Dress and appearance: Why it's important

  • Published
  • By Maj. Anthony Vieira
  • 49th Maintenance Squadron

Since the inception of our great Air Force on September 18, 1947, dress and appearance has been an important part of who we are as a military service. Our dress and appearance says a lot about our Air Force culture; who we are as individuals, and more importantly, what each of us does in our professions. Our uniform has developed slowly into what is worn today and varies from the Air Battle Uniform to Flight Suits.  In addition, the Physical Training Uniform is worn quite regularly as the Air Force has adopted a culture of physical fitness and staying in good physical condition. When we look good, we generally tend to feel good. Air Force Instruction 36-2903 covers everything you wanted to know about individual dress and appearance, and if you have questions, it is a great place to find answers. According to AFI 36-2903, all Air Force members will adhere to the standards of neatness, cleanliness, safety, uniformity, military image and present the appearance of a disciplined service member. 


When I joined the Air Force 24 years ago as an airman basic, the Air Force had just transitioned from the fatigue (jungle green uniform) to the Battle Dress Uniform, and the dress and appearance rules were covered in Air Force Regulation 35-10. Whether its AFI 36-2903 or AFR 35-10, nothing has changed as far as expectations with uniform wear and promoting a positive, professional military image. This professional military image is not something we only abide by during duty hours, but it is a 24/7 responsibility.


The majority of our Airmen comply with dress and appearance standards, but there are always a few that do not. The few Airmen that don't comply with standards are usually the ones supervisors spend a majority of their time counseling and mentoring. Everyone, regardless of rank must follow the standards. Otherwise, where do you draw the line? It is ALL of our responsibilities to correct a problem as soon as it is identified.  If you don't correct the problem on the spot, you become part of the problem, and it becomes the accepted norm. Some examples of dress an appearance violations seen around Holloman are:  Airmen not wearing their cover while in uniform in the housing area, sleeves pushed up to the elbow on a flight suit, heels/pumps that are too high, hair touching the ears and neck for men, skirts that are too high, unauthorized bags (handbags for women and backpacks/gym bags for both), and another airman who was seen wearing a t-shirt that said "Polite as F..." If you are one of the guilty parties, I challenge you to reconsider your ways and realize that standards aren't there only when they are convenient.


With less than one percent of the U.S. population serving in the armed forces, we are truly a selective fortunate few, and more importantly, to note, we are all volunteers. When you wear the uniform, it should be displayed with pride, dignity and worn correctly. Remember, when you are downtown in uniform, the public doesn't see one Airman; they see the entire Air Force. The example you set today with your professional military image, will be what is remembered tomorrow. Be proud of your Air Force heritage, wear your uniform correctly and enforce standards without exception. The Air Force will be a much better place, and it all starts with you!