So, in this article, we’ll provide an overview of all things pilot hair related. We’ll answer why pilots traditionally had short hair, look at how hair standards have evolved, and see if long hair is still prohibited!
A brief history of pilot hairstyles…
From the crisp, navy-blue or jet black uniforms to their polished shoes, the professional image of airline pilots has always been important. It’s a symbol of their precision, discipline, and commitment to safety. One of the most consistent elements of this image, for both men and women, has traditionally been short, well-groomed hair.
The origins of short hairstyles among pilots can be traced back to military traditions. In the early 20th century, as commercial aviation began, many pilots were ex-military and carried over these grooming standards to their new profession.
Short hair was not only a matter of maintaining a clean-cut, professional appearance, but was also practical. As we’ve seen in our article on clean-shaven pilots and beard rules — short hair helped ensure a good seal when wearing oxygen masks. It also keeps quick release buckles and fasteners on helmets clear, which was particularly critical for fighter pilots.
Over the decades, however, hair standards for pilots have seen considerable evolution. This shift mirrors societal changes in perceptions of professionalism and personal expression.
The FAA or Federal Aviation Administration, the body that governs aviation rules in the United States, does not explicitly specify hairstyle requirements for pilots. Instead, it focuses on ensuring that pilots are fit and able to safely operate an aircraft, typically through an acronym known as IMSAFE.
Individual airline policy still differs!
Nevertheless, individual airlines have had their standards. Some airlines maintained more conservative grooming standards, while others began to relax these rules. Airlines in the western world, such as United Airlines, Lufthansa, or even Air New Zealand have started to revise their uniform policy to be more inclusive and diverse, allowing hairstyles that reflect cultural and personal identity.
As a result, long hair is not universally prohibited for pilots today. If a pilot opts for longer hair, there are two crucial aspects to consider.
- Long hair should not interfere with their duties or safety equipment. For example, if long hair could potentially disrupt the seal of an oxygen mask, then it would need to be secured appropriately.
- Long hair maintains a professional look. Considerations around professionalism vary wildly from airlines, but as a general rule, most airline grooming standards will have warnings around natural-looking hair colour, which must be presentable and clean.
However, societal perceptions and airline standards can differ globally. In certain regions, traditional norms and the professional image associated with pilots might still prefer shorter hairstyles.
Therefore, prospective pilots are recommended to research the grooming standards of the specific airlines they aim to work for. As an example, Asian carriers, including Air China, Japan Airlines and Cathay Pacific, still enforce a strict policy on pilot haircuts. No long hair is allowed here!
The journey of the pilot hairstyle reflects our broader societal shifts. As we continue to redefine professionalism and personal expression in all fields, it’s fascinating to witness this evolution in the cockpit. From military-rooted short hair norms to an acceptance of a more diverse range of hairstyles, the world of aviation continues to change and adapt.
It goes without saying, hair length is not the deciding factor in a pilot’s ability to fly. After all, it’s the skills, knowledge, and dedication to safety that make a great pilot, regardless of their hairstyle.
However, in a safety critical industry, with airlines relying on their uniformed staff to provide reassurance and professionalism to nervous flyers, many airlines still do enforce strict rules on short hair cuts and clean-shaven pilots!