Navy Issues New Hairstyle Policies for Female Sailors

The Navy has issued new hairstyle policies for female sailors.

A look at the service's photo gallery for what is acceptable indicates the Navy learned from the Army's decision earlier this year to prohibit a number of styles that African-American soldiers preferred.

Twists and cornrows -- natural styles that many African-American service members also found easiest to manage, including in the field -- were banned by the Army until it heard feedback from service members via a petition as well as members of Congress.

The Navy's new policy includes those natural styles.

"The updated policies authorize a slightly broader range of acceptable hairstyles, while continuing to emphasize the need for a neat and professional appearance," the Navy said in its announcement of the new policy. "Two strand braids (a type of twist) are authorized. Braided hairstyles shall be conservative and conform to the grooming standard guidelines."

Another hair-related change is a pilot program -- starting in January -- to end mandatory female haircuts at Recruit Training Command and Officer Training Command, the Navy said.

"The pilot was established after receiving feedback that junior sailors and officers are not taught proper grooming standards during their initial training," the Navy's statement said. "Grooming standards education will be incorporated into the curriculum, but will not impact other training."

The trial program will allow women to style longer hair just as they would in the fleet, providing them the opportunity to show they understand the standards before actually transferring to the fleet.

Those wishing to have their hair cut upon arriving at recruit or officer training command may do so.

The Navy's new policy on female hairstyles came after nearly a year reviewing its policies, during which time it drew on feedback from the fleet and lessons learned from recent Navy and Defense Department questions on hair and grooming standards.

The new standards factor in the wide range and textures of hair, including curled, wavy and straight hair, officials said. The new policy also provides guidance on hair coloring, wigs, and hair accessories.

Under the policy, hairstyles must allow for the proper fit of headgear and not interfere with the proper wear of protective masks or equipment.

When in uniform, hair may touch but not fall below a horizontal line level with the lower edge of the back of the collar. When wearing the service dress jumper a sailor's hair may extend a maximum of 1.5 inches below the top of the jumper collar.

Angled hairstyles may not exceed 1.5 inches difference in length from front to back.

If wearing a bun, the bulk of it shall not exceed 3 inches from the scalp. Also, the diameter of the bun will not exceed 4 inches. Additionally, loose ends must be tucked in and secured, and buns must not protrude through the opening in the back of a ball cap.

All hairstyles must minimize scalp exposure, the policy states.

"The online hair viewer should help sailors better understand the regulation requirements," the Navy release said. "It is impossible to address every situation and every hairstyle. The ultimate judgment call still lies with commanders."

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