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What Are the Different Types of Military Haircuts?

By Marty Paule
Updated May 21, 2024
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While the specific regulations concerning military haircuts vary among the world's armed forces, they all generally require that hair be cut short and be easy to care for. In most cases, concerns over functionality outweigh style concerns in military haircuts. There are a number of styles that meet the requirements of most military organizations for both men and women.

The crew cut is one of the traditional military haircuts most often used for men. The hair is cut to a length of about 0.25 inch (6.35 mm) on the back and sides using a #1 blade. The top is cut slightly longer using a #2 blade while the front is trimmed slightly longer yet. A modern variation on the crew cut is referred to as the "high and tight" style, and is very popular among US military personnel, athletes, and emergency service workers. The term refers to the fact that the hair is cut down to the skin on the back and sides with short hair of a 0.25 inch or less left only on the crown.

Another common variation on the crew cut is commonly referred to as a "medium regulation" cut. Civilians often refer to it as a "medium fade." The hair is completely removed approximately a third of the way up the head and then becomes longer in a graduated manner with the longest hair, usually up to about 0.5 inch (12.7 mm), being located on the top only. The so-called "high regulation" haircut is cut similarly, except the fade effect begins about two-thirds of the way up the head.

Among military haircuts, the "butch" is another popular choice thanks to its easy maintenance. The hair on the back and sides is shaved all the way to skin and then tapered to about 0.25 in. on top using a #2 blade. The "Ivy League" haircut appears somewhat similar to the butch on the back and sides, but is longer on top with hair being cut to a length of 1 inch (25.4 mm) or less using a #4 blade. The hair in front is usually cut slightly longer than the rest of the top.

A popular variation on the high and tight haircut is called the "horseshoe flattop." The center area of the crown is shaved to the skin, leaving slightly longer hair in a horseshoe shape surrounding the bare crown. The hair forming the horseshoe shape can be dressed with gel or butch wax causing it to stand on end, thus heightening the flattop effect.

For women, the haircut requirements are slightly more lenient. Women's hair must not touch the collar of the uniform, so it can either be cut to this length, usually in a bob fashion, or pinned up and tight to the head. If they choose to wear bangs, the hair may not come lower than the eyebrows. Generally, hair accessories are what are used to help women comply to these regulations if they have longer hair.

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Discussion Comments

By discographer — On May 21, 2014

@bear78-- You're right. That's why different wings of the military have a distinct look, because of the haircut regulations. For example, most men in the Army have an Ivy League haircut. But a classic crew cut or a buzz cut is what most Marines have. To civilians a lot of these haircuts may look similar enough to group together. A military servicemen's hair cannot be longer than two inches at any point of the scalp, so naturally these are very short cuts. But despite this, there are quite a few variations in the way the hair is cut, how it's tapered, etc.

By bear78 — On May 20, 2014

@turquoise-- I see what you're saying but it's not really up to servicemen to decide their haircut. The military has specific regulations about haircuts and these can vary slightly in the Army, Air Force, Marines and Navy. Most require a tapered cut with no hair at the neck and around the ears. More hair is allowed on top. This is why tapered, butch and flattop haircuts are commonly used by servicemen.

Most people get haircuts for the appearance, but in the military, it's about neatness, ease of use and low maintenance. And these are the easiest and neatest looking haircuts.

By turquoise — On May 20, 2014

I don't think I like the tapered or faded military haircuts. If the fading was done very subtly, then it would look good. But most of the time, the sides and back have little to no hair and the top has a large chunk of hair which looks kind of odd. I think buzz haircuts are the best for the military.

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