Pentagon relents on ‘offensive’ hairstyle regs

The Defense Department will revise regulations governing hairstyles that can be worn by service members following complaints that the rules are offensive and discriminate against black women in the military. 

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said the Defense Department would remove terms like “matted,” “unkempt” and “dreadlocks” from regulations on the books. Additionally, each branch conducted its own examination of the standards for hairstyles, following complaints from the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC). 

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“As a result of these reviews the Army, Navy and Air Force determined changes were necessary to their Service grooming regulations to include additional authorized hairstyles,” Hagel wrote this week to CBC Chairwoman Marcia Fudge (D-Ohio). 

In the letter, Hagel acknowledged that the existing regulations had been written in an “offensive” manner and said the rules would be formally relaxed this summer. 

Among the changes are allowances for ponytails during physical training, and larger braids, cornrows and twists. 

Fudge led the women on the Caucus in a letter to Hagel in April arguing that the rules discriminate against black women who wear natural hairstyles.

She lauded the changes as a show of respect for black women in the nation’s military. 

“These changes recognize that traditional hairstyles worn by women of color are often necessary to meet our unique needs, and acknowledges that these hairstyles do not result in or reflect less professionalism or commitment to the high standards required to serve within our Armed Forces,” Fudge said in a written statement. 

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