap is also now authorized. There was also various information provided for patches, pen/pencil holders and specialized instructions for various units and specialized badges or tabs. You can read the full AFI here and page three highlights the new changes.

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Amanda is a military spouse and veteran who served in the Air Force for six years as a Civil Engineer including a deployment to Afghanistan. She traded in her combat boots for a diaper bag to stay home with her two boys and follow her husband’s military career. She published her first book in 2019 titled Women of the Military, sharing the stories of 28 military women. In 2019 she also launched her podcast also titled Women of the Military. In 2020, she was published as a collaborative author in Brave Women Strong Faith. And in 2021, she launched a YouTube channel to help young women answer their questions about military life, Girl’s Guide to the Military. You can learn more about Amanda at her blog Airman to Mom.