Hairstyle Requirements: Changes In U.S. Army Regulations

New changes to the U.S. Army’s regulation of uniforms has many people both in and out of the service calling foul. The modified “Guide to the Wear and Appearance of Army Uniforms and Insignia” essentially forbid afros, most braids, and all twists. These hair styles dominate the preferred styles for African-American women. These styles are inexpensive and easy-to-maintain; outlawing them translates to the adoption of styles that expensive, time-consuming, nearly impossible to maintain in the field.

Every soldier wants to maintain an air of professionalism. Adherence to the Army regulations is critical to a soldier’s career. However, denying some soldiers the ability to adopt easy-to-maintain hairstyles, especially while in the field, means those same soldiers have to spend hundreds or more dollars on hair styles that cannot be maintained. Critics of the policy agree with the Army in mandating hairstyles that look neat and do not interfere with headgear such as caps, berets, gasmasks and helmets, but argue that the military is being insensitive to the diverse needs of its soldiers.

More specifically, the current regulations do not allow woman of color to wear their hair the way it naturally grows out of their heads. Instead of easy to prepare and maintain loose braids, the Army only authorizes tight, narrow braids. These authorized braids take hours to maintain and often require the assistance of another person. They attract dirt more easily and can also cause hair loss, headaches, and balding.

This issue has resonated throughout the government. The Congressional Black Caucus has formally urged Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel to cancel the changes. Critics agree that returning to the previously accepted hair standards will not affect a soldier’s preparedness or professionalism.

Source: The Guardian