New changes to grooming and appearance standards, effective Feb. 25th, are part of the Army’s commitment to improve the wellbeing of all Soldiers and reduce the disparate impact on female Soldiers.
Army senior leaders approved several grooming and appearance modifications in Regulation 670-1, said Sgt. Maj. Brian Sanders, senior enlisted leader of Army G-1’s uniform policy branch.
The changes originated from a panel of 17 Soldiers – 15 women and two men – who assessed a list of proposed grooming and appearance modifications.
The panel included Soldiers from all components, representing a cross-section of ranks, units, ages, cultural backgrounds, career fields and races, and included two Army dermatologists, an Army psychologist, and an Army equal opportunity advisor as subject-matter experts, who provided medical or EO knowledge to back the panel’s findings.
“The People First strategy continues to evolve and addressing concerns about the grooming standards shows that the Army senior leaders are listening to Soldiers concerns,” said Fort Belvoir Garrison Command Sgt. Maj. Gregory Kleinholz. “It’s our responsibility to understand, educate, and comply with the regulatory directives.”
Minimum hair length
One of the updates allows no minimum hair length for all personnel, making it an optional style for female Soldiers. Currently, a Soldier’s hair length can be no shorter than 1/4 inch from the scalp unless otherwise exempt due to a medical condition or injury.
Panel findings determined that females attending Ranger, Special Forces, or Sapper training were often encouraged to cut their hair to abide by health and hygiene recommendations while training in an austere environment, Sanders said.
If the Soldier were to washout or graduate from training, their hair was often below the 1/4 inch minimum length requirement and outside Army regulations.
Soldiers will also be authorized to wear multiple hairstyles as long as it maintains a neat and professional appearance, and if the hairstyle doesn’t impede the use of headgear or other equipment, Sanders said.
Currently, Soldiers are allowed to braid, twist, lock, or cornrow their hair if they are uniform and no greater than 1/2 inch in width. The updated standard removes the constraints of dimension requirements.
By eliminating some restrictions, Soldiers have more flexibility, while keeping it within the confines of professionalism, Mitchell said. Further, having a choice to wear multiple hairstyles will allow female Soldiers more ways to secure their hair so that it can fit appropriately under their headgear.
Female Soldiers with medium-length hair will have the option to wear a ponytail if the individual’s hair length or texture prevents them from securing it into a tight bun, Sanders said. A medium-length hairstyle must extend more than 1 inch from the scalp, and cannot exceed the lower edge of the collar in all uniforms.
The updated standard will also allow females with long hair the option to wear a ponytail while wearing an ACU during PT, or while wearing tactical headgear. The Army defines long hair as a length that extends beyond the collar. Army standards require this hairstyle to be neatly and inconspicuously fastened above the collar’s lower edge.
“We can still allow a female Soldier with longer hair to … tuck it in their ACU top so they can conduct their mission,” said Sanders.
Dermatologists involved said the wear of a medium-length ponytail could lower an individual’s risk of hair loss or decrease the likelihood of migraine headaches caused by repeatedly pulling hair into a tight bun.
Hair highlights, root growth
The Army plans to authorize highlights if it presents a natural appearance and is not a prohibited color, Sanders said. Further, if a Soldier decides to color or highlight their hair, root growth of a different color should not exceed 1.5 inches of the original color.
Currently, Soldiers are only authorized to dye, tint, or bleach their hair. The color of their hair must also be uniform and not detract
from their professional appearance. Unauthorized pigments include purple, blue, pink, green, orange, bright red, and fluorescent or neon colors.
“The emphasis is on natural hair colors,” Mitchell said, that presents a neat and professional image.
Optional wear of earrings with ACU
Female Soldiers will also be authorized to wear earrings with their ACU. Earrings can either be screw-on, clip-on, or post-type earrings in gold, silver, or diamond and must be unadorned and spherical without exceeding 6 mm or 1/4 inch in diameter.
Earrings are not allowed in a field environment or during a combat-related deployment, or in locations where access to regular hygiene is limited.
Additional colors of lipstick, nail polish
The Army approved the use of additional colors of lipstick and nail polish, including the wear of clear nail polish by male Soldiers. Females also have the option to wear an American manicure, a two-tone nail style that maintains a natural appearance.
“A male Soldier could keep their nails protected, in certain occupation specialties that rely on their hands, while working with tools or harsh chemicals,” Sanders said.
According to the updated policy, extreme colors and nail shapes are prohibited while in uniform or on duty in civilian clothes. Unauthorized pigments include purple, blue, pink, green, orange, bright red, and fluorescent or neon colors.
The updated standard will also include a link to imagery and videos to provide Soldiers with specific examples. Current images are too vague, and leave too much room for interpretation without adequate guidance.
“Throughout my career, I have experienced several policy changes and I remain confident that these changes are in the best interest of our Soldiers and the Army,” Kleinholz said. “Pride in the wear of the uniform is important for the Soldiers, as Army uniforms embody the professionalism and commitment to the Army Values.”
Editor’s note: Paul Lara contributed to this article.