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The Man Behind The ‘Stache: Why Mustache March Matters to Airmen

  Basketball season isn’t the only part of March Madness.  In aviation circles, there’s a trend that brings about a bit of madness, too: Mustache...

robin olds in his aircraft


Basketball season isn’t the only part of March Madness. 

In aviation circles, there’s a trend that brings about a bit of madness, too: Mustache March. 

If you haven’t heard of Mustache March, it’s all about honoring history’s most famous military fighter pilot, Brig. General Robin Olds. While the former pilot may have passed away in 2007, his boldness and courage are remembered almost as much as his mustache. 

So how did this no-nonsense pilot start a revolution of facial hair growth every year? 

Read on to learn more about the one and only man behind the ‘stache. 

Who Started Mustache March?

triple ace robin olds in front of an aircraft
(U.S. Air Force photo)

That would be the late, great Brig. General Robin Olds. 

During World War II and the Vietnam War, he became a triple ace who scored at least 17 victories.

As a fighter pilot, he got tired of the lack of support and unqualified pilots he received on his watch. Out of protest against the U.S. government, he grew what’s known as a handlebar mustache — a huge violation of Air Force grooming regulations. Word has it Olds called it his “bulletproof mustache.” 

Now, in honor of his memory, Airmen participate in the annual tradition of “Mustache March” as a nod to the respected pilot.

Are Mustaches Allowed in the Military?

graphic for mustache march
(U.S. Air Force graphic)

Grooming standards vary by branch. You’ll have to check with your commanding officer and consult the grooming standards in your specific branch’s manual in case of an update. 

But in general, here are the guidelines: 

Air Force – Airmen, in particular, may only have mustaches. Beards are only allowed for medical reasons.

Army – Mustaches are allowed, but may not be bushy. If worn, mustaches must be neatly trimmed. 

Navy –  Handlebar mustaches, goatees, and beards aren’t permitted. Mustaches are allowed but must be kept neat and closely trimmed.

Marine Corps – Mustache may be neatly trimmed and the individual length of a mustache hair fully extended must not exceed 1/2 inch. 

Coast Guard – While in uniform, members must be clean-shaven.

What are the Specific Air Force Facial Hair Regulations?

three airmen pose with their march mustaches on display
(U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Zachary Cacicia)

So, just what is the Air Force grooming regulation these days? According to the manual as issued by the Secretary of the Air Force, here’s what’s allowed: Mustaches. Male Airmen may have mustaches; however, they will be conservative (moderate, being within reasonable limits; not excessive or extreme) and will not extend downward beyond the lip line of the upper lip or extend sideways beyond a vertical line drawn upward from both corners of the mouth. 

This grooming rule allows Airmen to grow military mustaches — even if they don’t normally sport facial hair — for display during Mustache March. 

But most Airmen understand they probably won’t get away with a mustache as bushy and impressive as the original Olds.

Honor the Triple Ace with an Impressive Military Mustache 

faux mustache drawn on finfer
(U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Zachary Cacicia)

Sorry, Air Force wives. During March, you’ll have to deal with the scratchiness of your own Airman’s ‘stache as he grows it out. 

Luckily, March only has 31 days, so you won’t have to endure the unsightly military mustache for too long. If anything, it’s a month full of good-hearted teasing and some ridiculous captured photos to share for years to come.

Teasing aside, it’s also a great opportunity for building camaraderie among service members and their families who get to be a part of the military force that rules the skies. 

Cheers to growing those impressive Mustache March ‘staches that would make the Brigadier General proud! 

How long does it take to grow a proper military mustache for Mustache March? We want to know all your special grooming tips and techniques — drop them in the comments below! 

Feature image courtesy of U.S. Air Force


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