Hair to Serve

by MC3 (SW/AW) Asheka Lawrence-Reid
05 May 2021

 

 

Photo of a Sailor posing with hair brush and spray bottle.
Photo of a Sailor posing with hair brush and spray bottle.
Photo of a Sailor posing with hair brush and spray bottle.
Hair to serve photos
Photo of a Sailor posing with hair brush and spray bottle.
Photo By: Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Asheka Lawrence-Reid
VIRIN: 210313-N-FE499-1071
Due to Sailor feedback and recommendations, the Navy updated the following terms, phrases and definitions in Navy grooming and appearance policies

The Navy deleted the terms: faddish, good taste, eccentric/eccentricities, complement the individual, complement the skin tone, smartness, conspicuous/inconspicuous, and outrageous.
 

New and revised terms were also included in the regulations: professional appearance, complementary appearance, professional military appearance, and uniform distraction.
 

These changes follow the Navy’s efforts to update grooming standards for the 21st century Sailor. Previous changes to NAVPERS 15665I allowed room for Sailors with varied hair textures to stay within regulations.
 

For women, Sailors are now authorized to wear rolls, locks, and ponytail styles. This change is particularly beneficial to the African American/Black community within the Navy. Sailors  are now allowed to wear styles that make their hair more manageable while performing their duties.
 

Senior Chief Information Systems Technician Kadesha Perry, a Sailor aboard USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69), recollects how difficult it was to maintain the regulations in her earlier years in the military.
 

Before Perry had dreadlocks, she said she wore her natural hair. “It was really hard to keep it in regulations when I was in boot camp because it got so puffy,” she says.
 

Perry says early in her career, she struggled with keeping her hair in regulations. To keep her hair more manageable, she dreadlocked her hair.
 

After having “illegal locks” for the first half of her career, Perry came to a turning point on her second day at a new command.
 

“I met this master chief, Logistics Specialist Master Chief Gina Scott, on the warship USS George W. Bush (CVN 77),” Perry said. “She called me to her office and she said to me, ‘What do you want people to see when they see you?’”
 

Photo of two Sailors posing back to back with medical masks on with curly hair.
Photo of two Sailors posing back to back with medical masks on with curly hair.
Photo of two Sailors posing back to back with medical masks on with curly hair.
Hair to Serve photos
Photo of two Sailors posing back to back with medical masks on with curly hair.
Photo By: Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Asheka Lawrence-Reid
VIRIN: 210208-N-FE499-1104
She had never considered that question before.

“I thought people saw good work,” Perry said. “I thought they saw thoroughness. I thought they saw a young sailor who was about her business. I never thought anyone was distracted by my hair. I thought it should not matter.”

This was the first time she considered how her appearance could affect the way she was perceived in the work center.
 

“I want them to see a woman who is about her work,” Perry said. “I want them to see a person who is here to walk in God’s grace and do the best I can for these Sailors.”
 

Perry said she had to remind herself that what she is trying to accomplish in the Navy is more important than her hair and decided to cut it short before the new regulations came out.
 

Sailors, Perry said, have begun to create their own interpretation of the hair regulations rather than following the guidelines they are given. “I believe you can wear your crown in glory in many different ways when you are off duty,” she says.
 

“I do think, though, that because you signed up to conform in a certain aspect and leave a little bit of your individualism behind, I believe it is your duty to respect your crown and get it in regulation as it is written.”
 

 

Photo of a Sailor posing with hair within grooming standards.
Photo of a Sailor posing with hair within grooming standards.
Photo of a Sailor posing with hair within grooming standards.
Hair to Serve photos
Photo of a Sailor posing with hair within grooming standards.
Photo By: Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Asheka Lawrence-Reid
VIRIN: 210208-N-FE499-1059
Ensign Kenya McCarty, a Sailor of the Fighting Swordsmen (VFA 32), compared the current regulations to when she joined the Navy in 2004.

“When we entered into boot camp, they c:mut everyone’s hair. They gave you this lopsided bob and they also didn’t allow you to relax [straighten] it so it looked very rough and we just looked terrible for those couple of months until the end.”
 

McCarty said that natural hairstyles often look faddish to some people because they are not used to seeing them.
 

“We, as a Navy, have come a long way from the time you enter boot camp and they just cut your hair without asking, to allow braided hair, ponytails, natural hairstyles, and even dreadlocks,” McCarty said.
 

“There are so many people who are happier because their particular style that they like to wear is more acceptable now. They don’t have to cover up who they are or how they feel, based on the way their hair is done.”
 

Legalman 2nd Class Dionesha Simmons has maintained her natural hair in the Navy for eight years.
 

“Being in the Navy as a naturalist is harder because there are certain styles that can only be worn in civilian status,” said Simmons
 

However, Simmons said that the Navy is moving in the right direction with the regulation change. She said the old regulations, that once restricted female Sailors’ relationships with their hair, have changed to help many females embrace their natural hair.
 

 

Photo of a Sailor smiling with hair done within grooming standards.
Photo of a Sailor with hair done within grooming standards.
Photo of a Sailor smiling with hair done within grooming standards.
Hair to Serve photos
Photo of a Sailor with hair done within grooming standards.
Photo By: Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Asheka Lawrence-Reid
VIRIN: 210208-N-FE499-1089
“It’s important, as a Black woman, to maintain my hair in regulations while being able to wear some of my natural hairstyles, because I still want to look professional and be taken seriously, regardless the status of my hair,” she says.

Simmons asserts that she prides herself in being a professional and takes comfort in the fact that her natural hair can be accepted as professional in its natural state.
 

“When I wear my hair in an afro that’s in regulations, you know I’m professional,” she said. “I just want all females, not just Black women, to embrace their hair. Still be professional, but take care of your crown.”
 

For more information about updates to NAVPERS 15665I, go to MyNavyHR.com.


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