Are The New Army Regulations Inherently Discriminatory To Natural Hair?

New Army Regulations Inherently Discriminatory To Natural Hair

So where do we draw the line, and is the line straight?

Sikhs who traditionally for religious reasons wear their hair and beards long have found themselves unable to join the army because of this reason. Yet the army appears to be flexible as they have given a few sikhs special accommodation to join with unshorn hair.

There is no doubt that the army is targeting natural afro centric hair with the rules surrounding, twists, afros and locs and as offended as the average natural civilian might be, the question becomes, what would you be ok with?

Would you prefer them to say no on afro styles but say that twists are ok, what about locs? Are medium length locs ok versus longer locs? Or a twist out versus a bun? The options are too varied to accept some rules and oust others, someone is bound to be offended.

With that said because of our love for natural hair we do support the petition, and we do think the rules come across as excessive. But the petition is also flawed, because it is not enough to say hey we don’t like your rules, but to figure out why the rules are in place and how they protect our men and women in the army.

When we make suggestions on what the institution designed to protect us in times of war is supposed to do, we have to be ready to look at it from all angles, realizing that the military is militant and so bending the rules while never impossible must be done in a responsible manner.

Nobody likes to hear that their hair is a distraction, and that what we consider to be normal is for them something that should be tamed and tucked away; it is difficult to wrap our heads around it because we are not a part of that organization.

Though the army is culturally diverse, aesthetically it should never appear that way hence the strict rules, and as naturals who take offense we have to present our arguments with that in mind.

How do you feel about the rules, are they inherently discriminatory to natural hair? We would love to hear from women who have served in the army.

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Hi I'm Petra Lomax , a staff writer and editor for BlackHairInformation.com . I am Jamaican born and raised and moved to the United States in my early 20's. I have a BA in Political Science and International relations as well as an MBA and a Masters In Project Management. I love travel, culture and anything that has to do with creative media and business.



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63 Comments

  1. 1

    I don’t think so the men have to wear crew cuts so I think a nice shaped natural style would be nice for our female soliders

    • 2

      All you army vets, shout out to you. BUT dreadlocks, twists and braids are what naturals do as a protective style. Some naturals can’t even pull their hair back into a bun so twists and braids are a must. AND if you maintain twists, braids and even dreadlocks, that is a nice kept hairstyle, and can also fit under ANY type of headwear so this is very offensive. This should be protested. The Army is basically saying make your hair straight or go bald and that’s not fair to naturals who want to keep their hair and keep it healthy.

  2. 3

    How are they gonna fit their kevlar with those? Impossible. One of the reasons why the hair has to be kept properly. The rule is not to stop women from wearing their hair how they want. It is put in place so that they can fit protective gear on so they can be safe. #armyvet12yrs#didntalwaysliketherulebutunderstoodit#safetyfirst#

    • 4

      Exactly! From the civilian standpoint it may seem racially motivated but it’s not. As a military member there is a job to do and that requires certain equipment that must be worn. I LOVE being natural but I also knew what I was getting into by staying in the military for 18 years and counting.

  3. 5

    Taneisha Nembhard Lauture What did you do with your hair during the time because I also read that their banning dreadlocks, twists & braids over a quarter inch thick

  4. 6

    Im an 18 year old female that has been in for almost a year. I actually started my going natural process when I enlisted and while I was away countless of drill sergeants and my first sergeant told me to get a perm or a wear a simple weave to keep my hair in order. I didnt listen to them. Its such bullshit and there is no way I’m going back to relaxing my hair do such rules. Sure you have to have your hair in order to keep it under your PC or whatever but they told me I shouldnt be natural AT ALL

  5. 7

    I have been in for five years and have an Afro. It’s one of those things where you just embrace the suck, shape up, or ship out. No I do not agree, the bulk of my hair is much more that 4 inches but I’ve never had a problem with my PC or Kevlar. I’ve read comments and sly remarks from white male soldiers such as “they should cut their nappy heads” I feel like it is a big shakedown personally, because black female soldiers are moving on up in the chain, rather quickly might I add

    • 8

      My drill sergeant use to tell us that too. She told us we were authorized to get a perm from the exchange so our hair could be straight.

  6. 9

    The military alway had a regulation for hair styles. It seems reasonable as long as there’s no discrimination. Remember the males use to get a crew cut when they first enlisted. I had to take my clip off at the denist office.

  7. 10

    At the risk of sounding like a sexist or feminist (I am a woman), I don’t think the rules are harsh or unfair at all. In fact, women want to join the military, be on the front lines and do the jobs of men and be treated as equals to men, just perhaps its best if women would be mandated to the hairstyles of the men as well (for example, close crewcuts). An added benefit to that would be the women would not have the added burden of being bothered with maintaining their hair on a daily basis. Just a thought, and also my humble opinion.

    • 11

      I couldn’t agree more

      • 12

        It’s a racist policy. white women or any woman with naturally straight hair has nothing to worry about. however any black woman who wants to wear her hair in her natural state is being targeted. I wore all of my gear just fine with natural hair. It was a loose afro during that time and twist, the puff, and braids where my go to styles. Stop pretending this is about safetly. I get the bulk rules, but making our way of controlling the bulk illegal is just discriminatory. SO it’s in regs for me to wear a wig over my natural hair? sure that doesn’t get in the way at all. wigs are so combat friendly (insert sarcasm). I’m not emotionally attached to my hair so i don’t mind cutting it, but lets call these new regulations what they are. There is nothing unkempt or unsafe about my hair. There is nothing practical about wearing a wig to combat. They want your hair straight. It’s not about keeping up to the standards of a male service member. we still aren’t allowed in some combat positions. since when did braided hair, twist, or a slanted part in the hair and a vagina negate combat capability?

  8. 13

    I agree with the military.

  9. 14

    I think it’s more of a safety issue. just like in nursing there has to be pulled back away from the nape of the neck

  10. 15

    As a black woman with natural hair, I have to honestly say that I think the argument is unfounded. The military, regardless of which branch you are talking about, is all about a regimented, highly-recognizable and uniform look. This is so that each person can perform their task/duty in a efficient and effective way. You are expected to dress a certain way, walk a certain way, address peers and superiors a certain way. You are even required to meet strict guidelines regarding physical appearance and stamina. Sure, this is America and we are free to think and speak and act in what ever way we deem pleasing – provided that it does not cause undo harm to anyone else. If you want to be your own person, the military is NOT the place for you. And if you aren’t in the military, or have no direct experience with all of the many rules and regulations of the centuries old organization, I find it almost impossible to believe that you will ever understand the reasoning behind anything that is done within it (my husband was a Marine and is now an Airman, totally 12+ yrs of service…I’m still learning how things are done).

    • 16

      This, of course, is just my opinion. I’m sure there are those who will disagree with me…which is cool.

  11. 17

    No this is the rules period. Mostly women have to wear it in a bun or a very short cut above the shoulders. Stop being so sensitive…us women finally got to go to war so now we have to follow the rules.

  12. 18

    When you have textured hair, you HAVE to go into the military with a plan on how your gonna wear it. I learned the hard way.

  13. 19

    That’s a bunch of BS

  14. 20
    Karen Baker says:

    I can understand the Army Hair policy, after all I am a retired Army veteran of 20 years. The rules and policies must be adhered too. I wore my hair either in two braids parted down the middle, a french braid or my hair pulled back into a bun. I had no problems and looked at the safety and standards that females are told when they enter into the service. There is not one thing racist or discriminating about this and why is this such a big deal?!

    Your a soldier in uniform representing the branch of service you enlisted in, not going to a club or a fashion show. After your shift is over, we women can let our hair down and relax. But the minute you “Report” and your in uniform, you better be correct. Don’t like the rules, get out. Your not “here” to look pretty, your here to do a job and a service for your country. Remember your Drill Sergeant?! You’re no longer on the “block”, your a soldier, you will perform, act and look like a soldier. If it means “cutting” your hair (and many women do), to get that cap on, wear your protective gear and meet the uniform standards of dress, then do what must be done.

    Many civilians do not understand the dangers of having long or loose hair (ever see someone with long hair get tangled up in barb wire because they failed to secure their hair properly?) Who has the time to cut you lose?! The military has standards and policies to include uniformity of personnel looking neat, clean, demonstrating a professional appearance at all times, abide with any and all safety protocols, code of conduct, standards of operation procedures will be met, no exceptions….or you will be subject to UCMJ…is it worth it over hair?

    No. Just adhere to the regulations and policies set forth and enjoy your military career.

    • 21
      NubianPrize says:

      I understand perfectly,too, HOWEVER ! When they tell you to get a perm or a weave or ‘cut their nappy heads”, It sounds like a repeat of the old discriminatory racist views. And why tell people in the military to get a perm or a weave anyway? A soldier wearing fake hair? Under a helmet or other military gear? Sounds stupid to me. There have been street fights involving black women pulling out weaves ! I can see wartime enemies grabbing & ripping out black women’s weaves or singling them out for just such a reason ! A perm when your skin may not be able to take it? The styles you say you wore sound perfectly reasonable & i’ve heard other women say they wore the same styles with no problem. Even tho the military has hair rules for everyone, when it comes to black people there’s almost always a faint whiff of racism & a subtle implication that one of our signature racial characteristic is somehow defective or an aberration from the “white racial characteristics are nature’s gold standard” idea that I grew up with as a 60s kid. I remember the lawsuits & complaints in the 60s & 70s when blacks with natural hair had to deal with sudden “good grooming” & “professional appearance” rules suddenly started appearing. Some of those battles are still being fought in some parts of the country. I say follow the rules but keep an eye out for racist remarks & discriminatory practices. In my old childhood town there were many black Air Force personnel & career military. They often said that a lot of the white officers back in the 50s & 60s came from down south & had racist attitudes toward blacks & they had to be very careful.

  15. 22

    This is so awesome that you guys shed light on this matter. I am in the Air Force and have been natural since 01/12. I was reprimanded for my hair being too big. So many women rather wear wigs than deal with the drama. Smh it’s so sad. I am definitely going to sign the petition and do my part to get the word out!

  16. 23
    Linda Burntt says:

    I have been reading the opinions pro and con about the military requirements for hairstyles and I agree with the military completely. I served in the Air Force in the mid 80’s and I knew the guidelines going in about my appearance. It’s not about being racist it is about protection for yourself and your team for those who have never served – being in the military is not your average workplace

  17. 24

    Being that the men have to keep crew cuts, I’m thinking women’s hair is regulated as well for safety reasons. Helmets have to fit to a certain point. I know when my hair is out and curly my hats don’t fit properly. Just my thoughts.

  18. 25

    Embrace the suck ! Its the military, it goes a long with signing your life away for 4 years :P it’s the rules and honestly it’s probably for safety too…besides..when you’re in uniform I think your hair is the LAST thing you or anyone else cares about.

  19. 26

    That’s not discrimination. Everyone’s hair had to be secured properly within regs. People with long hair can’t wear their hair down and natural can’t wear their hair out either.

  20. 27

    I’m a government employee and work with military. this is just something basic to put in the maradmin,some chain of command give lead way. The rules won’t please everyone but if you’re hair is worth more than the benefits . It’s whatever floats your boat. YouTube have great easy to do styles. Be creative but within your guidelines

  21. 28

    You betta corn roll it or twist it put it up in a bun.

  22. 29

    Ok, I have read most of the comments, as a retired US Army SFC, this is what I have to say on this matter. I came in when no more then two braids were allowed in your head (yes that was stated in 670-1) this was cause it was thought a fad for braids to be warn all due to a move called 10, staring Bo Drarik. Braids were not a fad to black females cause it was a culture to us, that’s how we wore our hair growing up. We had to fight this battle back then now you will have to fight the same battle again. The answer is in 670-1, read it, there is a statement in there stating that females hair must be kept in its natural state and not in a faddish state, if that is still in the reg, you must argue that for a black woman to make her hair straight that is a faddish state due that is takes a chemical or heat to make something it is not. Please ladies read the ARs you will find the answers you need to win this battle.

  23. 31

    For the sully chick that said we finally get to go to war I hate to bust your bubble but that has been the case for a long time now,incase no one paid attention females have been captured when the iraqi war started and KIA so stop listening to that bs. I went on convoy right beside those men and I am so proud of it!!!! Stop believing that we sit behind a desk because we don’t I get so tired of non soldiers trying to tell actual soldiers how to work and what to do.

  24. 32

    I’m a Marine and our standards are way stricter. You guys get away with a lot more then we do because our hair can only be in a bun, short bob that doesn’t hit the coller, neat braids and or neat braided bun. I agree with having your hair in a neat way because of the equipment, power to all who wants to be natural but every job comes with it’s standards and policy’s. It doesn’t hurt to maintain your hair within standards for work purposes and as soon as work is done then do what you have to do to unwind. Don’t look at it as being targeted but look at it as an employers perspective. Sometimes hair can accidentally get stuck in a machine or what have you and guess whose fault it would be, not the employer but the employ.

  25. 33

    Smh

  26. 34

    Y they gotta judge because of their hairstyles

  27. 35

    I hate that I can no longer wear my two strand twists!! I plan to purchase a wig for my drill weekends #armyreserve

  28. 36

    I cant speak for Caucasians or Latinos women however if you are a woman of African decent/w afro textured, or tightly curly coiled hair… I believe it should be a different standards to accommodate those of this ethnicity. Your afro hair in its natural state is not a FAD or TRENDY nor it WILD or UNKEPT hair. The hair grows out of the scalp differently. We all don’t have relaxed loose wavy curls. Curly patterns 3A-4C will be naturally Puffy. The hair hold less moisture and dries hard. The hair has to be braided, twisted, locked, or stretched into a ponytail due to shrinkage. I have been natural for 5 years and been in the military 19 years. It is a struggle to go on duty with your hair pulled tight in a bun or told your braids look like miss ceily from the Color Purple by a 1SG who is Black…smh, or that you cant stand out in the rain and do PT training because you just got your hair pressed to met standards looking more European. Society if full of shyt with the hair stuff. Only a man that doesn’t have afro textured hair along with some other self hating Negropean would tell you to get a perm or a relaxer to FIT in. Why not get a dick too…since the military should be for men only. Also if they where smart in Garrison during peace time there should be a different standard versus combat ready Wartime activity.

  29. 37

    It’s discrimination in my opinion

  30. 38

    they should just braid it down. the army is not about beauty its about protection and defense

  31. 39

    I thinks it’s your right to wear your hair as u see fit. I’m sure they know how to put their hair up so it want get in the way.

  32. 40
    Michelle F. says:

    I have natural hair and I’m also a civilian. As a civilian, I could rant and rave and misbehave about the unfair regulations that the army has put in place, and I’m sure many would support me. However, as a civilian I know for a fact that conformity is something that EVERYONE HAS TO DO in some way or another.
    I couldn’t take on the regulations that would have been required of me if I had joined up in the RBPF (Royal Barbados Police Force) or the BDF (Barbados Defence Force), therefore I never joined.
    In my current job I may not have to conform my hairstyle, but I DO have to conform as far as work attire concerned (only shirts/jackets/dresses with sleeves, dresses/skirts of appropriate length so as not to distract staff or the customers, tops that cover the chest appropriately and no they don’t care if your ‘girls’ cause you to shell out big bucks to buy a proper support bra to reign them in they just want them kept under wraps and not spilling out all over the place!)

  33. 41

    Thank you to everyone who supports us in this fight! I truly appreciate it! In my opinion, uniformity is not the issue. I don’t mind following the rules at all. I don’t mind cutting my hair if the bun is too big, and I don’t mind putting it up into a neat ponytail so that it looks good. What I do have a problem with is having to wear a weave, or look like Cleo from Set It Off to be within the regulated limit. I just cut my locs in December, and it was 40% by choice, 60% by force…
    …I was/am still very hurt by the way my command treated me and called my hair a mistake. I will never forget it, and it’s put a very bad taste in my mouth for the military. I am currently in medical school and my inital goal was to graduate and go back and help my fellow soldiers, family members, and veterans; however, after all of this I don’t think they could pay me to go back active. My contract is up in January and I’m cool on the military after that. It’s been a long hard road, and I expected most of the turmoil, but I never expected to be treated like a second class citizen as a result of my hair choice. I’m very passionate about this issue so please forgive me if I seem harsh in this response (rant lol). I don’t mean you any harm, but I do feel attacked by my leadership and I feel like if we let this slide they will push the envelope even further in the future. I feel like instead of going forward, we are going backwards and there’s no MLK/Malcom X to stand and fight for us anymore so we have to fight for ourselves if we want to be treated fairly.

    Even with my 30″ locs, I could fit every piece of headgear the army issued me (yes, they touched my butt) so the whole safety thing not a good enough excuse in my opinion. I have 14 years of service in August, 12 of those years I’ve been natural with 10 of them being locked. I even went Audie Murphy with locks. They were always neat, and they weren’t distracting to anyone. I was an engineer for the majority of my career; however, in 2012 I reclassified into the medical field and have worked with doctors with turbans on their heads (while in uniform too). I find that to be more distracting than an afro, locks, or two strand twists. I have a cousin who was shot in the Fort Hood shooting and I had to hold his hand the entire time he told our family about his terrorist experience. I use to have to deal with soldiers who were suffering from PTSD and afraid or downright refused service from the doctor with the turban on because it caused them to relive their terrorist experiences.

    I personally think this was more of someone not liking the way we look with “kinky” hair and they decided to make the “uniform” look be a straight one. It has nothing to do with wearing your gear safely, it has more to do with a preference.

    • 42
      Michelle F. says:

      Actually, I don’t think your response is a rant at all … it’s called expressing an opinion and yes I do agree that they have a problem with kinky hair (and apparently any woman with long hair). What I do think of military service in general is that they have a problem with women period, but that’s just my opinion. The regulations on the hairstyles stopped short of saying if you have vagina, don’t join (or rather only join if you’re willing to look as close to a man as possible).
      However, I do admire any woman who wants to serve her country despite all the BS that comes with it, I couldn’t do it because I have a mouth like a sewer, but kudos to you and others like you who show the bravery to not only serve but to be strong while doing it.

    • 43

      you’re gorgeous!!

  34. 44

    This is why I personally will never join the military, but l do have family who’s in the service and I support our men and women in the service.

    • 45

      Lol..that’s why you didn’t join the military I’ll feel ya but I can see how each style can cause a problem

    • 46

      I’ve been growing my natural hair for almost 3 years and it’s already down past my neck, I don’t want to mess that up.

  35. 47

    So what should women of colour do – shave their heads?

  36. 48

    It’s a job requirement. ..corporate america and many other jobs have set appearance standards for hair, clothing, Accessories etc. Conform or move on. #navyvet

  37. 49

    Rules were set long before now. Signing your contract means you understand that. Either choose your hair and do something else in life or the military and follow the rules set and deal with them.

  38. 50

    All women are instructed on AFR 35-10 when they join the military. Women of color, as all other women, must make adjustments for uniformity as well as safety reasons. African American women wear their hairs loose, in buns, in two braids, one braid, etc., the same way that all other women do. Natural or otherwise makes no difference.

  39. 51

    I am not a fan of women serving in any armed service but Isn’t this old news? Wasn’t this talked about, discussed and dealt with? I was under the impression that they just adjusted those rules.

  40. 52

    Black women can wear box braids and dreadlocks, but their hair must look decent while in uniform. This issue is old. We can move on now.

  41. 54

    Im glad i got out ….twists and cornrows are also prohibited

  42. 55

    wow…. is hair really do important to some that they wouldn’t serve in the military for that exact reason? o.O; Im probably misinterpreting some comments. ..
    regardless, those are the rules. Embrace the “suck.” especially if you are in the service and your hair is really your priority.

  43. 56
  44. 57

    Why are we revisiting this again? Wasn’t this addressed months ago on this page?

  45. 58

    Am I tripping or did we already talk about this months ago??

  46. 59

    Nope. Ive been in the military and they tell u the rules before you get in. Its like with any job. The military has alway had rules about the hair in uniform. Either comply or cut it. Simple as that

  47. 60

    mini braids might work but this is unfair

  48. 61

    I understand what a few of you are saying but I see a different view.Your shirt has to be tucked and your ties have to be straight. Seems like the rules are asking for hair to be neat and tucked to add to the uniform. I also saw that your hair can’t be more than two inches above your scalp. That’s most likely for the helmets and hats. Helmets have to fit securely in your head right? Can’t have our soldiers in combat running around and all of a sudden their helmet flops in their faces causing their heads to be fully exposed and vision obscured.

  49. 62

    You sign your life away when you join. You become the government’s property.

    If they tell you how to wear your hair, so what. You signed up to be treated like property.

  50. 63

    I won’t joint for multiple of reasons. People need to educate themselves and open their eyes before they decide to be brainwashed

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