Women who enlist in the United States Air Force and Space Force will be able to sport longer hair including up to two braids, a single ponytail, and bangs that could touch the eyebrows, the military announced.
The changes were made after senior Air Force brass heard feedback from women enlistees who say that the tight hair buns which they were forced to wear often resulted in migraine headaches, hair loss, and breakage.
The previous policy required women to secure their hair or ponytails with no loose ends if the hair was longer than her collar.
Men, however, must adhere to longstanding grooming requirements which ban them from sporting beards. Exceptions are made for those who wear beards due to religious requirements or other medical reasons.
‘Teammates – it’s long overdue,’ said JoAnne Bass, chief master sergeant of the Air Force.
‘Not all women have the same type of hair, and these standards need to reflect the diverse force that we are.
‘I’m happy we were able to accelerate this change for our Airmen, and proud to say that we are only just getting started.’
The new rules state that female airmen can wear up to two braids or a single ponytail with the bulk not exceeding the width of the head and its length not extending below a horizontal line marked by each sleeve inseam.
Women could also wear bangs, but they cannot cover their eyes.
The changes follow meetings held by the Air Force uniform board whose members received input from thousands of women throughout the branch.
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The decision was praised on social media, where current and former female service members say that the changes will prevent lasting damage and hair loss caused by the military’s prior requirements.
One commenter on Facebook wrote: ‘As a curly natural girl I am so happy…I can now protect my hair…have proper headgear and be in regs…what a great day…’
Another wrote: ‘I just retired so this doesn’t apply to me but I am so happy to see this change and many more to come and am grateful for all of the time, energy, and effort being put forth on behalf of our military men and women.’
‘What a great day to be an Airman!!! I love that our voices were heard and our leaders had our back!!’ wrote another service member.
‘This is so awesome!!! Goodbye headaches, loss of edges and breakage! Thank you Chief!’ wrote one Facebook user.
Another commenter wrote: ‘This is awesome!! I resorted to cutting my hair short because I couldn’t deal with the crippling daily headaches associated with wearing my hair in a tight bun all day.
‘This is a great move!’
Another service member wrote: ‘Thank you for advocating for women’s hair and the irreparable damage that can be caused.
‘Headaches, breakage that won’t grow, hair loss are all very real for some of us.’
The new policy will go into effect in February, according to a press release put out by the military.
The Space Force will adopt the policy until it develops its own uniform code.
‘We remain committed to removing barriers to service,’ said Lt. Gen. Brian Kelly, Air Force deputy chief of staff for manpower, personnel and services.
‘In an all-volunteer force, we want fully qualified volunteers who are representative of the nation to see us as a great opportunity to maximize their talent and serve.’