Words by Bridget Foster.
A revised Army Regulation 670-1 was made public on Monday that contains new restrictions on tattoos and hair styles for all soldiers…restrictions that have some people upset enough to petition the president for reconsideration. The new rules also address facial hair, uniform wear, and accessories like sunglasses, jewelry and even dental ornamentation.
When the new regs were released, Sgt. Jasmine Jacobs, a member of the Georgia National Guard felt so strong about the hairstyle restrictions, that she started a petition declaring the restrictions to be “ethnically biased” against minority women who wear their hair naturally. Though grooming regulations have prohibited the wearing of dreadlocks or twists since 2005, the new regs prohibit the wearing of any style where the bulk of the hair sits more than 2” from the scalp, which would include flat twists and cornrows, a restriction the soldier stated limits her options for styling her chemically unprocessed hair. Male soldiers also have hairstyle restrictions; unauthorized styles now include the Mohawk, teardrop and horseshoe haircuts. The training brochure published along with the new regulations illustrates all unauthorized hairstyles for men and women.
Another hotly debated change is the new restriction on tattoos. Certain tattoos can keep a prospective recruit out of the service. The new policy prohibits sleeve tattoos that extend below the elbow or knee, tattoos on the face, neck, head, wrists, hands and fingers. Tattoos that are visible can’t be any larger than the soldier’s hand and there can’t be any more than four visible tattoos below the elbow or knee. Any soldier currently wearing these banned tattoos will be grandfathered in but will be required to have those tattoos photographed, filed in his or her record, and will be subject to annual inspection for any new, visible tattoos (applies to all soldiers). According to the new regs, though enlisted soldiers with once-approved but now prohibited tattoos are grandfathered in, they are banned from requesting commissioning or appointment as officers.
The tattoo policy carries punitive consequences where violation could result in adverse administrative action or charges under the Uniformed Code of Military Justice.
In a video posted along with the training documents, Sgt. Major of the Army, Ray Chandler, said that professionalism is the primary reason behind the stricter regulations. “The Army is a profession and one of the ways our leaders and the American public measure our professionalism is by our appearance.”
The new regulations also outline how and when uniforms should be worn. For example, soldiers are no longer allowed to wear the ACU when traveling by commercial carrier, but must instead wear civilian clothing or the service uniform; the only exceptions are if the soldier is deploying, is on rest and recuperation leave to or from the theater, or when authorized by commanders for emergency leave.
Other changes include:
- No sunglasses of any type worn on top of the head
- No tooth caps or veneers of unnatural color, design, shape or texture
- Restrictions on the length of fingernails: for men, they cannot extend beyond the fingertip and for women, they cannot be any longer than ¼ of an inch from the fingertip
- No body piercings, except authorized earrings for females
- Restrictions on facial hair including length and shape of sideburns
Soldiers must adhere to the grooming standards by April 7th and commanders must complete the identification and documenting of tattoos by April 30th.