The Impact of Military Regulations to Hairstyles Traditionally Worn by Black Service Women

by Natasha Hinds on Dec 15, 2017

In today's blog, we'll primarily discuss AR 670-1.  We'll also highlight one airman, one sailor, one Army NCO, and one Army Officer with locked hair styles within military regulatory standards.

Many people are saying that the Army finally lifted its ban on locked hair (also known as locs) in the year 2017.  This is true, but the February 2005 version of AR 670-1 initiated the ban on locs and that ban was lifted in January 2017.  Who knows if this will happen again.  There are no clear reasons to explain or justify why a regulation was created to restrict a style traditionally worn by Black women.  Who were sitting around the table when this decision was made?  Were any women or minorities at the table?  Was anyone at the table who was sensitive enough to defend this position for Black women?  We are not confident that there were.

The 12-year ban was lifted four months after the September 2016 release of Green Beauty's YouTube video created in conjunction with First Lieutenant Whennah Andrews, Army National Guard.  The video explained that twisted, braided, and loc'd hair are simply different hair styles that can be maintained and worn to meet regulatory military standards.  1LT Andrews sent the video to the Pentagon with a request to review the hair policy and the ban was lifted.  We truly commend 1LT Andrews for her initiative in changing this Army policy.

Two strand twists were banned on March 30, 2014 and there were strict rules about the size and spacing of braids and cornrows.  The Black Caucus intervened in April 2014 (See Article here) with a petition signed by thousands of people and with lots of questions to the Secretary of Defense about this regulation.  In September 2014, the Sec Def issued an amendment to the Army's regulation to reinstate two strand twists. The ban on two strand twists was officially lifted in AR 670-1 in April 2015.  During the 6-month period between March and September 2014, many women wore wigs to cover up their twists.  In fact, some women consistently wore wigs to cover their loc'd hair and to comply with the regulation.  It's bizarre that only one population of service members were impacted by this.  It's also bizarre that a woman was within regulation if she covered the hair that she was born with by wearing a wig, but was out of regulation to wear the hair born unto her.

Incremental hair restrictions to hairstyles traditionally worn by Black women were implemented over time.  We would like to provide a chronological recap and highlight four women who met and continue to keep their hair within regulatory military standards.  Two of these women were unfortunately separated from the military because of their loc'd hair. 

1. SSgt Kim Andrews.  In 2007, there were a number of articles about a petition created by SSgt Andrew's mother because SSgt Andrews was going to be discharged from the Air Force because of her locs.  Her mother pleaded for help, thousands of people signed a petition, but we can't find a story for Kim's update.  If anyone knows, please let us know. 

Article 1 from Pop Sugar December 7, 2007

Photos of Kim's Hair

Article 2 from Treasured Locks Date UNK

2. Hospital Corpsman 2nd Class (SW/AW) Jessica Sims was discharged from the Navy in 2014 because of her loc'd hair.

USA Today Article, August 2017

3. In this video, SSG Logan describes how she was in the process of receiving an article 15, which would have ended in a demotion from E-6 to E-5 and Chapter out of the Army.  Her commander put her article 15 on hold and gave her 10 days to comply.  She inevitably styled her locs in two-strand twists, her 1SG made a recommendation to the commander stating that her hair was within the regulation and the article 15 was lifted.

See her video embedded in this article.

4. YouTube Vlogger iiiamTHE TR3 also experienced challenges with her leadership with regard to her beautiful locs.  In 2016, she had been serving in the military for four years and wearing her locs for three years in the ROTC program.   Thirty days before her commissioning ceremony, she was told that she had one of two choices in order to receive her commission.  She could  A. Cut off her locs or B. Comb out her locs.  Since it would have taken more than 30 days to comb out her locs, she asked her leadership if she could wear a wig to cover her hair.  She started the Basic Officer Leadership Course in January 2017 and the ban on locs was lifted.  As a result of her experience, IiiamTHETR3 has created videos on how to style locked hair in the Army because she wants to help other military women stay within AR 670-1. Check out iiiamTHE TR3 's video here.

Although the ban for loc'd hair was lifted for Army soldiers in January 2017, the Army was actually the second military service to lift their ban.  The U.S. Marines were the first to lift their ban on loc'd hair in December 2015. 

The U.S. Navy and U.S. Air Force have yet to lift their ban on loc'd hair, but it will happen one day. 

Vogue did an entire story about the lifted ban and highlighted women from all services to celebrate this new acceptance and appreciation for diversity.

Read the article here.

Army uniform regulations have been in place since 1824 - See this article.

Here are a list of AR 670-1 revisions since September 1992.

September 1992 (no restrictions to traditional hairstyles worn by women with afro-textured hair 

February 2005 (this policy banned locs in section 1-8) 

31 March 2014 (this policy banned two-strand twists in section 1-8) 

April 2015 (an amendment for twists was immediately implemented in September 2014. This policy reintroduced the authorization to wear two-strand twists, but stipulated the size, direction, spacing, etc.) Additionally, power point training slides were released about the hair policy. 

Army Directive 2017-03, 3 January 2017 (lifted the ban on locked hair) 

May 2017 (latest policy)

We hope you enjoyed this blog post.  Don't forget to check out our shop! 

UPDATE: Locs are authorized in the U.S. Navy and U.S. Air Force as of July 2018. 

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