The United States Military is now allowing more popular black hairstyles by members of the armed forces after three months of negative reaction from the African-American community about appearance and hair regulations put forth earlier in the year.
According to Time, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel made it official in a letter to the Congressional Black Caucus that certain hair styles that were once banned are now acceptable. “Each Service reviewed its hairstyle policies to ensure standards are fair and respectful while also meeting out military requirements,” Hagel wrote in a letter to Rep. Marcia Fudge (D-OH), the chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus. “As a result of these reviews, the Army, Navy, and Air Force determined changes were necessary to their Service grooming regulations to include additional authorized hairstyles.”
Hagel explained in his letter that the Army, Air Force, and Navy will now allow service members to wear their hair in two-strand twists. Moreover, the Army also said that service members can now make their braids larger if they like. The army has decided to remove the words “matted and unkempt” from official documents regarding grooming. The members of the Congressional Black Caucus felt such terms were racially insensitive.
In a statement, Fudge thanked Secretary Hagel for his swift response to their concerns. “These changes recognize that traditional hairstyles worn by women of color are often necessary to meet our unique needs, and acknowledges that these hairstyles do not result in or reflect less professionalism or commitment to the high standards required to serve within our Armed Forces,” Fudge said.
Back in March, Army Regulation 670-1 “Wear and Appearance of Army Uniforms and Insignia” was the prevailing official dress and hair code, but successful lobbying on the part of the Black Caucus and petitions such as one by Sgt. Jasmine Jacobs, first reported by Military Times, helped overturn it. Sergeant Jacobs said:
As far as the twists, that really limits females with curly/kinky hair. I can’t simply pull my hair back due to excessive knotting. I proudly wear twists in a professional manner every day and only took them down on the weekends. It makes it very difficult for ethnic females. I think, at the end of the day, a lot of people don’t understand the complexities of natural hair. A lot of people, instead of educating themselves, they think dreadlocks and they think Bob Marley, or they see women with really big Afros and they think that’s the only thing we can do with our hair.