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Marine Corps weighs new hair regulations for women

Aug. 11, 2014 - 06:00AM   |  
Corps officials are surveying Marines on two proposed hairstyle changes for women, including dreadlocks and twists. Microbraids, shown here, were recently authorized, but they must cover the Marine's entire head.
Corps officials are surveying Marines on two proposed hairstyle changes for women, including dreadlocks and twists. Microbraids, shown here, were recently authorized, but they must cover the Marine's entire head. (Marine Corps)
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The Marine Corps’ Uniform Board is seeking feedback from all Marines on two proposed hairstyle changes for women.

Those include whether or not the “twist” or “dreadlock” — hairstyles mostly worn by black women — should be permitted in uniform.

The survey, open to all service members through Aug. 15, follows a special working group that convened in the spring. That group decided in May to recommend continuing the prohibition on dreadlocks, but authorizing the wear of twists.

The working group’s recommendations will now be combined with the results of the survey when presented to Commandant Gen. Jim Amos, who will make a final decision on what hairstyles will be authorized.

The Marine Corps already revised its hair policies for men and women in December 2013, at which time they maintained the prohibition on both dreadlocks and twists. But, in early 2014, the Defense Department ordered that all services review their female hairstyle regulations amid growing controversy over policies black servicewomen say don’t account for their unique grooming needs.

The Army revised its hair regulations for women in March, bringing them closely in line with those for Marines. But, black female soldiers said the new standards were “racially biased.” The outcry resulted in a petition to the White House and eventually in moves by lawmakers to halt enforcement of the regulations.

Recently a Navy corpsman was slated to be kicked out of the service for wearing an unauthorized hairstyle, but the Office of the Navy Secretary got involved and asked for more details to review the case. Hospital Corpsman 2nd Class Jessica Sims, a sailor with an unblemished record, told Military Times that she didn’t think she should be told to straighten her hair in order to be “within what they think the regulations are.”

“...And I don’t think I should have to cover it up with a wig,” she added.

Last year, the Marine Corps approved microbraids or “multiple braids,” a series of small, uniform braids about 1/8 to 1/4 of an inch in diameter, that show no more than 1/8 inch of scalp between each braid.

The Marine Corps is also conducting a separate survey asking Marines for their opinions on three proposed uniform changes which include: shifting the date Marines switch to desert Marine pattern utilities back by nearly a month to April 1; making the “Sam Browne belt” a mandatory accessories for officers in dress blue “alphas” and “bravos;” and switching enlisted rank insignia from black to brushed brass so they are easier to read against the black pixels in woodland MARPAT.

Both surveys can be accessed at www.manpower.usmc.mil/application.

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