Coast Guard Is the Latest Service to Ease Up on Grooming Standards

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A hair dresser at Coast Guard Training Center Cape May, gives recruits haircuts at Dempsey Hall.
Reene Wheeler, a hair dresser at Coast Guard Training Center Cape May, gives recruits from forming company Foxtrot 198 haircuts at Dempsey Hall, Dec. 4, 2019. (U.S. Coast Guard/Seaman Apprentice Josalyn Brown)

The Coast Guard is allowing its members to wear their hair longer, under a softening of grooming standards designed to reduce exposure and slow the spread of COVID-19.

In a Coast Guard-wide message issued Thursday, Rear Adm. Joanna Nunan, assistant commandant for Human Resources, said men and women in the service can now wear their hair longer in response to the pandemic.

The measure reduces the close contact required with barbers and hair stylists needed to meet regulations.

"Commanders and supervisors may allow for additional hair length and bulk on the sides, top, and back of the head but must ensure a professional military appearance is maintained," Nunan wrote in ALCOAST 118/20.

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The Coast Guard's policy will "remain in effect until rescinded" and applies only to hair standards. Regulations on sideburns, hairstyles and shaving will remain in effect.

The move follows the Navy's announcement March 18 and the Air Force's earlier this week that both services were relaxing grooming standards. The Marine Corps has left the decision up to individual commanders. The Army has not made a public announcement regarding its grooming standards, but it also does not regularly release service-wide messages.

Government officials and medical experts, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, are recommending Americans maintain at least six feet between themselves and anyone they do not live with to prevent spreading the novel coronavirus.

As of Thursday, the Coast Guard had 32 confirmed cases of COVID-19 among its personnel, according to spokesman Chief Warrant Officer 4 Barry Lane.

Defense Department-wide, 893 service members had confirmed cases of the coronavirus as of Thursday. There were 256 cases among military dependents, 306 cases in civilian employees and 95 among contractors.

For Coast Guard women, standards call for hair that does not fall below the eyebrows or headgear or, in the back, below the bottom edge of a uniform collar. Otherwise, it can be worn in a bun that may extend no farther than three inches from the scalp.

Men are required to keep their hair so that it does not fall below the eyebrows, is maintained within 1 1/2 inches of the scalp and does not touch the ears or top of the collar.

According to the ALCOAST, the temporary relaxed grooming standards should "at no time interfere with the proper wearing of Coast Guard headgear and/or proper use of protective personal equipment."

-- Patricia Kime can be reached at patriciankime@gmail.com. Follow her on Twitter @patriciakime.

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