Headshaving in Military History - HeadBlade

Headshaving in Military History

With grooming standards becoming rather relaxed in recent years, the U.S. Military’s history of haircuts has come a long way. Since the Revolutionary War, officers’ hair has changed from powdered wigs to close-cut shaves. 

During the 1700s and throughout the Revolutionary war, wigs were worn in the American army as it was what was being worn by European officials. The use of long wigs evolved into those serving in the infantry, who could not afford wigs, growing their own hair long. By the Civil War, hairstyles were shorter, and beards were longer and more elaborate. Many army officials of the time wore bushy muttonchops with shorter hair on their heads. 

Shaving with razor blades

World War I was the first time that shaving became required, partly to promote good hygiene practices. The face had to be clean-shaven and the hair no more than one inch long. Short hair was also essential to be able to wear a gas mask, which would protect soldiers from the newly introduced threat of airborne gases. The Great War, as it is referred to, was largely fought from trenches that were carved into battlefields. These subterranean paths were about the depth of a city sidewalk and high enough to cover the heads of soldiers.

Soldiers did everything in the trenches from fighting brutal battles to sleeping, eating, and even grooming. Shaving with razor blades was especially dangerous in these conditions and it was during this time that safety razors, like the ones used today, were popularized in the US military. These safety blades were the first stage of a technology that would eventually lead to the enhanced precision and performance in razors you use today. 

When a new recruit enters the military, they are subject to the induction cut, often on the first day of boot camp. This is done for a variety of reasons, one of which is to push the recruits into their starkly new environment. The purpose of the induction haircut is both practical and psychological. One of the original objectives for the induction haircut was to reduce the risk of health issues, such as head lice, among closely quartered recruits from various geographical locations and immunities. Short hair also makes it difficult for an opponent to grab a soldier with long hair. The haircut also has the psychological effect of pulling the recruits away from their sense of individuality and instilling in them the group mentality that is desired among military recruits.

While all divisions of the US military have haircut requirements, the US Marines have an especially recognizable signature style. You’ve likely heard the term Jarhead used to describe Marines. There are many theories behind this term, one being a riff on their standard flat-top buzz cuts, which causes their heads to resemble jars with flat lids. Marines have taken on a distinct hairstyle, which falls within military guidelines but also comes down to a tradition of a cut passed down from the Vietnam war. 


One may wonder how these standards are enforced, and it comes down to the rather rigid, though non-judicial punishment Article 15 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice. This is akin to a misdemeanor charge and can be handed down for failure to shave, among other uniform violations. Article 15 is kept on record and can become serious if they accumulate, with the most extreme cases resulting in discharge from service. 

Militaries around the world, including the Royal Service, maintain grooming and haircut standards for the same reasons of hygiene and uniformity. However, much like the US Military, the Royal Service is relaxing its rules to make room for diversity and individuality in their fleets.

The shaven head remains ubiquitous among those serving in the military at any level. It has proven to be practical and formal, both qualities that the military favors. While you may not need to adhere to military guidelines, they make some good points. A shaved head is a low-maintenance, clean, and timeless look. Check out the HeadBlade essentials kit, complete with the award-winning Moto razor, and HeadBlade products that will ensure a smooth shave.