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FULL DETAILS: New Army hair and grooming standards allow for ponytails, nail polish, earrings & more

Big changes to grooming and uniform standards are on the way, as are updates to outdated terminology and imagery used in Army regulations to illustrate proper soldier appearance.

The changes represent the first update since 2017 to Army Regulation 670-1, the “Guide to Wear and Appearance of Army Uniforms and Insignia,” and are aimed at reflecting the Army’s renewed focus on equity, diversity and inclusion while adhering to functionality, good order and discipline.

The changes were developed over several months in 2020 and reviewed in late November by a panel of officers and soldiers between the ages of 24 and 55 that included 15 women and two men, plus non-voting subject matter experts. The changes will become effective at the end of February when the Army issues its guidance to the force.

“This is about listening to our soldiers, taking what they’re saying and how we can incorporate that into the Army within our good order and discipline and standards,” Sgt. Maj. of the Army Michael Grinston said Jan. 26 during a virtual media roundtable to explain the changes. “I’m really excited we’re getting a chance to roll out something our soldiers are excited about.”

Grinston acknowledged that some people won’t be happy with the decisions made, but he noted that change takes time to be accepted and “that’s just how the world is, it changes over time, and we need to change with it, that’s why these things are coming now.”

Some of the uniform changes include switching the name of the combat patch, known as the Shoulder Sleeve Insignia-Former Wartime Service, to the Shoulder Sleeve Insignia-Military Operations in Hostile Conditions; a new Military Horseman Identification Badge; and the return of the name plate to the new Army Green Service Uniform, the design for which is still under development.

Chief among many of the grooming changes are rules governing hairstyle, hair length and applied hair color. Women will be permitted to wear short ponytails if their hair texture or length won’t fashion into a bun, and women with long hair will be able to have a ponytail or braid while wearing their utility uniform to conduct physical training or tactical exercises, as long as it can be tucked into their uniform top.

Women will also be permitted to wear buzz cuts or tapered haircuts, and many of the styles worn in the African American community, such as braids, locs or twists, will be allowed alone or in blended hairstyles.

Men and women will be allowed to have hair highlights that are uniform and natural-looking; small gold, silver or diamond post earrings will be permitted for women; and while women will be able to wear demurely colored nail polish and lipstick, men will be permitted to wear clear nail polish.

The terminology once used to describe certain prohibited mustache or hair styles will be discontinued, as will the accompanying images, in favor of more neutral terms and pictures.

Lt. Gen. Gary Brito, deputy Army chief of staff for personnel, said that “grooming standards help to foster our ability to recruit, retain the best talent” as the Army works to broaden its appeal to people “from all 50 states and the territories.”

“We’re going to get both genders, nationalities, Black, white, straight hair, curled hair, you name it, it’s important that our standards of discipline and grooming standards anchor to that very important population,” Brito said during the roundtable.

“We definitely want every soldier to wear the uniform with pride, with strict discipline and be pleased with their appearance and the image they project,” Brito said, adding that the Army recognizes that “grooming standards impact their personal readiness which in turn affects the unit readiness.”

For more on the upcoming changes, click here.

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