Long hair in the army

I’ve seen a couple of references to the army or possibly the national guard allowing long haired G.I.s to wear short hair wigs instead of getting a haircut during the early '70s. My sources are less than reputable, the movie Earthquake and MAD magazine, but I wonder if there is a kernel of truth or it’s completely made up.

Hey, don’t feel bad. Thanks to a comic store across from my grammar school and its extensive back issue collection, 80% of what I know of 1950-1985 was taught to me by The Usual Gang of Idiots.

I’ve heard a story about a guy who had long hair in the guard in the 70s, I think he would stuff it up in his hat or something weird like that. Unfortuneatley all I have is a second hand story, and I’m pretty fuzzy on that, I heard it years ago.

Uh, no.

Check this Google-cached, HTML version of the original PDF of Army Regulation 670-1: www.usapa.army.mil/pdffiles/r670_1.pdf+ar+670-1&hl=en&lr=lang_en%7Clang_es&ie=UTF-8]here

Search or scroll down for male grooming standards.

The early 70s was pretty liberal hair-wise for the U.S. Navy. Admiral Zumwalt was the Chief of Naval Operations and he was in favor of relaxing many of the Navy’s regulations.

Unfortunately, this led to downright abuse. Drug use was high at that time and many senior Petty Officers felt their authority had been seriously undermined by the “Z”. This was true in some aspects. As a result, order and discipline suffered until about 1980, when there were wholesale dismissals of “shitbirds” from the service. I have no cites for any of this, but I was in the Navy at that time and remember it clearly.

I can imagine in the 60’s and 70’s some reservists who didn’t want to get their hair cut short for one weekend a month might try to get away with wearing short haired wigs. Remember, back then long hair was a political statement and joining the reserves was a way of avoiding Viet Nam service.

Ranger: Your last point is invalid.

Joining the National Guard was a way of avoiding Viet Nam service, and many civilians confuse National Guard with Reserves, not that Ranger is a civilian. The National Guard was the term used in the OP.

I have two different friends who were in the Army Guard in the waning years of Viet Nam. Both of them independently told me about guys reporting for duty with thier long hair under wigs and that it was fairly common. One of the two wore a wig himself.


I have a book from the mid-70s of photography work by college students, and in it there’s a short photo essay about a student with long hair who was in the campus ROTC. One part of the sequence showed him tucking his long hair under a wig and cap in order to appear up to snuff for training. I’m pretty sure he was in the Army ROTC, but the book is in storage so I can’t say that for certain.

I can speak first-hand to this subject. I was stationed at McGuire AFB in the 70s and saw this for both the Army and Air Force reserves. My own brother enlisted in the USAF reserves and was assigned as a C-141 Loadmaster with the Reserve Wing at McGuire. He couldn’t handle the constant training and Flight Evaluations that went with being an enlisted aircrew member. Jim copped out and was assigned to the Aerial Port Squadron for the rest of his reserve duty. He DID WEAR A WIG to his monthly drills and his yearly two-week drill duty. Flying reserve crewmembers were not allowed to wear wigs To this day, I bust his butt about being a member of the “Wig Brigade”. It was disgraceful going into the mess hall and Exchange on drill weekends and seeing these clowns obviously wearing wigs. Since Ft. Dix is nest to McGuire, I also came in contact with Army reservists who were also wearing wigs. I v]cannot speak for the Navy or Marines. It’s very doubtful the Marines allowed it.

Since this zombie has been resurrected:

I served in the U.S. Army Reserves 1999-2007. At least during that period, U.S. Army Reservists were allowed to wear a wig during weekend drills/Battle Assemblies to conform to hair and appearance standards under AR 670-1. That only applied to weekend drills/Battle Assemblies, though. Reservists called up to Active Duty, including for training, such as attending a school, had to conform fully conform to AR 670-1. When my unit was mobilized in 2003, one of the very first things that was done to prepare our unit for deployment was that one of the Platoon Sergeants took a bunch of guys to the post barber to get their hair into compliance.

Just as an aside, there was disagreement within the Army for much of that period over whether shaving your head conformed to AR 670-1. It required, for male Soldiers, that the hair on the sides of your head had to be shorter than the hair on top. Taken literally, that meant you couldn’t shave your head, since your hair on the sides would be the same length, none, as the hair on top. That would also forbid baldness, which clearly wasn’t the intent. I shaved my head for most of that period. Most officers and NCOs I served with didn’t care, one unit commander I served under said it looked good during an official inspection, and a couple of NCOs from other units told me it was out of reg, but didn’t press the issue. Eventually, AR 670-1 was officially amended to explicitly allow male baldness, whether natural or shaven.

I was in the Navy during this period, I never saw or experienced any of the above. The only relaxing for hair standards during this time was for facial hair, not the hair on one’s head. Instead of neatly trimmed, sailors could grow long bushy beards. What I did see was during dress inspections, were guys that did not meet the Navy’s hair standards, they would be marched over to the base barber shop for a proper haircut.

An added comment, since the thread has been called up to active duty again - I always thought it was strange that the military allowed women to be exempt from the rules about hair. I get that military-length short hair is not fashionable among women, but isn’t fashion supposed to take a back seat to practicality? I don’t mean this in a “oh, poor men, they’re so oppressed by having to cut their hair while women get a pass”, just that wouldn’t it create a more uniform appearance to have men and women conform to the same hair rules?

Well my anecdote trumps yours. I was in from 1989 until 2017 and at no time did I see or even hear rumor of anyone being allowed to wear wigs to cover long hair. AR 670-1 covers the reserve components too. It sounds ridiculous to me and a career ender for anyone in command who allowed it. Especially during the time period you are talking about.

By today’s standards soldiers in the 70s and 80s looked like Hippies even without wigs. High and tights were not the norm.

They’re not exempt, they get a different set of rules. They also get different uniforms; I don’t think there’s any armies which include uniforms with pencil skirts for males.

Women have plenty of hair rules of their own. They’re just different than ours.

When I was in the Army, '01-'08, the commanders always were strict about men’s hair. Lots of hair that was technically within regulations was forbidden because commanders could be stricter than the Army-wide regs, but not more lax. Essentially you could either shave your head entirely, or have a high and tight with 1/2" or less on top and shaved on the sides. There were no other options.

But when my dad was in the Air Force, circa '82-'88, he talks about how he was jealous of the black guys in his squadron, who could pack their hair down tight to stay within regulations during the week, and pick them out into big afros to go to the club with on the weekend.

Huh. I would swear I had read that in AR 670-1, or another official document, but after a bit of research…nothing. I found some references from the early 1970s referring to court cases brought by male Reservists to allow them to wear wigs during weekend drills, but nothing more recent. I guess this is a Mandela moment for me.

In the early 1970s my landlord and another guy who lived in my apartment building were both in some kind of reserve–maybe Army, maybe Colorado Natl. Guard. They had go to one weekend a month, and for two weeks in the summer. If it was not summer, they had long hair, except on their duty weekends when they wore short-haired wigs. For the summer thing they cut their hair. I don’t know if this is one anecdote or two.
I also have no idea if other people knew they were wearing wigs.

TLDR: Two guys, who each got one haircut a year right before (or maybe during) summer camp

I was USAR from 1971-77. After I returned from training at the end of '72, I let my hair grow to shoulder length and wore a wig for monthly drills & annual training. The only problem was that I had to get bigger caps.