Changes to Army grooming rules leave black female troops with fewer options
Posted April 1, 2014
Updated April 2, 2014
Fayetteville, N.C. — Changes to the Army’s personal appearance code have sparked complaints from black female soldiers, who say the grooming regulations are restrictive and will make their hair care difficult.
The update to Army Regulation 670-1, which was published Monday, bans multiple braids, twists and dredlocks and limits cornrows to no more than a quarter of an inch.
The revision prompted Sgt. Jasmine Jacobs of the Georgia National Guard, who wears her hair in two twists, to start a White House petition calling on the president to reconsider the rules because they are racially biased. The petition had nearly 6,000 signatures as of Tuesday.
Many black female soldiers at Fort Bragg say braids and natural twists are not only stylish, they are lifesavers in the field.
"I just came out of the field Friday, so it was better for me to just pull mine back,” Staff Sgt. Lakashka Moore said. “But if I had it braided, it would have been a whole lot better because I don’t have to comb it. I won’t have to do anything. If we’ve got to go do something, I’m just able to get up and go.”
Spc. Shanell Tillis said the new regulations are forcing her to rethink her next hairstyle.
“I wanted micro-braids, so (I) can’t get those now because of the new regulation,” she said.
The updated grooming policy has some black female soldiers scrambling to come up with ways to wear their hair in regulation, especially when they know they're going into the field for extended periods.
"A lot of my military clients, because they do PT or because they do a lot of working out, or they're outside, they wear sew-in,” said hairstylist Denise Granberry of the L3 Salon and Spa. “So, if I can't braid their hair down, they can't get the sew-in."
In an Army news release, Sgt. Maj. Raymond F. Chandler II explained the changes to the code, which also tightened regulations on tattoos, sideburns, mustaches and other aspects of appearance.
"The Army is a profession, and one of the ways our leaders and the American public measure our professionalism is by our appearance," he said. "Wearing of the uniform, as well as our overall military appearance, should be a matter of personal pride for all soldiers.”