Friday, 15 August 2014 00:00

Natural Hair and The Military

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It wasn't long ago that wearing natural hair other than in a short afro, was prohibited in the US military. Times are changing, slowly.

 I would receive email after email from natural sisters in the service, complaining about how they were forced to either straighten or cut their hair in order to conform with strict guidelines on hair grooming policies.

It is a fact that our hair does not "act" like European hair. In order to make our hair conform to European standards we have to relax it, straighten it, pull it and flatten it into place. We can wear braids and cornrows, twisted locs and rolls, which fit neatly under caps but all of these styles were probibited, leaving not much choice for our sisters in uniform. The terms used to describe our hair such as "matted" and "unkempt" were eliminated from descriptions and the term "dreadlocks" was changed to "locs". I understand that some styles are not approved due to whatever reason, etc but that is neither here nor there. I am simply pleased that finally, someone is listening. Small progress in the right direction is always better than no progress

Finally, after years of keeping the pressure up on them, it seems the powers of the military have been listening. And it is about time. After a 3 month study, US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel on August 11th announced some important changes as follows:

Army:

■ Increased the size of authorized braids, cornrows and twists and eliminated the spacing requirement.

■ Authorized temporary two-strand braids.

■ Authorized a ponytail during physical training.

■ Eliminated the terms “matted and unkempt” from grooming policy.

Navy

■ Authorized two-strand twists.

■ Authorized multiple braids to hang freely if they remain above the collar and encompass the whole head.

Air Force

■ Authorized two-strand twists, French twists and Dutch braids.

■ Changed the term “dreadlocks” to “locs.”

■ Eliminated the terms “matted and unkempt” from grooming policy.

Marine Corps

■ Will convene a special uniform board this summer to consider expanding authorized hair styles.

These changes are welcome, and show an increasing acknowledgement of Black hairstyles in the military. 

What do you think?

You can read the full article with more information here: New Changes to Military Hair Regulations

Last modified on Sunday, 19 November 2017 10:35
Patricia "Deecoily" Gaines

Patricia Gaines aka Deecoily is the founder and creator of Nappturality in 2002, the beginning of the natural hair movement. Since 2000 she has been blogging on all things natural hair, Black culture and politics.

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