The U.S. Military came under fire earlier this year when a document outlining “unacceptable” hairstyles for female soldiers came to light. Many hairstyles — twists and thick cornrows included — made the cut on the list of “no-no” ‘dos for women. The problem? These are convenient hairstyles that black women with natural hair commonly wear. Not to make some sort of fashion statement, but because, uh, they’re easy ways to keep hair neat and out of your face. Indeed the original document classified twists as “faddish” and “exaggerated.” “Twists” were unauthorized, but expensive hair weaves, damaging relaxers and wigs were a-OK. The ridiculousness of these rules were highlighted in a hilarious segment by The Daily Show‘s Jessica Williams (a must-watch).
After an uproar over these guidelines and pressure to revise the regulations, in April, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel promised to review the current rules, which now have been amended to allow hairstyles that black women in the military don’t have to spend a bunch of money on or countless hours in the salon to maintain.
Thanks to the renewed regulations, women are allowed to wear their hair in two-strand twists as well as larger cornrow braids in the Army, Navy and Air Force. The terms “matted” and “unkempt” have also been removed from the document, used to describe hairstyles like locs and cornrows.
This is obviously a win for black women rocking “natural” hair in the military. We think the Army learned a valuable lesson here about diversity and how important it is to be inclusive of the basic needs of the people who are training to protect this nation. Quite frankly, looking at the original document, the language used for black hairstyles was extremely upsetting. Microbraids are called “fashionable” and, as previously mentioned, twists were deemed “faddish.” There’s nothing faddish about a low-maintenance style that’s been done for literally thousands of years. We’re just glad the Army has finally come to this realization.