Black Military Women Excited After Army Lifts Ban on Dreadlocks

Black women serving in the United States Army are cheering revised regulations that permit hair locks, ending what critics said were years of scrutiny and confusing enforcement of rules about their appearance.

The change surfaced last month in an Army directive that focused largely on grooming policy changes related to religious accommodations. Buried in the directive was text allowing female soldiers to wear “dreadlocks/locks,” which were previously banned.

The change was made in the Army’s regulations about grooming, which are detailed in a larger collection of rules about appearance and uniforms, known as Army Regulation 670-1.

Sgt. Maj. Anthony J. Moore of the Army’s office of the deputy chief of staff for personnel said the new rules offered female soldiers another hairstyle option.

“We understood there was no need to differentiate between locks, cornrows or twists as long as they all met the same dimension,” he said, according to The Northwest Guardian, a publication of Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington State. “Females have been asking for a while, especially females of African-American descent, to be able to wear dreadlocks and locks because it’s easier to maintain that hairstyle.”

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 change was hailed as overdue by service members who said they had labored to stay in compliance under the old rules.

“January 5, in the year of our Lord 2017, we are now allowed to wear locks in uniform,” Staff Sgt. Chaunsey Logan of Fort Stewart in Georgia said in a video posted to Facebook. In the video, Sergeant Logan said she had run afoul of the old rules and risked being removed from the Army. She found a way to comply but said she constantly worried about future episodes.

She praised the revised rules, which she said she rushed to print out, fearful they would vanish from the internet.

“For me, it wasn’t just about hair,” she said. “I am completely against blind conformity, and I’m rebellious by nature.”

A passage under the old rules was removed that prohibited twists, which were defined, in part, 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 those who tried to comply.

“I didn’t think it would happen before I retired,” she said in a phone interview. “When I heard it, I was like, ‘There’s no way this is real.’ It’s a shock to a lot of people.”

To stay within the previous regulations, Captain Roach got treatments that used harsh chemicals to keep her hair straight. She said she went every four to eight weeks for the treatments, which cost up to $80.

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Source: The New York Times | CHRISTOPHER MELE