Do you know that a new era in Army history is about to begin? The nation's oldest service branch has finally transitioned into the ponytail era after considerable hand-wringing and protests from soldiers!
Finally, gone are the days when female soldiers had to cut their hair or wear buns so tight that they caused premature hair loss. The US Army has finally developed grooming requirements that are representative of the country they serve. After a year, Black troops discuss belonging, "battle braids," and a new era in uniform. This basically means that women can now wear their hair in a bun, single ponytail, two braids, or a single braid; locks, braids, twists, or cornrows can be braided or a ponytail; and braids or a ponytail can go as far down as the bottom of the shoulder blades.
We’re sure that this just caught your attention. Now, Let’s look at what these strong and independent army women have to say!
No More Hair Loss
Sgt. Nicole Pierce, a behavioral health noncommissioned officer stationed at Fort Sill in Oklahoma, said that tightening of the bun pulled her hair out over the years.
This exacerbated her postpartum hair loss. She was also suffering from headaches. Now she says she's feeling the "happiness of having the option of how we want to do our hair: bun, ponytail, braids. I'm just excited that we have options." One of the soldiers was diagnosed with lupus, which caused her to lose a lot of hair. Trying to put her hair up was always a chore. She thought, "I wouldn't have to worry about it if I chopped my hair short." She claims to be one of "many, many soldiers" who experienced hair loss and had few styling options before the adjustments.
Textured Hair For The Win!
Women are no longer restricted to wearing tight buns, and there are no longer any requirements for minimum hair length. Braids, twists, and locs can now be used in buns, single or double braids, ponytails, and other hairstyles. There's also more flexibility in their size as they don't have to all be the same size.
Soldiers with textured hair, particularly Black women, have undoubtedly felt the most impact from these changes, as they battled emotionally and physically to comply with the former regulations. Although black women make up 13% of the female population in the United States, they make up 30% of women in the Army. Damn!
Welcoming Clips, Pins, & Ponytails
Major General Telita Crosland, the deputy surgeon general, had served in the Army for nearly 30 years and recalled a time when even a hair elastic was forbidden: "You couldn't put anything in your hair as a cadet.
No rubber bands, no clips, no barrettes." She said that one of the pressures was what would I do with my hair? Let's take a step back for a moment: Crosland had the added anxiety of how she would handle her hair in a combat zone, with few tools at her disposal. Her final option was to smuggle in a few at-home relaxer kits. How scary? Luckily, over the past year, Crosland has had the pleasure of experimentation. Thank God!
Yes, Hairstyles Do indeed Upgrade Your Confidence!
A few years back the Army instituted a ban on large cornrows and all locs. Some of the soldiers said that shortly after, they wore a straight bob wig in uniform to cover their twists.
However, they felt like they were hiding more than their hair as it felt like wearing a mask. They said that they didn’t feel accepted. However, now they can show up to the workplace as themselves as it has given them an extra boost of confidence. One of them, Captain Whennah Andrews, said that even in her uniform, her Liberian heritage is celebrated through her hair as braiding has been a part of her family since she was a little girl. How wholesome! Similarly, some of the soldiers said that braids made them feel included. One of them said that her job performance is even better now as she can feel that she can carry some of her individual self into the job.
Similarly, one of the soldiers, Lieutenant General Donna Martin, served in the Army for more than 30 years and had always kept her hair short. Over the years, she tried braids a few times but was always pulled aside by senior officials. She said she felt devastated when she had to take them out after spending so much on her hair. However, now Martin appreciates watching soldiers experience a new form of camaraderie now that the latest upgrades are in place. She says that as I stroll around, I notice people smiling as they admire each other's jewelry. And we can now wear ponytails. "The majority of women braid the ponytail. They call it 'the Battle Braid,' and it makes them happier than ever whenever they see it. How cute is that?
Social, Economic & Physical Implications
Putting tight restrictions on how women can wear their hair has practical, social, and emotional consequences, as well as extreme physical consequences. Many troops have experienced the agony of a tight-bun headache. There are also longer-term challenges. How sad!
For example, Colonel Caprissa Brown-Slade, the Army's current chief of diversity, has served in the army for 25 years, and her hair has suffered as a result. "I've had hair loss and breakage due to pulling it back," she says. "I'm wearing it more now because it gives it a break." Similarly, as mentioned at the start of the article, one of the soldiers was diagnosed with lupus, which caused her to lose a lot of hair.
Welcoming A More Inclusive US Military
Indeed, the changes, officials discovered, have been extremely practical and potentially lifesaving. In fact, soldiers now believe that they have grown more productive due to being able to nurture themselves in whatever way they choose.
Who says that a ponytail doesn't look professional? Everything is fine as long as you can adequately wear your headgear and look professional in your attire. Happy Reading!