Earlier this year, Black female soldiers were upset after the military rolled out new regulations many said were discriminating against women with natural hair. The Army outlawed two-strand twists, locs, braids that are thicker than a quarter of an inch in diameter, and other styles black women love to wear.

Army spokesman Paul Prince said, ” “Many hairstyles are acceptable, as long as they are neat and conservative. In addition, headgear is expected to fit snugly and comfortably, without bulging or distortion from the intended shape of the headgear and without excessive gaps. Unfortunately, some hairstyles do not meet this standard or others listed in AR 670-1.”

But apparently the Army is now having a change of heart.

On Thursday, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel wrote a letter to Congressional Black Caucus Rep. Marcia L. Fudge of Ohio, one of the laws biggest challengers, to say that the Army and the Air Force would allow cornrows, braids and other hairstyles. Hagel also stated that the regulation material would remove wording like “‘matted and unkempt” to describe hair.

Falling in line with the Army, the Marine Corps will also look into changing their own rules.

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  • Me

    good for them. i def think these rules came from a place of just not understanding black hair. letting box braids in but not 2 strand twists just didn’t make since. same w/letting in small cornrows but not small flat twists.

    • Kema

      I agree. Happy to see they are getting it right.

  • The original policy was retrograde and overtly discriminatory. Courageous people protested and allowed their voices to be heard in order for the military to change course.

  • Mary Burrell

    Good i am so glad they rethought this. It seemed very racist and discriminatory.

  • Phoenix Ares


    I could see an issue if a style did indeed interfere with the proper wearing of head gear and the like and distracted from the uniform. Wild colors, really large/thick braids and the like — I got it. The Army is about uniformity, I got that, too. The problem is, OUR hair is not like everyone else’s in it’s nappy state. Nappy for us being NATURAL. Our shit doesn’t lie down like other women’s. By the time our normal hair grows long enough to pin back into a bun, volume-wise it looks a lot “fuller” and a bun on us will look much bigger than a standard white/asian/latino woman’s hair. Which will put it out of reg even if it isn’t any longer. The texture of our hair makes us look as though we have a lot more hair and just the same, can look like it’s shorter than it really is! Extremely short natural, well you risk looking like a dude—and that too is not allowed. If you still look feminine fine. I don’t think the Army took this into consideration that black hair simply has a different texture that is not practical to keep in the regulations specified. To get into regulation, the woman has to resort to a time-consuming ritual of braiding her hair, or spending money to perm it. If the Army is gonna throw in an extra monetary allowance in her paycheck so she can hit the beauty shop every two weeks, then fine.

    But then I’d also say, think long and hard before you join the military. Ultimately, no one is forcing them to join. Black women DO need to understand they may end up stationed in an area where there are no black beauty shops. They’ll have to care for their own hair. In a conflict situation they may have to “go natural” even if they don’t want to. And trust me, when you’re in a hostile area, the last thing on your mind is maintaining your processed hair. You care about getting shot at, blown up, and keeping your gas mask on, and nothing else. You’ll shave your hair off if you have to to get that mask on. Getting stationed overseas on the Turkey/Iraq border is what made me go natural the first time. When I returned stateside, I kept a short TWA with a simple black band, and no one cared. It was within reg and I still looked like a girl so it was cool. I eventually went back to a perm in 97 and ditched perms for good after a horrible shop experience (but that’s another story). I’m saying I was able to get away with having natural hair while in service. Not sure about the policy on dreads. An officer on base had them but they were bob cut and very thin micro locs, and professional. No one said anything to her and she looked sharp in uniform. I’m guessing normal size ones are out because thickness would be an issue. She was the only person I had ever seen with dreadlocks in the Air Force but again hers looked sharp. And I don’t know if this has changed.

    I’m glad the Army reconsidered this. The cornrow style I didn’t get–it doesn’t look out of reg to me. THIS (to me) would seem the most practical for wearing your long hair natural aside from keeping a small ‘fro. The fancy headband in the middle I could see it being an issue (the military is about keeping it simple, not decorative). The pile of twists I could see being a problem because it looks like it would interfere with wearing head gear. In the Air Force I saw women walking around with a lot of extensions and so much weave it was impossible for them them to wear their flight caps/BDU caps properly and yes, they got called out on it on the spot. Got pissed about it, but oh well, they had to go home and either take them out, or tone it down. Really it did make proper wearing of the uniform hat impossible and some of them looked ridiculous. I saw quite a few TWAs like me at my last base…it was kinda cool.