Most branches of the military are getting with the times and loosening up their standards about what kinds of hairstyles women are allowed to wear.
“Army Regulation 670-1” was passed back in early March, and it stated that female soldiers weren’t allowed to wear their hair in “twists, dreadlocks, Afros and braids” during deployment. It described the natural styles as “matted” and “unkempt.”
Women who didn’t follow the rule would be forced to cut their hair and/or wear wigs (because that’s completely practical in the field). At the time, it was pretty obvious from the language that the guidelines were racially biased and directly targeted black women.
Sgt. Jasmine Jacobs of the Georgia National Guard was outraged by the changes that she started a petition to combat the guidelines, and it looks like the military listened! Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel announced Tuesday that, with the exception of the Marines, the military is making some big changes to the style guidelines for women.
“At my direction, over the last three months, each Military Service reviewed its definitions of authorized and prohibited hairstyles, and eliminated offensive language, including the terms ‘matted and unkempt’ from both the Army and the Air Force grooming regulations,” Chuck said in his letter to Congressional Black Caucus Chairwoman Marcia Fudge. “Each Service reviewed its hairstyle policies to ensure standards are fair and respectful while also meeting our military requirements.”
As outlined in his letter, the Army and the Air Force have changed some of the language in its grooming guidelines. Additionally, two-strand twists are also acceptable hairstyles in the Army, Air Force and Navy.
If twists aren’t their style, women in the Army may wear cornrows or other authorized styles of braids. Women in the Air Force are can wear French Twists and Dutch braids. The Navy doesn’t seem to be particular about the kinds of braids that women wear as long as they cover their entire head and freely hang no lower than a soldier’s collar.
Chuck noted that the Marines “determined no derogatory or discriminatory language in current uniform regulations.” Furthermore, Marine officials are also “convening a special uniform board this summer to consider the expansion of authorized hairstyles.”
Clearly it’s going to take the Marine a little longer to catch up, but progress isn’t always swift.