The U.S. Navy announced new hair rules for female sailors his week, saying they can now wear dreadlocks, ponytails and styled buns while in uniform.
Richardson said the naval branch enlisted a team of six female sailors to help devise the new grooming standards, which he noted were also based on feedback from the sailors' peers.
“If you’ve got a recommendation, we just demonstrated that that recommendation can make things happen,” the admiral said in the broadcast. “If you make a good proposal and we can make it fit, we can make it happen.”
As part of the move, braids, ponytails and styled buns will be permissible for female sailors unless the hairstyle is deemed to present an occupational hazard. Female sailors will also be permitted to style their hair below the collar of their shirt.
Petty Officer 1st Class Jacqualynn Leak, who has had dreadlocks since 2014, led efforts behind the reversal.
“I wanted to make an argument so compelling that every reason my chain of command could give me for why dreadlocks were banned could easily be rebutted with facts,” she told HuffPost.
Previously, Leak said she wore a wig to cover her dreadlocks, which she added became harder to hide as her hair grew longer. Leak also said some female sailors with dreadlocks were forced to either cut their hair or face a punishment.
Petty Officer 2nd Class Jessica Sims was honorably discharged in 2014 after she refused to cut off her dreadlocks after reportedly wearing them in a bun for years.
That same year, the Defense Department announced it would revise regulations governing hairstyles that can be worn by service members after receiving complaints from the Congressional Black Caucus that the rules were offensive to black women in the military.