The U.S. Navy yielded to calls from Black female sailors who complained that the texture of their hair made it difficult to comply with hairstyle regulations.
A change went into effect on July 11 that will permit female sailors to wear dredlock hairstyles, wider hair buns and ponytails while in uniform, the Associated Press reported. This accommodation makes the Navy more inclusive, Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson said.
Black women across the military’s branches have been challenged to comply with various appearance standards for female service members that were not written with them in mind.
The Marine Corps was the first service branch to allow locs and twists, according to the Marine Corps Times. It went into effect in December 2015 after Staff Sgt. Cherie Wright presented a persuasive research paper that examined multiple issues, from the psychological effects of the regulations on Black women to the expense of using harsh chemicals to straighten their hair to comply with the rules.
Change came to the Army in January 2017 after 1st Lt. Whennah Andrews, a District of Columbia National Guard, submitted an exception to the Army’s grooming policy request. It included a YouTube video on how locs could be worn appropriately while in uniform, the Army Times reported.
In the Navy, Capt. Thurraya Kent was a senior member of a working group that recommended the changes that came into effect on Wednesday. Kent’s hair had been an issue during her 26 years in the Navy. In at least one instance early in her career, a superior officer ordered Kent to take out her braids, even though they complied with grooming standards of that time.
“Because of the texture of my hair, it stood straight up. It was a very embarrassing moment that stays with you,” she told the AP.