The Army buzz cut is quickly becoming a thing of the past. The United States Army released new grooming and appearance regulations this week that, in addition to religious beards and headscarves, approved dreadlocks for women. The Army's newfound religious and cultural inclusivity comes right before Donald Trump, a notoriously exclusionary man, prepares to become president of the United States.
According to The Atlantic, the decision was made in large part because of Sikh service members advocacy, litigation, and the threat of a lawsuit.
“The pressure of the lawsuit was a significant factor in deciding this needs to be finished,” Eric Baxter, an attorney representing Sikh service members, told the magazine. “The time had just come when it was no longer possible to make excuses for why Sikhs need to be excluded.”
But Sikhs weren't the first to contest the Army's grooming and appearance regulations.
From The Atlantic:
In the 1986, the Supreme Court heard a case brought by an Orthodox Jewish rabbi, Simcha Goldman, who had been forbidden by the Air Force to wear a yarmulke while on duty and in uniform. The Court deferred to the military. In response, Congress passed a rule stating that servicemen should be able to wear religious apparel. “When you look at the legislative history for that law, Congress spoke openly about the need to accommodate Sikhs and Jews,” said Baxter. “But the military has always construed it as only applying to the yarmulke.”
The result of Tuesday's announcement, of course, is going to be a way less homogenous looking Army—to a point. From The Atlantic:
[Women] can now wear dreadlocks in addition to cornrows and twists, which were allowed in a revision made in 2014. Like other hairstyles, locks must be relatively small, uniform, neat, and tied off inconspicuously, and women don’t have to request an accommodation to wear them.
The military is also barring soldiers who have religious beards and wear headscarves from serving in positions that involve toxic chemicals and dangerous substances, The Atlantic reports.
But hear, hear to the Army looking a little less GI Joe and Jane. And maybe now we'll even have some new dreaded service member action figures!
Collier Meyerson is a reporter at Fusion with a focus on race and politics. She lives in Brooklyn.