Black women serving in the United States Army will now, finally, be able to wear their hair in locks (also known as dreadlocks) and twists, after an exhausting and what many believe, unfair fight over many years.
Couched in new regulations focused on grooming policy changes related to religious accommodations, the largest branch of the U.S. military in now allows its female soldiers to wear “dreadlocks/locks,” which were previously banned.
In the past, as outlined in a YouTube video by the Green Beauty Channel, the Army had previously given its concerns for banning locks as: “neat and conservative appearance; hygiene; ability to wear Army headgear; and maintain uniformity within the military population.”
The New York Times reports that Sgt. Maj. Anthony J. Moore of the Army said the new rules offered female soldiers another hairstyle option. This was especially key for black women who were deployed in places where access to black hair grooming was not easy.
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.”
The new rules also now allow twists, which are defined as “twisting two distinct strands of hair around one another to create a twisted ropelike appearance.”
Capt. Danielle N. Roach, who has been in the Army for more than 14 years, said the change ended what she described as “trials and tribulations” for black women.
Roach said that she used to spend $80 every four to six weeks to chemically straighten her hair, and that black woman felt like walking targets, because the rules were subject to interpretation by whomever was in charge.
“It caused a lot of unnecessary stress,” said Roach. “It was an exhausting 14 years.”
In 2014, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel ordered the military to review its policies about hairstyles popular with black women after complaints that new Army regulations that banned big cornrows, twists and locks unfairly targeted black women. The Marine Corps approved locks and twists in late 2015.
Read more at the New York Times.