Leading figures in the United States Army announced on Tuesday that there will be several changes to long-standing rules regarding personal appearance among its ranks, which will ease restrictions on female soldiers’ hair and nail preferences, according to ABC News.
The decision allegedly stems from consistent complaints from female soldiers, who had previously been barred from wearing any kind of accessories, and always had to keep their hair into tightened buns, in a manner similar to how male soldiers are required to shave their faces and keep their hair extremely short. Now, women will be permitted to wear nail polish and earrings, and to dye their hair and let their hair down completely.
Sergeant Major Michael Grinston, the highest-ranking enlisted leader in the Army, said during a Facebook livestream on Tuesday that “These aren’t about male and female. This is about an Army standard and how we move forward with the Army, and being a more diverse, inclusive team.”
Sergeant Major Brian Sanders said that a specially-convened panel had recommended the changes to female soldiers’ personal appearance due to a number of “cultural, health, and safety issues.” The panel also claimed that the previous requirement of keeping women’s hair in buns had led to “hair loss and scalp problems.” He also said that the change in rules was done to allow them to “feel like a woman inside and outside of uniform,” adding that “our women are mothers, spouses, sisters, they definitely want to be able to maintain their identity and that’s what we want to get after.”
The decision is one of the first major moves under the new Pentagon leadership of Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, who was nominated by Joe Biden and confirmed by 93 votes in the United States Senate. Austin’s selection was controversial, as he had retired from the Army in 2016, and thus had not met the traditional seven-year requirement of being out of service in order to qualify for being Secretary of Defense; but the Senate ultimately decided to waive the usual seven-year requirement and confirmed him anyway, with all but two senators voting in favor.