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Air Force releases updated dress and appearance instructions

(U.S. Air Force graphic)

(U.S. Air Force graphic)

RANDOLPH AIR FORCE BASE, Texas -- The Air Force's instruction on dress and personal appearance recently received an appearance upgrade with the release of the updated instruction on July 18.

Air Force Instruction 36-2903, Dress and Personal Appearance, received the facelift after several years of interim updates as uniform items were introduced and phased out. The last revision to the AFI was in 2006 prior to the release of the Airman Battle Uniform, which replaces the Battle Dress Uniform and Desert Camouflage Uniform on Nov. 1, 2011.

Most of the changes to the AFI are more about mechanics and clarification than new policy. They are intended to make the AFI more user-friendly, said Ruth Ewalt, Air Force Uniform Programs and Policies chief at the Air Staff.

"The changes are a result of Airmen in the field requesting clarification, leadership approving more specific policy, and the need to integrate information from the 98th virtual uniform board and other wear policy approved since 2006," Ewalt said. "We added the ABU, green fleece, and physical fitness uniform information not in the previous AFI and corrected instances of conflicting information."

For clarity and ease of reading, the chapters were rearranged and sections were made inclusive to eliminate turning back and forth to configure a single uniform, she said. The differences in the old and new AFI are the tables are now integrated into the text. Each uniform has its own section, starting with the most formal through the utility, PT, and distinctive uniforms.

One thing Airmen might notice is the amount of pictures incorporated into the revised AFI.

"Individuals learn and retain information differently," Ewalt said. "For some a photo is a better tool than volumes of text or audio. We wanted to make this AFI as 'user-friendly' as possible. It covers every Airman -- from the first-day recruit in basic military training to the 30-plus-year career Airman."

Sections are also inclusive, listing all items that may and must be worn with each particular uniform with the exception of outer garments which are covered in their own section.

The first three chapters cover the basic philosophy, appropriate circumstances to wear uniform items, how and where to purchase them, roles and responsibilities, and grooming and appearance standards. Chapters four through seven cover uniforms worn and maintained by all Air Force members -- dress, utility, and physical training uniforms. Chapters four and five include the dress and utility uniforms. Chapter six explains outer garments, headgear, rank insignia and accessories, and Chapter seven covers the physical training uniform. The remaining chapters "customize" the uniforms of unique populations and discuss badges, awards and decorations unique to individual Airmen. The last chapter contains instructions for recommending changes to dress and personal appearance policy or uniform designs.

The revised AFI also added a tattoo measurement tool to standardize the process for Airmen and commanders to determine if a tattoo meets standards. "There is also a form to document tattoos that are borderline excessive or require a commander-approved waiver," Ewalt said. "The policy regarding what constitutes an excessive tattoo has not changed -- the standard is still not more than 25 percent of the exposed body part."

The revision involved input from individuals of all ranks and components of the Air Force - including Air Force Reserve and Air National Guard members.

"This three-year effort included Airmen from all walks of Air Force life...(military training instructors, recruits, recruiters, first sergeants and Air Force leadership from all levels, professional military education instructors, functional communities, and support organizations to name a few," Ewalt said. "This Air Force instruction was influenced by a huge population of Air Force service members because it impacts the total force."

For online dress and appearance information, go to the dress and appearance webpage on the Air Force Personnel Center's website at For more information about personnel issues, visit the Air Force personnel services website at

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