Do They Teach You How To Shave in the Military? (What To Expect)

The art of shaving is the act of cutting hair by scraping a blade along the skin. Military traditions have incorporated shaving into training and duty since ancient times. Appearance, grooming, and shaving in particular have been a common pillar of military standards for hundreds if not thousands of years. Does the United States military still adhere to these standards? How does shaving work in the military?

Specific rules and regulations regarding shaving in the United States armed forces vary depending on the branch and unit. In general, a short, well-trimmed mustache is acceptable, but beards are prohibited unless you qualify for a military exemption. There is no question, you will be required to shave, and if you don’t know how, you will be taught. 

For those younger recruits who have yet to begin shaving or those who simply aren’t familiar with the practice, read on for some tips for what to expect in your training and military life with regards to shaving your face.

Does The Military Teach You How To Shave?

The military does not mandate any instruction for shaving during recruit training, but this does not mean that you are left to your own devices completely.

The drill instructors have a duty to teach trainees the necessary skills to live a military life, and while they have their own style of instruction, they want to make sure their recruits are prepared by any means.

Instruction on how to shave is not given by mandate, and if you are inexperienced, your instructors will notice and correct the discrepancy right away. Even if this means they will physically show you how to shave or tasking a fellow recruit with teaching you, the ultimate goal is that you are taught to keep your physical appearance within regulation by the time you graduate. 

How Close Do You Have To Shave in the Military

To paraphrase the rule of thumb for most branches of the military: shaving means that you remove all visible hair below the eyebrows.

No five-o-clock shadow, no stubble; for most, though you may be able to skate by if you don’t really grow a visible beard. This rule is basically hard and fast, any active or reserve duty service member in good standing is expected to shave all facial hair down to the skin as close as possible.

Notable exceptions include razor bumps or other skin conditions that render shaving dangerous to personal health, certain religious exemptions (very rare), and extremely rare unit commander decisions allowing beards for tactical or practical purposes (cultural/weather condition, etc). 

Do You Have To Shave Every Day In The Military

In many ways, your shave is just as much a part of your uniform as boots or rank insignia, and it is expected that you are “squared away” at all times.

Because the standard is basically a “clean-shaven and professional” appearance, you typically should expect to shave every day.

The only facial hair allowed is a small, trim mustache that is contained by the limits of lip width and height as well as lining up with the tip of the nose outward. 

How Long Do You Have To Shave During Basic Training?

During basic training for the military, there is one constant across all branches: at all times, you will be doing every task quickly and with purpose, shaving included.

There is no set standard, but if you ask former or current service members to recall their shaves during training, you can expect to hear expectations as low as 30 seconds, but the average seems to be around 3 minutes for a full shave.

It may seem cruel or sadistic, but similar to dressing, making your bed, cleaning, and other routine tasks, shaving is a rushed endeavor that will be drilled into you.

Does The Military Provide You With Razors, Shaving Cream, etc.?

If you wish to bring a shaving kit with you, all branches except the Marine Corps will allow you to do so.

In the absence of a personal kit, they will allow you to purchase a cheap kit from the PX (military base store) often civilian products at a slightly reduced price that can be comped from your paycheck.

It is not suggested to bring an electric shaver, as this unnecessarily complicates a time-tested and simple procedure; during training, you want to be as efficient as humanly possible.

At the end of the day, military life will affect every aspect of your daily personal life, personal hygiene and shaving included. Unless you have a waiver, you must remain clean-shaven and within regulation at all times or risk reprimand by your superiors. Should you need instruction when you arrive at basic training, you will be shown the quickest and most efficient procedure and left to master your shave yourself. You will be allowed to purchase equipment of your choosing and should go with the simplest method. Adhere to your chosen branch’s code of appearance and you will have no problem! And when you eventually retire from military life, you can always grow your beard out then.