BMT: Rapunzel, Rapunzel…

…don’t even think about letting down your hair!

Nope, don’t do it.  Only after your shower and when your MTI is long gone!  There’s a number of sources for information around the web about how to put your hair up in a sock bun, so I won’t dwell on that too much.

Gentlemen, I don’t have much to tell you.  Make wise decisions though.  Chop off any long hair or mohawks before you head to Lackland, but don’t go as far as shaving it all off.  Let the folks at Clipper Cuts take care of you.  Don’t show up with anything carved into the side of your head.  You want to draw as little attention to yourself as possible, in terms of outlandishness.  

Ladies, oh ladies!  Your hair is about to go through eight and a half weeks of stress and torture.  After I finished BMT, all I wanted was a deep conditioning treatment.  Heat damage won’t be the issue, as you won’t be using a hairdryer during BMT, nor will you be using a conditioner.

To my black/women of color readers – err on the side of caution if choosing to shell out the money and get your hair braided (1/2″ or less) before you go.  It’s up to your MTI team’s discretion if you’d have to remove them or not.  There was never a lot of clear guidance, as you’d typically get an OK from one MTI and catch hell from another.  Due to the differences in reactions from MTI to MTI, many of my flight members chose to just take their braids out, including micro braids, as to not have to deal with being hassled.  Near the very end of our training, a few girls were allowed to purchase relaxers, but again, this is at the discretion of your MTI.

It is possible for you to get your hair cut as a woman at BMT, but typically only if your short hair isn’t short enough (it’s touching your collar).  Beauty shop runs were a very rare occurrence, and again, they were at the discretion of our MTI and if our training week allowed for it.

For the record and for your own comparison, I have stick-straight, thin hair, but a lot of it.  Before I left for BMT, I practiced my sock bun with my Conair Bun Maker and I thought I was pretty good.  I’d need to get faster, but I thought I wasn’t in too bad of shape.

Down at BMT, I have blasted time and time again in the first two weeks for hair-related nonsense.  As a Dorm Chief, I would get yelled at for how the hair of the other females appeared.  We had a female MTI do a hair demonstration on one of the first days, assisted by older female trainees, but it took us some time before we really took that job seriously.  Eventually we started carrying around extra bobby pins in our ID cardholders.  While waiting to leave the dorm, or waiting to enter the chow hall, we’d inspect the hair of our wingmen and fix it as needed.  If your wingman looked like a dirtbag, they’d ask you why you let them leave the dorm-like that.

The key to BMT hair success is in excess.  Like they say, “Everything’s Bigger in Texas,” including the amount of product and the number of bobby pins you should be using.  Many of us used Got 2b Glued, which is available at the mini-mall.  The others used the big, generic bottles of colored gel.  Get your hair wet and slick this stuff through your hair, pulling it back into a ponytail in the middle of your head.  Put your sock bun or Conair Bun Maker on around your ponytail.  Lean forward and smooth your hair around the sock bun, covering it completely.  Smear more gel all over your bun.  Secure with a larger hair tie.  Twist the tails of your hair, working around your bun, then secure with another large hair tie.  Now, pin the crap out of your bun and loose ends.  I typically use 10+ hairpins, easily.  Finally, spray your entire head with hairspray or spray gel and make sure any remaining flyaways are secured with bobby pins.    Severity is key.  You’re not going for a “soft” look with this bun, so get those Pinterest images out of your head.  Think Robert Palmer girls.

Doing your hair like this takes some getting used to, but you’ll improve and you’ll get faster out of pure necessity.  I loved doing my hair after a shower, but you weren’t supposed to keep your hair in a bun while you slept.  We’d heard nightmare stories about trainees growing mold in their hair because they didn’t ever wash it and allow it to dry out completely.  I learned to do it quickly every morning and I got so good at it that it would last through morning PT with only a minimal touchup afterward when I put on my ABUs.  It was very common for trainees to get red bumps at the nape of their necks.  You can alleviate the situation by taking hand sanitizer (you’ll apply this before every meal via dispensers) and patting the back of your neck with it.

Good luck, goldilocks!  I’m still waiting for my deep conditioning salon oil treatment!


  • Lindseysaid

    This site has really really helped me. I am going guard and hopefully ship out later this year or early next year. I didn't realize all went into a bun. Is it beneficial to cut your hair or leave it longer?

  • Erinsaid

    @Lindsey – Thanks for your support! Good luck to you, the Guard offers a ton of great benefits! Yes, creating a BMT-worthy sock bun requires a lot more than you'd think! I need to do a video one of these days, to give people an example of how much product and pinning it entails. I left my hair long, but cut it to one length so I had no layers. Dealing with flyaways is a pain.

  • bibliophile21said

    Ugh, I am looking into the Air Force and this is one of the things I'm looking forward to the least surprisingly. I rarely use product in my hair and have huge issues with fly-aways (I have super fine hair around my ears that just go crazy) so this will be a big change for me!

  • Erinsaid

    @Marie12191 – I would think that as long as you can cover it COMPLETELY with your own hair and secure all loose pieces, you should be fine. Take it down there and try, the worst that could happen is that you'll have to make a normal sock bun.

  • Franshesca Apontesaid

    I know time is limited when it comes to putting your hair up in the mornings. I have read its good to wake up early. You posted on your"'no-no's" page I think that sometimes there are people who come in at night to make sure you are alseep. Well what's your advice on that :/ because when I go I definitely don't want them to chew me for breakfast!

  • Lindseysaid

    Hi Erin, My guard recruiter just called me today and said my shipping date is December. YAY!. But I had a question would just braiding your hair and using pins work or do you think the bun maker is best to use.

  • Erinsaid

    @Lindsey – Try doing both at home and see what works best with your hair type. I wouldn't be able to do the bun one myself – it doesn't work well for me.

  • Dearlybelovedxpsaid

    Hi Erin, I really enjoyed your blog these last few months. My ship date is on January 29th and I've been wondering for sometime…What's BMT's stance on pixie cuts? Does it have to be styled in a certain way once I get to Lackland?

  • arielleGsaid

    Hey Erin, this post has been super helpful! I'm just trying to figure out if I should chop my hair off or not. can you wear a regular ponytail if its above collar or does it need to be in A bun when It's up?

  • arielleGsaid

    Hey Erin, this post has been super helpful! I'm just trying to figure out if I should chop my hair off or not. can you wear a regular ponytail if its above collar or does it need to be in A bun when It's up?

  • Erinsaid

    @arielleG – You can wear a ponytail only if it's really, really little, and even then you still have to slick it back and make sure you don't have any flyaways.

  • samberlainsaid

    Hey Erin, I haven't been able to find this answer anywhere, so I'm hoping you can help. Although I have boy cut short hair, it easily gets frizzy, messy, and big. Does that mean I am going to have to gel and hairspray it down while at basics?

  • Erinsaid

    @samberlain – Yes, you will, most likely. You can try to put a minimal amount in your hair, and your MTI will definitely let you know either way. 😉

  • Lauren Stonesaid

    Can you do some sort of tight fishtail braid with your bangs for graduation or is only the slicked back look authorized?

  • Erinsaid

    @Lauren Stone – You might be able to get away with it if your MTI is cool and doesn't consider it "faddish." There's quite a bit that's left to him/her to decide what you can get away with. Good luck! I don't remember anyone that had bangs down, only pinned/slicked back, primarily.

  • Amandasaid

    Hi Erin,Thank you so much for all of the detailed information you have, it has definitely helped!I have a question in regards to the bun. I have waist length hair and I was wondering if while in BMT you saw any ladies braid their ponytail and then put it in a bun?My hair is thing but with the length the bun size could get a little ridiculous.Thanks!

  • Erinsaid

    @Amanda – Yes, a braided bun is totally fine! Just remember that you'll still probably have to use product and pins to tame any stray ends/pieces.

  • Sara McCoysaid

    I'm looking into AF and I'm wondering about how much time should I try to aim for when I'm practicing my bun? Or at least how long did it take you to do your bun?

  • Erinsaid

    @Sara McCoy – Shoot for 5 minutes or less. I don't recall how fast I got, but you won't have much time at all. Learn how to do it without using a mirror as well, as you won't always have access to the limited numbers of mirrors in the latrines.

  • Amandasaid

    Thank you so much!Your blog has been a blessing when preparing for BMT (I leave in a month) and feel as prepared as I can be for what is to come.Thanks again!

  • Bullet Beausaid

    Hi!! Thanks for all the info it has been really helpful! Was there anyone who french braided their hair and then tucked it under? Is that a style that is typically allowed? I would much prefer that to a bun. Thank you!!

  • Erinsaid

    @Bullet Beau – Yes, that is allowed and frequently used as well. Just be sure to still use a lot of product to clean up any loose ends.

  • JessicaRAsaid

    I'm debating on short or long hair. I have shoulder length right now and don't mind shorter hair. Sock buns aren't my fortay as i've been practicing. buttttt is it really that beneficial to have shorter hair?

  • Erinsaid

    @JessicaRA – If yours is shoulder length right now and you leave soon, I would chop more off. If you have time to grow it out, I would do that. Unfortunately, you're in that difficult in-between stage right now that isn't helpful for AFI 36-2903.

  • adriMMMsaid

    Hey! Thank you so much for your blog, I have probably read it through five times so far 🙂 I am join the AF active duty but so far it has been a ridiculously long wait. It was over seven months before I was finally approved to take my ASVAB and now that is done I'm still sitting here, getting older and older, waiting. But anyway onto my question(s): first off its about hair, now I grew up surrounded by military and my bf is military but all I ever hear for girls is sock buns. I have for well over a decade had to wear my hair in a bun nearly everyday and I have never used a sock bun style. Currently I am sporting a small tight "ballet" style bun secured with a hair net and long pins(this guy doesn't move). Is there any reason why I could not continue to do this all through BMT? Secondly I have the issue of packing, I am in San Diego, my family is in Virginia. Will I be able to bring a small bag for once I am at tech school? Obviously it would be locked up throughout BMT. I just don't want to have to ship something's to my family just so they can ship them to me later…Thank you again so much! No doubt I will have a few more questions for you before I leave.

  • Erinsaid

    @adriMMM – You should be able to style your hair with the net the way you've been doing it. I'm assuming that it matches your hair shade, so it shouldn't be a problem. Just make sure you don't have any flyaways. As for your second question, the rules have changed so much with this new capstone week and how graduation works, you might want to ask in the Air Force Wing Moms group on FB to see if they have any current info. When I went through we could get some things in, but that freedom went away a few years later. Sorry I can't help you there!

  • vanessaleannsaid

    Hi Erin! I have an undercut, no designs cut or anything but the rest of my hair is long. Is that something that might be a problem? How high is too high when making a sock bun?

  • Erin Carpentersaid

    @vanessaleann – Yes, it will, because it is considered "faddish." You're going to probably want to chop it into a pixie or let it all grow out. You will have to be able to wear your cover (hat) without the bun being a problem, so the bun should be mid to low on your head.

  • Marielle Torcendesaid

    Hi Erin! Thanks for your blog. It really helps me. I will be leaving for bmt this last week of August. I do have long (just below my shoulder blade)thick hair. I practiced doing the bun. My issue here was my hair is really heavy that it gets too loose when I run with my hair bun even if it was properly secured. Should I consider having pixie cut?

  • Erinsaid

    @Marielle Torcende – Luckily, you can do a ponytail when you run, if you prefer! But, if you think it's going to be difficult to manage throughout the course of the program, you might want to do the pixie. You'll be limited on time to dress after PT.