By LISA HOFFMAN
Scrunchies and shaved heads are hereby verboten for women. Cornrows and synthetic hair extensions are allowed.
But don't even think of carrying your cell phone in your right hand.
Those are some of the new orders from Air Force brass to govern the appearance of their troops while in uniform.
Many of the rules issued this month by the Air Force Uniform Board apply mainly to women, who are now prohibited from, among other things, wearing nail polish of "extreme" color, such as purple, black, blue or any fluorescent hue.
Other edicts govern everyone: Rings may not be worn on the thumb, for example, and eyeglasses are not allowed to hang around the neck or perch on the head.
While the rules may seem odd or unduly picky to those outside the armed forces, they reflect the balancing act all the U.S. military services must perform when upholding the core military value of uniformity in the ranks while also allowing the troops to retain some individuality and reflecting changes in civilian culture, experts say.
"The military constantly has to adapt to the society it recruits from," said David Segal, a military sociologist at the University of Maryland and director of the Center for Research on Military Organization.
Charles Moskos, a Northwestern University military sociologist, agreed. "You need to be uniform. It's a question of where you draw the line," he said.
This time, the Air Force is drawing the line in the following ways:
_ Bracelets. POW/MIA bracelets are OK, but those colorful rubber ones that denote support for a cause, philosophy or group are not.
_ Cell phones. Bowing to the ubiquity of such devices _which once were totally banned _ the service now says they can be clipped to the left side of the waistband or the purse, or carried in the left hand only. Phones must also be of "conservative" color. And, unless required to for official duty, airmen are also not to walk while using phones, radios or hands-free headsets.
_ Hair may be colored or highlighted, but not in "faddish" tints, and hairpins must match hair color. No scrunchies _ commonly fashioned from fabric-covered elastic _ can be used to fasten ponytails.
_ Earrings must be small, spherical and conservative, and worn as a set. For those with multiple ear piercings, no more than one pair of earrings is allowed at a time.
_ Fingernails must not reach more than one-quarter inch beyond the fingertip. French manicures _ a currently trendy style in which the nail tips are painted white _ are acceptable.
"They'll have to call them 'freedom' manicures," quipped Segal.
(Contact Lisa Hoffman at HoffmanL(at)shns.com)
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