Army Loosens Regulations for Soldiers' Tattoos, Hairstyles

Image: A US Army Able Company soldier with a 9/11 tattoo.
A soldier with a 9/11 tattoo stands with other soldiers with US Army Able Company, 3-509 Infantry Battalion inside protective shelter during an afternoon rocket and mortar attack on Combat Outpost (COP) Zerak on January 22, 2010 in Zerak, Afghanistan. Spencer Platt / Getty Images file

The U.S. Army announced it has updated controversial regulations governing what tattoos and hairstyles are acceptable for its soldiers. The revisions to Army Regulation 670-1, the policy for soldiers' appearance, come about six months after the Army said it was banning female hairstyles such as dreadlocks and twists, drawing backlash from the chair of the Congressional Black Caucus and others.

While dreadlocks are still prohibited, the Army no longer uses the words "unkempt" and "matted" in Regulation 670-1 to describe the banned hairstyles, which the Congressional Black Caucus had called "offensive and biased" to women of color. Twists, on the other hand, are now allowed to be worn by female soldiers, along with braids and cornrows, so long as they are not wider than a diameter of more than a half-inch. Previously, they had been limited to a quarter of an inch wide. They must also be evenly spaced, but there is no longer a requirement that no more than an eighth of an inch of scalp be between the braids and cornrows.

Tattoo regulations have been relaxed as well. Soldiers who have grandfathered-in tattoos can now be considered for an officer position or to make warrant without needing an exception to the policy. Racist, extremist, and sexist tattoos remain banned.



— Elizabeth Chuck