The Navy announced new hair regulations during a recent Facebook Live event. Gabrielle Phifer gives us the details on these new standards, which are subject to safety and commanding officer approval, and could lead to a more inclusive environment according to the Chief of Naval Operations.

Navy officials have expanded authorized hairstyles for women while in uniform, but it will be up to unit CO’s to decide how the updated policy applies to their commands.

The new rules were released July 11 by the Chief of Naval Personnel Vice Adm. Robert Burke in NavAdmin message 163/16.

The new rules authorize the wear of free-hanging braids and ponytails, as well as lock hairstyles. The message also expanded the rules applying to hair buns.

As for ponytails, the new rules allow “free standing” ponytails or braids while in working and service uniforms; ponytails were already authorized to wear in physical training uniforms.

Any accessories, such as hair ties or bands used to secure the pony tail, must match the color of the hair and cannot be seen when the sailor is facing forward. As for length, any braid or ponytail can only extend up to 3 inches below the lower edge of the collar of any shirt, jacket or coat being worn.

The only exception is for duty in spaces where machine hazards, such as rotating gear, would present a safety hazard. In those cases, the length isn’t allowed to go below the collar at all.

The hairstyles of female sailors are inspected during a personnel inspection at the Presidio of Monterey in California on Nov. 10, 2009. (Navy)
The hairstyles of female sailors are inspected during a personnel inspection at the Presidio of Monterey in California on Nov. 10, 2009. (Navy)

Also authorized now are lock hairstyles, which the Navy defines as when one section of hair twisted from or near the root to the end of the hair, and creates a uniform ringlet or cord-like appearance.

Locks may be worn in short, medium, or long hair lengths and can be worn in uniform as long as they “present a neat and professional military appearance,” the message said. The rules give commanding officers the say-so in deciding if any of the styles are eccentric, faddish or simply out of standards.

According to the message, “Locks must continue from the root to the end of the hair in one direction (no zig-zagging, curving, or ending before the end of the lock to dangle as a wisp or loose hair),” and, ”Locks parting must be square or rectangle in shape in order to maintain a neat and professional appearance.”

The expanded rules for hair buns now allow wear beyond the previously mandated 3 inches of bulk when measured outward from the scalp. Now, the only rule for buns is they can’t “exceed or extend beyond the width of the back of the head.”