When a controversy erupted over Black female Marine’s hairstyles last year, some observers thought Black women in the military were asking for special treatment. But the argument was this – that Black women in the military were prohibited from wearing many of the natural styles including locs and cornrows that might make it easier for them to keep their hair neat and professional while doing their jobs.
The changes were orchestrated by a female staff sergeant serving in the Corps and this week, The Marine Corps announced new regulations on natural hairstyles. While there are still restrictions on the kind of hairstyle even if you’re natural, this is a victory for natural hair advocates and we presume for many of those who serve.
The Marine Corps has approved two new hairstyles for female Marines, citing a request from a staff sergeant that prompted the change.
According to a Marine Corps administrative message released Monday, two-strand twists and thin locks are now approved for wear in uniform. The decision to approve both hairstyles was made by the Marine Corps Uniform Board in October, according to the message.
In a video released by the Marine Corps in conjunction with the message, Marine Staff Sgt. Cherie Wright of II Marine Expeditionary Force is credited with prompting a review of female hairstyle regulations. Wright submitted a recommendation letter to the Marine Corps Uniform Board asking for the change, officials said.
“For some, this change is culturally liberating, has financial benefits and is simply convenient,” Wright said in a statement released by the Corps.
The new hairstyles come with extensive restrictions to ensure they appear neat in uniform.
Twists, or two sections of hair twisted together to form a rope or cord, may only be worn with medium-length and long hair. The appearance of the twists must be neat and professional and cannot interfere with wear of any military headgear or be excessively bulky.
Locks, or single sections of hair that twist from the root to the ends of the hair to form a ringlet or cord, can be worn with short, medium or long hair, must be separated with square or rectangular-shaped partings to keep a professional appearance. All locks and twists must be no wider than 3/8ths of an inch in diameter. Conspicuous hair accessories and “faddish” or “eccentric” hairstyles are still off-limits.
The Marine Corps’ policy update comes a year after the Navy changed its hair rules to include two-strand twists and larger buns to accommodate black female sailors. The Corps is the first, however, to permit locks in uniform, according to officials.
The Marines will also publish a web page in the next 30 days illustrating authorized and unauthorized male and female hairstyles, according to the message.
Has the military evolved to recognize cultural differences or are they pandering to one group of soldiers? Let us know.