US Navy now allows women to wear ponytails, lock hairstyles

Written by Jennifer McDermott, The Associated Press

Rewrite by Byler Henry

The Navy had a policy that long forbade women to wear their hair own, now the Navy will reverse the policy and allow servicewomen to wear ponytails and other hairstyles. Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson said it makes the Navy more inclusive.

Many Black women had asked for changes to the female grooming standards. Yeoman First Class LaToya Jones, a female sailor, during a Facebook Live event Tuesday with Richardson announced the new policy. There are other hairstyles such as ropelike strands, locks, and wider hair buns which are now also allowed. Also, women can wear ponytails while in uniform.

Capt. Thurraya Kent s the senior member of the working group that recommended these changes, the group also told the Navy about what adding grooming could do. Eliminate distractions, enable people to keep their hair natural instead of adding chemicals to it, and be more inclusive of different hair textures. Kent has been in the Navy for about 26 years, she said her hair has been an issue throughout her career. She either had to figure out what to do with it while she is deployed or trying to quickly make sure it conforms to regulations after exercising. She recalled a time where she was told to take out her braids even though her hairstyle was allowed. “Because of the texture of my hair, it stood straight up,” Kent said. “It was a very embarrassing moment that stays with you.”

She said she’s very encouraged that Navy leaders not only listened but understood. At the U.S. Naval War College in Newport, Rhode Island, on Wednesday, many women there said that they’re excited to switch hairstyles that would fit better under their helmets, buns don’t fit well.

Legalman First Class Tamatha Schulmerich said she has to twist and wrap her hair into a bun because it goes down to her lower back. She also said it was uncomfortable to wear her hair that way when she had to wear a flight deck helmet. Lt. Cmdr. Jess Cameron said it may seem like allowing new hairdos may seem like a small thing, it sends a larger message.

“I think it’s a step forward,” she said. They’re getting more female feedback in the service and updating what I think are somewhat antiquated guidelines that maybe no longer serve their purpose in today’s society, today’s military.” The Navy said it had the standards in place because of safety concerns and to ensure everyone maintained a uniform, professional look. There will be some expectations when working around heavy machinery, even though the new rules permit ponytails.


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