The U.S. Army’s restrictions on protective hairstyles is to be loosened to promote gender and racial inclusion.
In an updated grooming policy, hair length and dimension requirements which in the past does not allow female personnel to have their hair in ponytails or wear earrings has been removed.
The revisions were decided by a 17-soldier panel, including 15 women, who assessed grooming suggestions focused on health, wellness, diversity and inclusion of soldiers while keeping “professional appearance” in mind.
“I see (the new standards as) being a little bit more aware of the different hair textures and hair types that our soldiers have,” said Deshauna Barber, CEO of Service Women’s Action Network, an advocacy group for military women.
Barber is African American and described her hair as “one of the biggest struggles” in her 10 years military career.
Under the current policy, female soldiers’ hair cannot be shorter than one-fourth of an inch or have braids, twists, locks or cornrows that are wider than half an inch. The new policy removes these restrictions.
Previously, only buns were permitted for female soldiers with medium-length hair. The new standard will now allow them to tie their hair in a ponytail, all soldiers will also be able to dye their hair any natural colour. Female soldiers can now wear lipstick and nail polish in approved colours. Bold colours such as purple, blue, pink, green, orange, bright red and neon colours are stillnot permitted. Men also will be allowed to wear clear nail polish.
Earrings will also be allowed for female soldiers when not in the field or in combat. They must be screw-on, clip-on or post-type; be gold, silver or diamond; and meet diameter requirements.
The new standards will also remove “potentially offensive and weaponized words and phrases” such as “Mohawk, Fu Manchu, dreadlock, eccentric, and faddish,” the Army said in a statement.
In announcing the changes, the Army said they’re part of its “commitment to improve the wellbeing of all soldiers.”
“This is one of the many facets of putting our people first and recognizing who they are as human beings,” said Sgt. Maj. Brian Sanders, senior enlisted leader of Army G-1’s uniform policy branch, in a statement. “Their identity and diverse backgrounds are what makes the Army an ultimate fighting force.”