General Appearance Standards
No soldiers are allowed to have any tattoos which are deemed to be extremist, indecent, sexist, or racist on their bodies at all. Otherwise a person can be as tattooed as he or she wants to be above the knees, above the elbows, and below the collar of a t-shirt. No tattoos are permitted on the neck, face, head, wrists, hands, or fingers. A soldier is permitted to have no more than four tattoos below the knee or between the elbow and wrist. Each tattoo which is located below the knee or elbow must be smaller than the soldier's hand with fingers extended in such a way a person may gesture "stop." Only one band tattoo is allowed below the knee or elbow. Violation of US Army tattoo regulations is grounds for punishment.
Headgear is to be worn whenever the uniform is worn, except when: 1) it interferes with the safe operation of military vehicles, 2) soldiers are indoors, or 3) may chose not to wear headgear when attending evening social events (after Retreat) when wearing a dress or mess uniform. Headgear is to be carried by hand when not worn. Soldiers are authorized to store headgear in the BDU cargo pockets as long as the headgear is folded neatly. Soldiers are not to attach headgear to the uniform or hang it from the belt.
Soldiers may wear a wristwatch, a wrist identification bracelet, and a total of two rings when in uniform. Any jewelry worn must be conservative and in good taste. Only one item may be worn on each wrist. Other than the above jewelry (and some religious exceptions), no other jewelry shall be exposed while wearing the uniform other than a conservative tie tack or tie clasp with the four-in-hand necktie.
Conservative civilian prescription eyeglasses are authorized for wear with all uniforms. Prescription and nonprescription sunglasses (with a conservative appearance) are authorized when in a garrison environment, except when in formation and while indoors. Eyeglasses or sunglasses that have decorations on the frame or lenses are not permitted. Only shades of gray, brown, and dark green are allowed for sunglasses' lenses. Personnel can not use chains, bands, or ribbons on eyewear and are not allowed to hang glasses (or eyeglass cases) on the uniform.
Generally speaking, as long as you keep your hair short, neat, and groomed without using any decorative items and can wear your headgear or gas mask without any issues you will be fine. You will have problems if your hairstyle makes it difficult to properly wear your headgear and not cause your cap or beret to go askew or have its shape distorted. If you dye your hair, it must be a natural hair color - no bright red, purple, or neon colors. Judgement on the appropriateness of hair and appearance is up to your commander. Dreads are not allowed. There are some gender-specific guidelines below.
Standards for Men
Male personnel may not attach, affix, or display objects, articles, jewelry, or ornamentation to or through the skin while in uniform, in civilian clothes on duty, or in civilian clothes while off duty. This goes for ALL skin and not just exposed skin, so the above applies to one's tongue, lips, inside of mouth, nipples, navel, and other covered body parts.
Your hair must be cut in a tapered style (shorter as it gets closer to the neck). You cannot shave designs in your hair. However, if the texture of your hair does not allow for a natural part, you are allowed to shave a straight line to serve as a part. Curves and zigzags are not allowed, though. Cornrows and braids are not allowed for male soldiers. Only bald or balding soldiers are allowed to wear wigs or hairpieces.
Sideburns are permitted as long as they don't flair out, grow no longer than the lower portion of the opening for the ear, and are trimmed horizontally and not at an angle. The only facial hair allowed are mustaches that are kept closely trimmed, doesn't grow over the upper lip, and doesn't go any wider than your mouth. There are some religious and medical exceptions to this regulation.
Cosmetics and Fingernails
Men are not allowed to wear any cosmetics or nail polish. Fingernails must not extend past the tips of your fingers.
Standards for Women
Females are permitted to wear earrings that conform to the following standards while in uniform. Earrings must be screw-on, clip-on, or post-type earrings in gold, silver, white pearl, or diamond. They must be a quarter of an inch or smaller, unadorned, spherical, and fit snugly against the ear. Earrings can only be worn as a matching pair and only one earring per earlobe. Earrings are not permitted with any class C uniform (such as BDU, hospital duty, food service, physical fitness).
The US Army classifies women's hairstyles into three categories:
- Short length - Short hair is defined as hair which is no more than 1 inch from the scalp (excluding bangs). Hair may be no shorter than 1/4 inch from the scalp (unless due to medical condition or injury), but may be evenly tapered to the scalp within 2 inches of the hair line edges. Bangs must not reach as low as the eyebrows, must not interfere with the wear of all headgear, must lie neatly against the head, and must not be visible underneath the front of the headgear. The width of the bangs may extend to the hairline at the temple.
- Medium length - Medium hair is defined as hair which does not extend beyond the lower edge of the collar(in all uniforms), and extends more than 1 inch from the scalp. Medium hair may fall naturally in uniform, and is not required to be secured. When worn loose, graduated hair styles are acceptable, but the length, as measured from the end of the total hair length to the base of the collar, may not exceed 1 inch difference in length, from the front to the back. Layered hairstyles are also authorized, so long as each hair’s length, as measured from the scalp to the hair’s end,is generally the same length giving a tapered appearance. The rules for bangs mentioned for short hair applies here. No portion of the bulk of the hair, as measured from the scalp, will exceed 2 inches.
- Long length - Long hair is defined as hair which extends beyond the lower edge of the collar. Long hair will be neatly and inconspicuously fastened or pinned above the lower edge of the collar (except when worn in a pony tail during physical training), except that bangs may be worn. See above for rules about bangs. No portion of the bulk of the hair will exceed 2 inches (except a bun, which is worn on the back of the head and may extend a maximum of 3 1/2 inches from the scalp and be no wider than the width of the head).
Medium and long hair may be styled with braids, cornrows, or twists. Each braid, cornrow, or twist will be uniformly made, have a diameter no greater than 1/2 inch, and present a neat, professional, and well-groomed appearance. Each must have the same approximate size of spacing between the braids, cornrows, or twists. Each hairstyle may be worn against the scalp or loose (free-hanging). When worn loose, follow the medium hair length guidelines above or secure the braids, twists, or cornrows to the head in the same manner as described for medium or long length hair styles. Ends must be secured inconspicuously. When multiple loose braids or twists are worn, they must encompass the whole head. When braids, twists, or cornrows are not worn loosely and instead worn close to the scalp, they may stop at one consistent location of the head and must follow the natural direction of the hair when worn back. Hairstyles may not be styled with designs, sharply curved lines, or zigzag lines.
Cosmetics and Fingernails
Only cosmetics of natural hues are permitted. Lip color and nail polish cannot strongly contrast with your complexion. Fingernails, if painted, must be a single, solid, conservative color with no designs. Nails may be no longer than a quarter inch (as measured from the tip of the finger). Your commander can have you cut your nails shorter if he or she feels the length appears excessive.