U.S. Military Revises Grooming Policies To Allow Hairstyles Worn By Black Women

After complaints from service members and lawmakers, military services now consider cornrows, braids, and twists as acceptable hairstyles.

The U.S. military eased restrictions on hairstyles after their policy of banning twists, dreadlocks, and Afros and regulating the size of cornrows and braids, was criticized as being racially biased against women of color, the New York Times reported.

In April, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel ordered all military services to review their hairstyle policies in response to a complaint lodged by the Congressional Black Caucus.

In an Aug. 11 letter to the chairwoman of the Congressional Black Caucus, Hagel wrote that after reviewing their grooming regulations, all military services — except the Marine Corps, who are still reviewing the policies — will now include cornrows, braids, and twists as "authorized hairstyles."

The Army and Air Force will also eliminate offensive language such as "matted" and "unkempt" from their grooming policy, Hagel said.

He wrote that these changes were in keeping with the military's efforts to "ensure fair and respectful policies for our diverse force."

The changes also included increasing the size of braids, cornrows, and twists and changing the term "dreadlocks" to "locs."

In a statement thanking Hagel, Congressional Black Caucus chairwoman Marcia L. Fudge said the changes "recognize that traditional hairstyles worn by women of color are often necessary to meet our unique needs."

From her statement:

"I'd like to thank Secretary Hagel for his prompt attention and response to the concerns expressed by women of color serving within our Armed Forces and to the women of the Congressional Black Caucus. Secretary Hagel immediately instituted a review process that has resulted in adjustments to policy language and grooming standards across the Army, Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps. 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."

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