At the end of March the Army’s new regulations on grooming standards went into effect. Initially much of the attention focused on the new tattoo guidelines. Some troops even rushed to the local tattoo parlor for one last foray into the land of permanent body art before the rules became the rules. Tattoos and military service seem to go hand-in-hand. It’s simply a part of the sub-culture – a brazen defiance of all things "normal," ironically personified by those who willingly signed their lives away to be one small part of a magnificent machine (for a few years, anyway). For some military members, those tattoos serve as reminders of why they do what they do.

But tattoos aren’t the only form of self-expression military members enjoy to maintain some realization of "self" in all that uniformity. Hair is another one. I remember constantly testing the boundaries on both hair and tattoos. That had more to do with me than anything else, but I only bring that up for context.

Shortly after the new regulations went into effect, a new outrage came to light: racist hair standards. I’ve sat back and watched online arguments or listened to others argue about whether or not prohibiting dreadlocks, or "twists or multiple braids that are bigger than a quarter of an inch in diameter" is racist. Some argue that it’s all about uniformity. Others say it’s about making the military in a white man’s image. I even read some far off rant about trying to weed out minorities.


First things first: racism is the belief in the superiority of one race over the other. If anything, this looks more like cultural ignorance, both on the tattoos and the hair.

That said, I’m taking the side of Sgt. Jacobs here (the creator of a petition to repeal the new hair regs). I’m taking the side of all the troops with tat sleeves and corn rows. And my logic simply comes down to this:

When in uniform outdoors, all service members have to wear a "cover." Meaning, a beret, patrol cap, flight cap, etc. A HAT. Unless they’re on the flight line, of course. But the point is that uniformity comes from the uniform. If the hair is short, then what difference does it make if it’s held short by "twists" or gravity? If the tattoos are visible on the forearms, then what difference does it make when the sleeves are down? Uniformity comes from the uniform. And, most importantly, when the troops have boots on the ground and they’re dressed to the nine’s in battle rattle with helmets on top, is anyone really worried about their tattoos or hairstyle?

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