The U.S. Army issued new appearance and grooming regulations this past Monday. Army Regulation 670-1 outlines rules for tattoos, uniforms, and hairstyles—specifically, acceptable hairstyles for black female soldiers.
The new rule bans twists, dreadlocks, and multiple braids/cornrows that measure more than a quarter across. Women with these hairstyles have been told to either get rid of them or cover them with extensions.
In an interview with Army Times Sergeant Jasmine Jacobs of the Georgia National Guard said, “I’ve been in the military six years, I’ve had my hair natural four years and it’s never been out of regulation. It’s never interfered with my head gear.” She continued, saying twists are the go-to style for black female soldiers in the field because they are low maintenance and she is “disappointed to see the Army, rather than inform themselves on how black people wear their hair, they’ve white-washed it all.”
Jacobs started a petition on the White House website calling on the Army to reconsider these changes. From the petition:
“More than 30% of females serving in the military are of a race other than white. As of 2011, 36% of females in the U.S. stated that they are natural, or refrain from chemically processing their hair. Females with natural hair take strides to style their natural hair in a professional manner when necessary; however, changes to AR 670-1 offer little to no options for females with natural hair. In the proposed changes, unauthorized hairstyles include twists, both flat twists as well as two strand twists; as well as dreadlocks, which are defined as ‘any matted or locked coils or ropes of hair.’ These new changes are racially biased and the lack of regard for ethnic hair is apparent. This policy needs to be reviewed prior to publishing to allow for neat and maintained natural hairstyles.”
Sergeant Major of the Army Raymond Chandler posted a copy of the policy training photo to his personal Facebook page with the caption, “The Army is a profession, and one of the ways our leaders and the American people measure our professionalism is by our appearance.”
The picture has received a slew of negative feedback, including from Shanay Jeffries, whose profile picture shows her in military uniform, and offers this comment: “It’s sad that I can’t wear my short natural hair out anymore, then I can’t cut it either because that’s out of regs. I feel like I’m being pressured to have a ‘white’ appearance. I thought the army was about diversity.”
Lieutenant Colonel S. Justin Platt, an Army spokesman at the Pentagon, said, “The requirement for hair grooming standards is necessary to maintain uniformity within a military population. Many hairstyles are acceptable, as long as they are neat and conservative.” He went on to say that the expectation is that regulated hairstyles will guarantee headgear will fit correctly.
Twists and dreadlocks have been barred from Army uniform since 2005. The White House petition requires 100,000 signatures to trigger a response.