The U.S. Air Force’s hair regulations are getting an update. Until now women in the Air Force were required to secure their hair so it didn’t go below their collar, and their bangs were not allowed to touch their eyebrows. If you wanted to join the air service branch of the United States Armed Forces, you’d be required to adhere to these strict grooming mandates. But beginning February 2021, the U.S. Air Force will now allow women to wear their hair longer.
According to a recent press release from the military branch, “Air Force women will be able to wear their hair in up to two braids or a single ponytail with bulk not exceeding the width of the head and length not extending below a horizontal line running between the top of each sleeve inseam at the under arm through the shoulder blades. In addition, women’s bangs may now touch their eyebrows, but not cover their eyes.”
This change comes at the request of multiple female Airmen, who explained that the former regulations resulted in damaged hair, migraines, and hair loss. The U.S. Air Force uniform board listened to their concerns and made a change to the policy.
“This decision is a commitment to supporting the Airmen We Need and sustaining the culture and environment of excellence that will continue to make the Air Force an attractive career choice for Airmen and families,” said General Charles Q. Brown, Jr., Air Force chief of staff. “I’m thankful for the feedback and research conducted from a number of women leaders, the Women’s Initiative Team, the Air Force uniform board, and our joint teammates.”
This change is the latest in a move to eliminate discriminatory hair policies that often negatively affect women and BIPOC. Glamour’s September issue covered the CROWN Act, which is a piece of legislation that will make it illegal to discriminate against a person for the way they wear their hair to work. Women, including Army Captain Whennah Andrews, are fighting for hair equality across the country. (The Army recently approved locs as “in regulation” in 2017.)
“The catalyst started in March 2014,” Captain Andrews told Glamour. “The Army made a decision to ban two-strand twists and locs. A lot of people may not be aware, but Afro-texture hair is very sensitive. Restricting braid sizes to something that’s very tiny can put unnecessary tension on your hair and scalp and cause health issues down the road, such as traction alopecia. A lot of African-Americans, female soldiers, in particular, were very concerned.”
In September 2020, the CROWN Act was passed by the U.S. House of Representatives. Up until late last year, the Act had been passed only at the state level and in only seven states. The bill is now at the federal level, and if approved by the Senate and President Joe Biden, its protections would automatically apply to all 50 states.
The U.S. Air Force’s new amendment does not exist in a vacuum—it is merely the latest development in the fight to end hair discrimination.