Black women serving in the U.S. Army are cheering revised regulations that permit hair locks, ending what critics said were years of scrutiny and confusing enforcement of rules about their appearance.
The change surfaced in January in an Army directive that focused largely on grooming policy changes related to religious accommodations. Buried in the directive was text allowing female soldiers to wear “dreadlocks/locks,” which were previously banned.
The change was made in the Army’s regulations about grooming, which are detailed in a larger collection of rules about appearance and uniforms, known as Army Regulation 670-1.
Sgt. Maj. Anthony J. Moore of the Army’s office of the deputy chief of staff for personnel said the new rules offered female soldiers another hairstyle option.
“We understood there was no need to differentiate between locks, cornrows or twists as long as they all met the same dimension,” he said, according to the Northwest Guardian, a publication of Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington state. “Females have been asking for a while, especially females of African-American descent, to be able to wear dreadlocks and locks because it’s easier to maintain that hairstyle.”
The Army directive says that each lock, or dreadlock, “will be of uniform dimension; have a diameter no greater than a half-inch; and present a neat, professional and well-groomed appearance.” U.S. Marine Corps Lock and twist hairstyles like this one were approved by the Marine Corps in 2015.
The change was hailed as overdue by service members who said they had labored to stay in compliance under the old rules.
“January 5, in the year of our Lord 2017, we are now allowed to wear locks in uniform,” Staff Sgt. Chaunsey Logan of Fort Stewart in Georgia said in a video posted to Facebook.
In the video, Logan said she had run afoul of the old rules and risked being removed from the Army. She found a way to comply but said she constantly worried about future episodes.
“For me, it wasn’t just about hair,” she said. “I am completely against blind conformity.”
A passage under the old rules was removed that prohibited twists, which were defined, in part, as “twisting two distinct strands of hair around one another to create a twisted ropelike appearance.”
Capt. Danielle Roach, who has been in the Army for more than 14 years, said the change ended what she described as “trials and tribulations” for those who tried to comply.
To stay within the previous regulations, Roach got treatments that used harsh chemicals to keep her hair straight. She said she went every four to eight weeks for the treatments, which cost up to $80.
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