Black servicewomen celebrated new regulations in the US Army that now allow them to wear their hair in dreadlocks.
Critics complained for years that the Army’s regulations placed an unfair burden on black women, and the new directive now allows for ‘dreadlocks/locks’ – one of the easiest hairstyles to maintain among the permitted twists, braids and cornrows.
The revised regulations, published in January, also garnered attention for including accommodations for people to wear religious beards, turbans and head scarfs.
The Army was criticized after appearance standards in April 2014 banned dreadlocks and twists.
Revised regulations less than six months later allowed for twists, but dreadlocks were not permitted until January 2017.
Now, women can choose between braids, cornrows, twists or locks as long as they are uniform and each measure less than 1/2 inch in diameter.
Sgt. Chaunsey Logan of Fort Stewart, Georgia, shared her past experiences struggling to comply with the rules in a Facebook video and said: ‘January 5, in the year of our Lord 2017, we are now allowed to wear locks in uniform.’
Nikky Nwamokobia, who runs the YouTube channel Green Beauty, teamed up with First Lt. Whennah Andrews of the National Guard to create an informative video breaking down the misconceptions around locks.
She told Dailymail.com: ‘When I first read the regulation in detail, it seemed like someone who does not understand Afro-textured hair came up with that regulation.
‘There is a stigma. When you think about locks, you think about Bob Marley. It’s not something you associate with a military look.’
But she explained that locks can easily look uniform and neat.
To top it off, she said: ‘It’s the easiest hairstyle to maintain for kinky hair. You can tighten it yourself, so it’s really low maintenance. It’s a win-win for everyone.’
Nwamokobia pointed out that chemical straightening can cost around 100 dollars every four to six weeks, while straight ironing is a time-consuming process that needs to be maintained every other day.
‘It’s not convenient at all for someone in the military, especially if you’re deployed. Relaxers are not something you can find in other countries.’
She said some black women in the military took to wearing wigs over their locks in order to comply with previous regulations, adding: ‘I’m not sure you can imagine how hot that can get.’
Nwamokobia said: ‘A lot of black women in the military are not living their true selves. They have to ask themselves, “Do I want to serve my country or do I have to change who I am in order to do that?”‘
The lift on locks, then, represents a massive win.
Capt. Danielle N. Roach, who has been in the Army for 14 years, said the constant worry of breaking the rules hung over her.
She opted to use chemical relaxers to straighten her hair, and told the New York Times: ‘It caused a lot of unnecessary stress. It was an exhausting 14 years.’