No, Damn It, Army Generals Aren’t Exempt From Uniform Regulations

When will BG Jeffrey Sinclair get an effing haircut?


Pursuant to Andrew Exum‘s perfectly valid question as to ”when, exactly, BG Sinclair is getting an effing haircut,” I devoted precious minutes on Google trying to figure out why Sinclair “looks like a 1970s Hollywood conception of what a general looks like. Or an Air Force officer” rather than the second in command of the expletive deleted 82nd Airborne division.

Google was, alas, no help. In fact, it’s spreading a longstanding misconception: that general officers get to wear whatever they want. While it’s true that, there are fewer people in position to tell a general to get an effing haircut than is the case for a private soldier, Army Regulation 670-1 does in fact apply.  The confusion comes from this passage;

Applicability: This regulation applies to the active Army, the Army National Guard/Army National Guard of the United States, and the U.S. Army Reserve, unless otherwise stated. Also, it applies to the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps and the Corps of Cadets, United States Military Academy, only when their respective uniform regulations do not include sufficient guidance or instruction. It does not apply to generals of the Army, the Chief of Staff of the Army, or former Chiefs of Staff of the Army, each of whom may prescribe his or her own uniform. During mobilization, the proponent may modify chapters and policies contained in this regulation. [emphasis mine]

The phrase “generals of the Army” is not synonymous with the phrase “Army generals.” Rather, “generals of the Army” refers to five star generals, the last of whom was Omar Bradley, who was promoted to that rank in 1950 and who died in 1981. We know this because, if the awkward phrase simply meant “brigadier generals and above,” it would be redundant to also single out the Chief of Staff.


*Yes, there are more pressing questions regarding soon-to-be-former BG Sinclair. I have no special insights into them.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Mark Ivey says:

    He´s gonna retire on a Col pension, he knows it, hence his hair.

  2. Tyrell says:

    Where are the sunglasses ? Where is the cigar?

  3. John Peabody says:

    Maybe he needs the extra hair to hide a non-reg tattoo.

  4. Ron Beasley says:

    I was on civilian status most of the time I was in the service and there was always a question of how far we could go. I wasn’t supposed to look like I was in the military so they let longer hair pass but not too long, sideburns had to be regulation.

  5. Tyrell says:

    Curious – why could you not look like you were in the military ?

  6. Ron Beasley says:

    @Tyrell: I was assigned to the DIA in Europe and did some spooking around most of which involved US military personnel.

  7. Mikey says:

    Or an Air Force officer

    I served in the Air Force from 1986 to 2006, and I do not recall ever seeing an Air Force officer with hair and sideburns like that. Ever.

    Now, of course, I didn’t see all of them, but I think 20 years is long enough to get something like a representative sample…

  8. DC Loser says:

    I was in the Air Force from 83-94, and saw some officers close to this. Depended on the command. It was definitely no-go in SAC, but the standards were much more relaxed in TAC and MAC. I saw some enlisted personnel that definitely came close to this.

  9. argon says:

    I don’t recall Ike feeling the need to wear all that bling on his chest, either.

  10. James Joyner says:

    @Mikey: It’s mostly inter-service humor. Marine officers tend to wear their hair skin tight, Army officers tend to wear a close taper, and Air Force officers tend to wear theirs like civilian men of the 1940s and 1950s. Sinclair’s haircut doesn’t look military at all. Hell, I’ve been out 22 years now and haven’t had it that long since I was in high school.

    @argon: While I’m seeing some movement back to the “top three ribbons, only” model that seemed to characterize officers of that era, the modern culture is that you wear everything. Has been for at least the last 30 years.

  11. John D'Geek says:

    @James Joyner: RE: Blues

    The Army recently ditched the Greens and went with the (admittedly historical) Blues. There is a difference between the Army Blues and the Air Force Blues, but it can be difficult to spot.

  12. Kolohe says:

    He looks like he works for U.N.I.T.

  13. grumpy realist says:

    Sorry, but I can’t help but thinking: “so where’s the kilt and the bagpipes?”