Military services balance haircut policies with preventing the spread of coronavirus

Marines, aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Bataan, cut hair in the barber shop, March 2, 2020. Marine Corps Community Services is allowing barber shops and exchanges to remain open on installations, but they are taking precautions to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.


By CAITLIN M. KENNEY | STARS AND STRIPES Published: March 25, 2020

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WASHINGTON — Sailors will get to grow out their locks while Marines will keep their high-and-tight haircuts as military services take different approaches to grooming as they adhere to social distancing to help stop the spread of the coronavirus.

The Navy Exchange Service Command, which runs barber shops and salons on Navy installations, directed the closure of all its shops worldwide except for ones at the Recruit Training Command in Great Lakes, Ill., so recruits have access to haircuts, according to a statement issued Monday.

The closures are expected to last for at least 14 days or until further notice.

The announcement follows Navy guidance issued March 18 about relaxed standards for hair lengths, though not facial hair. However, longer hair cannot interfere with wearing protective personal equipment such as helmets and masks, according to the guidance.

Marine Corps Community Services is allowing barber shops and exchanges to remain open on installations, according to a statement by Bryan Driver, a spokesman for Marine Corps Community Services.

Marine Corps installations are taking precautions to prevent the spread of the virus based on local conditions, according to the statement, including deep cleaning procedures several times a day, limiting access to active-duty service members only, and limiting how many people are inside buildings.

The Army is still following its grooming policies, however, it is trusting installation commanders to make exceptions if necessary to protect their soldiers.

“Grooming standards are an important part of good order and discipline in the Army, though at the end of the day, we need to make sure we're doing what we can to keep our people safe,” Sgt. Maj. of the Army Michael Grinston said in a statement. “Just like with readiness and protecting the force, it's not an easy balance to strike. There isn't a one-size-fits all solution. We have to be agile, and I know we have the right leaders in the right places to make these tough decisions.”

Some installations have taken actions in regard to base grooming services. Barber shops, salons, and spas at some Army and Air Force Exchange Services facilities, or AAFES, have been closed by the installation commands, according to a statement by Chris Ward, a spokesman for AAFES.

“For those locations that remain open, exchange barbers are increasing their focus on sanitation, including staying home if sick, frequent hand washing and routinely cleaning door knobs, faucet handles, etc.,” he said.

Twitter: @caitlinmkenney

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