Linda Maye Adams

Soldier, Storyteller

Hair for Women in the Military — It’s not easy!


Me seated at a metal desk in front of a 384 computer

Me with shorter hair. This would have been taken after 1991, but before 1995. Note the sign in the background.

It’s hard having long hair and being in the military.

It’s hard having short hair and being in the military.

The military has a lot of rules regarding women’s hair. It has to look feminine, and it can’t go below the bottom of the color.  Any hair tools like barrettes have to be a matching color for the hair.  It makes for a lot of frustration!

When I enlisted, I cut mine short so I wouldn’t have to deal with it so much.  But short has a problem.  It grows really fast, and sometimes the male soldiers don’t always know the definitions of what the length is.  I’ve had a sergeant yell at me for hair being too long because it touched the top of the collar.  And all the soldier can do is go take care of it because the boss makes the rules.

For a while, I tried a page boy, with all the hair being the same length, but above the collar.  That did not last long.  My hair is really thick, so I ended up with big hair.  It freaked out one of the sergeants who told me I had too much hair and to get it cut.

This is probably why most of the women opt for long hair and put it into a bun.  I couldn’t do that because the hair was too thick and too heavy.  I’d have to put twenty booby pins in it and it’d still fall out an hour later.  Or it the bun would be too big!

I also tried a French braid, but I really hated how it pulled at my roots — and I never pulled it back as tight as I’d seen some women did it.  I ended up folding my hair in half and then using a barrette to hold it in place.  I always had to keep a supply of heavy duty barrettes because the weight of the hair would break them.  All those hairstyles only work if you have normal hair, which I did not.

One of the women decided to get cornrow extensions.  She spent $70.00 (a lot in 1991) on ones that went down to her butt.  Unfortunately, she didn’t think about what to do while she was in uniform.  That was even more hair than I had to deal with!   She kind of rolled it up on top of her head and put her hat on it.  That lasted until we went to the rifle range and she had to wear a helmet.  She perched her helmet on her hair, not on her head.  First sergeant took one look at it and made her get the extensions removed.

I’m so glad now I don’t have to worry about the length of my hair!

11 Comments

  1. I don’t think that’s fair at all. Why can’t a female soldier have a crew cut? Is it because it looks too masculine? What if a woman wanted to shave her head completely? Why does a woman need to appear feminine? Why not neutral? Is there a neutral hair style?

    I thought Sheena Easton (80’s) sported a really short cut which I thought was beautiful AND feminine.

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    • Had to be feminine, and too short or no hair looked too much like the guys. A lot of the guys shave their heads. It doesn’t usually look good. More like a cue ball.

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  2. Geez, if you’d know about the hair and glasses rules, would you still have joined? Or would have had second thoughts?

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    • I don’t think that would have bothered me. My brother, who was in, did warn me about the running, and that should have been a bigger consideration. I didn’t realize what that would do to me in the future with the “Adams Feet” — poorly constructed flat feet which were so not made for running or walking.

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  3. Thanks for posting this Linda. The insider perspective is so interesting.

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    • I was surprised researching this how far the women had come working with the hair. They now have a sock bun (which is what it sounds like), which wasn’t available when I was in. Of course, I still don’t think that it wouldn’t have worked with my hair …

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      • pvtpetey

        The thing that I found that is wonderful for keeping hair in the bun, is the little goody twists. They look like a metal spiral, and you just twist two of them in on oppisite sides of the bun and it stays perfect all day long even with pt, and the range. I wish I had had them when I was deployed, it works well on thick hair too.

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  4. I wish I could have done that pvtpetey. My hair is so thick that none of that worked! It weight of my hair would pull it apart,and in some cases, break whatever I was using.

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  5. Kailyn

    I understand with the thick hair. I have the same problem. Any thing I put in my hair gets stretched out or broken. My hair will only stay up for so long before the weight of it makes it fall.

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