u.s. navy welcomes new natural hair policy

U.S. Navy Welcomes New Natural Hair Policy

The New Changes are Welcomed

Joining the Navy or any branch of the military is a big decision. And with much controversy, there are lots of factors to consider. You should think about things such as possible seaside duty, time, money, training, and preparation. For women of color with natural hair, there may be another factor to think about—following hair guidelines. In the past, many people feel like the Navy discriminated against naturalistas. Jessica Sims, a veteran who was in the Navy for over ten years in the military branch, was honorably discharged from the Navy back in 2014 for “failing to obey an order to cut off her natural hairstyle” after she refused to cut her hair or wear a wig. In that same year, “the Navy made changes to allow more hairstyles traditionally worn by women of color by authorizing two-strand twists and multiple braids, as long and they hung freely above the collar and covered the whole head. The Air Force and Army also allowed two-strand twists and braids in 2014, followed by the Marines in 2015. Subsequently, the Marines authorized locks in 2015, followed by the Army in 2017,” according to Black Enterprise.


Let’s celebrate! As of earlier last month, Sailors can immediately begin wearing their hair in styles such as ponytails, dreadlocks, bigger buns and in certain circumstances below their collars. With the new policy, female members of the navy must follow strict guidelines when wearing their hair in these styles. There should be no surprise that the Navy has a strict dress code to maintain professionalism and a uniformed appearance among sailors. Unfortunately, the restrictive grooming requirements significantly affected women of color, especially with natural hair. The navy has previously banned natural or protective styles like braids, twists locs, and even full buns. Well, times have changed and now that the Navy has drastically altered their rules for how a servicewoman must wear their hair to remain in compliance with the dress code. The Marine Corps was the branch of the military to approved locks for women back in 2015. The Army also authorized women to wear dreadlocks for women earlier this year. Before the recent changes, Some black female service members have criticized that they've been and complained about being forced to wear wigs in uniform in order for their hairstyles to meet military rules and regulations. Hairstyles like locks give those women more options for styling their natural hair.

The Big Announcement

The rule changes were released July 11 by the Chief of Naval Personnel Vice Adm. Robert Burke in NavAdmin message 163/16. The rules have expanded to acceptable female hairstyles when in uniforms. Take note that the regulations “ does not include midshipmen at this time,” according to spokesman Cmdr. David McKinney. As reported by the AP News, servicewomen now have different options for wearing their hair. These new changes mainly affect women of color most directly, and it couldn’t be a better time for the shift. The policy updates come as a result of black servicewomen requesting for changes to the female sailor hairstyling standards that have been long overdue for a more acceptive policy. Considering the natural hair movement is well underway. It's about time the Navy got on board with styles that often make it easier for women of color to maintain

Accepted Styles

Braids and ponytails

Previously a braid or ponytail was allowed only during physical training. Now female sailors may wear a single braid, French braid or ponytail in their service, working and PT uniforms.


Accessories such as hair ties or rubber bands must match the color of the sailor's hair. Military.com states that the end of the braid or ponytail has to fall no more than 3 inches beneath the lower edge of their shirt, jacket or coat collar. Here are a few ideas for Navy Servicewoman:
  • A bun with braided sides connected to the bun is a classic look.
  • If you have dreadlocks, you can always make them into a bun or french braid as long as the braid does not fall elbow collar as stated earlier. You can always tuck the braid as well if your locks are very long.
If you are in the navy or plan on going soon, here are more detailed guidelines.

Loc This In

Remember that they are not approved at all times and under certain circumstances. If female sailors are around rotating gear or other operational hazards, they are required to wear their hair up in the standard bun unless the ponytail or braid doesn't fall below the bottom of their collars, as stated previously.

New Rules for Buns

Black Enterprise advises that buns previously could not exceed 3 inches when measured from a sailor's scalp. Now the width or diameter of a bun can be up to the same width as the back of the sailor's head. The U.S Navy's new natural hair policy is a massive leap for the military and a change for all of the curly girls, braid slaying, and ponytail rockers.

The Exception to Every Rule

The Navy rule change allowing female service members to wear ponytails and locks will not extend to the United States Naval Academy. While the Navy rule change accepts ponytails, locks and other hairstyles that extend below the collar of a shirt, when female midshipmen are in uniform they must keep their hair length, above the collar. To ensure female sailors are in compliance, female midshipmen usually opt for buns, braids or shorter haircuts.

Change Is Good

Years ago I considered going to the Navy. I was at a crossroads in my life and felt that joining the Navy was a move I should make. I decided not to go because life lead me to a different path. But, if I followed through with plans to join the Navy, I would have felt discriminated against due to my hair. I have worn a big afro and locs as well. It is good to know that the policy is more inclusive for women of color.
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