The United States Army announced earlier this month that ponytails and a few other hairstyles are now allowed. The original hair guidelines required women to have their hair only in a tight bun.
New guidelines state that women are now able to wear buns, a single ponytail, a single braid, or two braids. Locks, braids, twists, and cornrows can form one braid, two braids, or a ponytail. Braids and ponytails are allowed to reach the bottom of the shoulder blades.
Other changes this year included natural colored hair highlights, lipstick and nail polish in non-extreme colors, earrings for women in combat uniforms, and clear nail polish for men.
One of the main reasons for the change was how the buns affected performance. Not only did the tight buns lead to hair loss and headaches, but they also blocked helmets from fitting properly.
According to Staff Sgt. April Schacher, a flight operations specialist at Fort Belvoir in Virginia, the buns made it difficult to wear helmets during training. It “would affect how low the helmet lies on our eyes, so, especially with shooting our weapons, that did affect being able to see the target properly.”
Some women have even taken to shaving their heads. Under old regulations, hair had to be at least 1/4 of an inch long, now completely shaved heads are accepted.
According to the Army, professionalism is important to the appearance of a soldier.
“Who’s to say that a ponytail is not professional in appearance?” said Maj. Terri Taylor, stationed at Fort Stewart in Georgia. “Who’s to say that locks are not professional in appearance? As long as you can properly wear your headgear and look professional in your uniform, I think that’s what matters at the end of the day.”