Somewhere, Robin Olds is smiling.
Effective immediately, airmen will now be able to grow their mustaches past the width of their lips, but by “no more than 1/4 inch beyond a vertical line drawn from the corner of the mouth,” according to a press release from the Air Force. However, no portion of the mustache can extend below the lip line of the upper lip or “go beyond the horizontal line extending across the the corner of the mouth.”
The change is contained in Department of the Air Force Instruction 36-2903, Dress and Personal Appearance of U.S. Air Force and Space Force Personnel.
While the extra 1/2 inch of growth may not seem like much, it will still give airmen a little more wiggle room to be their best mustachioed selves and perhaps just a tiny step closer to the look of legendary Air Force triple ace Brig. Gen. Robin Olds.
Also updated was the guidance for wearing sister-service and joint-unit patches.
“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.”
According to the news release, airmen “assigned, attached, detailed or activated in support of sister-service units or joint organizations can now wear the unit’s patches in accordance with the sister service or joint organizations wear instructions.
This means that patches can be worn in either the sister service or joint organization’s color scheme without needing to be converted to the “spice brown color” that has been required.
“DAFI 36-2903 takes precedence if a sister service or joint organization wear instructions cause a conflict in Air Force patch configuration guidance, i.e., the wear instruction might switch a patch designated as a “left sleeve” patch to the right sleeve,” the regulation specified.
These latest updates follow repeated calls by airmen for a greater amount of leeway with their facial hair, and replaces current policy that says the hair must be “moderate,” “within reasonable limits” and “not excessive or extreme,” while remaining within the confines of an airman’s upper lip.
It also follows a series of other dress and appearance regulation updates that have have allowed women to wear their hair in ponytails and braids, let men have slightly bulkier hair, and a variety of other revisions that officials argue will improve airmen’s health and sense of identity without jeopardizing missions or military culture.
Unlike with the changes to women’s hair policies — which previously caused female servicemembers with tight buns to suffer headaches and hair loss — beards are still currently off-limits except in the case of waivers for medical or religious purposes. Air Force officials claim they may get in the way of necessary flight equipment and masks that protect against chemical, biological or radiological attacks, without causing the health concerns generated by the former female hair regulations.
The official DAFI for these updates will be finalized and published at a later date, the Air Force said.
Rachel is a Marine Corps veteran, Penn State alumna and Master's candidate at New York University for Business and Economic Reporting.