Does 1/4 of an inch really make a difference? According to Airmen, yes, yes it does. New regulations released this week (to coincide with Top Gun’s love letter to naval aviation?) will allow airmen to have upper lip facial hair that extends no more than 1/4 of an inch past the mouth.

It’s the latest update it what probably seems like a never-ending series of updated military grooming standards. The Air Force Times announced the possible change two weeks ago, with a preliminary memo about the updated policy. Just this week Department of the Air Force Instruction 36-2903, Dress and Personal Appearance of U.S. Air Force and Space Force Personnel was released, including both the new mustache policy and updated guidance on unit patches with sister services (Space Force, anyone?). The Air Force wasn’t the only service with fashion updates – Space Force and Navy announced their own updates to grooming standards which included changes to facial hair length, make-up and tattoos.

Space Force & Air Force Grooming Standards

Space Force updated grooming standards include an updated tattoo policy allowing for a single neck tattoo – as long as it is authorized and doesn’t extend one inch. Space Force Guardians can also join their Air Force brothers with a slight mustache extension – as long as it doesn’t go past the 1/4 inch.

There was a time when grooming standards seemed to never change. But over the past several years, like uniforms, grooming policies have taken on a life of their own. From nail polish and hairstyles to mustaches and tattoos, the push is to ensure the right blend of safety with broader initiatives to promote diversity and inclusion within the ranks.

“These changes will allow Airmen additional flexibilities as to how to wear mustaches,” Gwendolyn DeFilippi, acting deputy chief of staff for manpower, personnel and services said. “Additionally, allowing Airmen to wear sister-service patches in their current color configuration influences cohesiveness and pride while assigned to joint organizations.”

Of course, no change is without critics. Some Airmen are pushing back and asking why beards are still banned, other than religious or medical reasons. On the flip side, some online are saying ‘thanks for the extra 1/2 inch of mustache glory’ and are already making plans for Mustache Month, the Air Force’s special tribute to Brig. Gen Robin Olds, legendary Air Force pilot and proud grower of a legendary lip beard.


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Lindy Kyzer is the editor of She loves the NISPPAC, social media, and the U.S. military. Have a conference, tip, or story idea to share? Email Interested in writing for Learn more here.