Navy Grooming Standards

Personal appearance should contribute to a favorable military image

U.S. Naval officers standing in a line

MC1 Jeremy Starr / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

Each of the military services imposes grooming standards on their military personnel, as part of their Dress & Appearance or uniform regulations. For the United States Navy, grooming standards are contained in the Navy Uniform Regulations, Chapter 2: Grooming Standards, and are shown below:

General Grooming Standards

The primary consideration is to have a neatly groomed appearance while wearing naval uniforms. Grooming standards are based on several elements including neatness, cleanliness, safety, military image, and appearance. The standards established here are not intended to be overly restrictive nor are they designed to isolate Navy personnel from society. The limits set forth are reasonable, enforceable, and ensure that personal appearance contributes to a favorable military image. The difference between men's and women's grooming policies recognizes the difference between the sexes: sideburns for men, different hairstyles and cosmetics for women. Establishing identical grooming and personal appearance standards for men and women would not be in the Navy's best interest and is not a factor in the assurance of equal opportunity.

Navy personnel assigned to Marine Corps units who elect to wear and are issued Marine Corps service uniforms at no expense, will abide by grooming standards established for Marines. Navy personnel assigned to Marine Corps units who do not elect to wear Marine Corps service uniforms will be issued only utilities and shall abide by grooming standards for Navy personnel.

Male Grooming Standards

Keep hair neat, clean and well-groomed. Hair above the ears and around the neck shall be tapered from the lower natural hairline upwards at least 3/4 inch and outward not greater than 3/4 inch to blend with the hairstyle. Hair on the back of the neck must not touch the collar. Hair shall be no longer than four inches and may not touch the ears, collar, extend below eyebrows when headgear is removed, show under the front edge of headgear, or interfere with properly wearing military headgear.

The bulk of the hair shall not exceed approximately two inches. Bulk is defined as the distance that the mass of hair protrudes from the scalp.

Hair coloring must look natural and complement the individual. Faddish styles and outrageous multicolored hair are not authorized. The unique quality and texture of curled, kinked, waved, and straight hair is recognized, and in some cases, the 3/4 inch taper at the back of the neck may be difficult to attain. In those cases, hair must present a graduated appearance and may combine the taper with a line at the back of the neck.

One (cut, clipped or shaved) natural, narrow, fore and aft part is authorized. Varying hairstyles, including afro, are permitted if these styles meet the criteria of maximum length and bulk, tapered neck and sides, and do not interfere with properly wearing military headgear. Plaited or braided hair shall not be worn while in uniform or in a duty status.

Keep sideburns neatly trimmed and tailored in the same manner as the haircut. Sideburns shall not extend below a point level with the middle of the ear, shall be of even width (not flared) and shall end with a clean-shaven horizontal line. "Muttonchops," "Ship's captain," or similar grooming modes are not authorized.

The face shall be clean-shaven unless a shaving waiver is authorized by the Commanding Officer for medical reasons. Mustaches are authorized but shall be kept neatly and closely trimmed. No portion of the mustache shall extend below the lip line of the upper lip. It shall not go beyond a horizontal line extending across the corners of the mouth and no more than 1/4 inch beyond a vertical line drawn from the corner of the mouth.

The length of an individual mustache hair fully extended shall not exceed approximately 1/2 an inch. Handlebar mustaches, goatees, beards, or eccentricities are not permitted. If a shaving waiver is authorized, no facial/neck hair shall be shaved, manicured, styled or outlined nor exceed 1/4 inch in length. Supervisors of individuals with shaving waivers shall actively monitor and ensure treatment regimen is followed.

Wigs or hairpieces may be worn by active-duty personnel while in uniform or duty status only for cosmetic reasons to cover natural baldness or physical disfigurement. Wigs may be worn by Naval Reserve personnel engaged in inactive duty for training. Wigs or hairpieces shall be of good quality and fit, present a natural appearance, and conform to the grooming standards set forth in these regulations. They shall not interfere with the proper performance of duty nor present a safety or FOD (Foreign Object Damage) hazard.

Fingernails shall not extend past fingertips. They shall be kept clean.

Female Grooming Standards

For women, hairstyles shall not be outrageously multicolored or faddish, to include shaved portions of the scalp (other than the neckline), or have designs cut or braided into the hair. Hair coloring must look natural and complement the individual. Haircuts and styles shall present a balanced appearance. Lopsided and extremely asymmetrical styles are not authorized.

Ponytails, pigtails, widely spaced individual hanging locks, and braids which protrude from the head, are not authorized. Multiple braids are authorized. Braided hairstyles shall be conservative and conform to the guidelines listed herein. When a hairstyle of multiple braids is worn, braids shall be of uniform dimension, small in diameter (approx. 1/4 inch), and tightly interwoven to present a neat, professional, well-groomed appearance.

Foreign material (i.e., beads, decorative items) shall not be braided into the hair. Short hair may be braided in symmetrical fore and aft rows (cornrowing) which minimize scalp exposure. Cornrow ends shall not protrude from the head and shall be secured only with inconspicuous rubber bands that match the color of the hair.

Appropriateness of a hairstyle shall also be judged by its appearance when headgear is worn. All headgear shall fit snugly and comfortably around the largest part of the head without distortion or excessive gaps. Hair shall not show from under the front of the brim of the combination hat, garrison, or command ball caps. Hairstyles which do not allow headgear to be worn in this manner, or which interfere with the proper wear of protective masks or equipment are prohibited.

When in uniform, the hair may touch, but not fall below a horizontal line level with the lower edge of the back of the collar. With jumper uniforms, hair may extend a maximum of 1-1/2 inches below the top of the jumper collar. Long hair, including braids, which fall below the lower edge of the collar shall be neatly and inconspicuously fastened, pinned, or secured to the head. No portion of the bulk of the hair as measured from the scalp will exceed approximately two inches.

A maximum of two small barrettes/combs/clips, similar to hair color, may be used in the hair. Additional bobby pins or rubber bands matching hair color may be used to hold hair in place, if necessary. Fabric elastics bands are not authorized. Hair ornaments shall not present a safety or FOD (Foreign Object Damage) hazard. Hairnets shall not be worn unless authorized for a specific type of duty.

Wigs or hairpieces meeting women's grooming standards are authorized for wear by personnel while in uniform or duty status. Wigs or hairpieces shall be of good quality and fit, present a natural appearance and conform to the grooming standards set forth in these regulations. They shall not interfere with the proper performance of duty nor present a safety or FOD (Foreign Object Damage) hazard.

Cosmetics may be applied in good taste so that colors blend with natural skin tone and enhance natural features. Exaggerated or faddish cosmetic styles are not authorized with the uniform and shall not be worn. Care should be taken to avoid an artificial appearance. Lipstick colors shall be conservative and complement the individual. Long false eyelashes shall not be worn when in uniform.

Fingernails shall not exceed 1/4 inch measured from the fingertip. They shall be kept clean. Nail polish may be worn, but colors shall be conservative and complement the skin tone.

Updated Tattoo, Body Mutilation, Dental Policy 

The four major issues with tattoos on the body are content, location, size, and cosmetic. If the content is objectionable (racist, gang, drug, generally obscene), for instance, the individual will be denied entry or not allowed to stay in the military. The location of tattoos cannot be seen on the head or face or generally seen when fully clothed. Depending upon where the tattoos are located (arm, leg, torso) the tattoos are limited in certain sizes. Some tattoos are cosmetic and are waiverable if treating an allowable medical condition. 

Mutilation is the intentional alteration of the body, head, face, or skin for the purpose of resulting in an abnormal appearance and is forbidden for military service. Examples of mutilation that are not allowed are (or limited to):

  • A split or forked tongue
  • Foreign objects inserted under the skin to create a design or pattern
  • Enlarged or stretched out holes in ears (other than a normal piercing)
  • Intentional scarring (cutting) on neck, face, or scalp
  • Intentional burns creating a design or pattern

Dental ornamentation is the use of gold, platinum, or other veneers or caps and is prohibited. Teeth, whether natural, capped, or veneered, will not be ornamented with designs, jewels, initials, etc.