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Regulation Hairstyles for Black Women in the Military

I'm a proud member of the US Armed Forces and love writing about being a woman in the Navy and fitness.

Small afros are a great choice for black women in the military.

Small afros are a great choice for black women in the military.

How to Keep Your Hair Within Regulation

During my time in Navy basic training, I constantly struggled with keeping my natural black hair in regulation. It’s a little harder to conform to the military’s grooming standards when your hair isn’t straight and sleek! In this article, I would like to cover five black hair style options for females that will keep your hair within regulation and keep you from struggling on your own like I had to!

5 Options to Keeping Your Hair in Regulation

  1. Braids
  2. TWA
  3. Relaxer
  4. Weave
  5. Natural Hair

1. Braids

Braids are a great choice for black women,they seemed to be the most popular choice while I was in Basic Training. Many females came in with their hair in cornrows and would either re-braid it themselves on Sundays, or get a shipmate to do it for them. This option can be done with either permed or natural hair. There are two varieties of braids that you can experiment with. Cornrows and Individual braids. Cornrows are braids made straight to your scalp, while individual braids hang from your head, and can be styled into many hair styles like pony tails and buns. The plus side of having your hair in braids is that they are easy to maintain and are a very hassle free option. With braids you spend little to no time on your hair every morning, and only have to invest time in putting them in and taking them out.

Benefits of Wearing Cornrows

  • Black Women in the Navy: Wearing Cornrows
    Sometimes as black women in the navy, we need a way to tame our natural curls or maybe just a no-nonsense approach to keeping out hair out of the way. Times like those call for a simple, easy to do hairstyle called Cornrows.
Me rocking my TWA

Me rocking my TWA

2. TWA

Teeny Weeny Afros are another great no-nonsense choice. I rocked a TWA for a while, back in 2011, when I did the Big Chop (B.C.) after deciding to go natural. Many females wear a TWA, a black natural hairstyle, in the military simply because it is very easy to take care of, looks cute, and is easy to keep within regulation. This hairstyle looks great with any African American hair texture, and has the least amount of styling time as you can do a quick wash-and-go or just pick and shape it.

Permed hair can look cute, with or without your cover!

Permed hair can look cute, with or without your cover!

3. Relaxer

Many African American females, in and out of the military choose to perm their hair for manageability. The plus side to having a perm in the military is that, with straight hair, your hair can easily be pulled back into a bun or work down in a haircut within standards. Perming is a good option because with straight hair, it is easier to work with and style into a hairstyle that is within regs.

Weave can help you achieve length, without having to wait for your hair to actually grow!

Weave can help you achieve length, without having to wait for your hair to actually grow!

4. Weave

I like this option because of its versatility. With weave, you can have whatever kind of hair you want, and can easily keep it in regulation. Whether by having weave long enough to go in a bun, or short enough to be worn down. This option allows you to keep your hairstyle of choice without having to change your own hair. Many girls with hair too long for regulation, would braid their hair braiding in cornrows and wear either a wig or a sew in. I would also see girls, with short hair who used weave/wigs to have long hair without having to wait for their hair to grow.

5. Natural Hair

If you’re like me, and love your natural hair and the beautiful things it can do, then this may be the option for you. There are no rules keeping you from having natural hair in the military, though it may seem hard. There are many options for styling your hair naturally that fit within military regulations. You can also use natural hair with any of the other five options, except for the perming of course. Natural hair is a beautiful thing, and with patience and the right tools and products it can be a fun to experiment with.

Though military regulations can seem difficult to follow when you’re an African American woman in the military, there are actually many options to wear your hair. Any of these five options will give you beautiful hair that meets both your own and the military’s standards for uniform and grooming.

Natural hair, when long enough can be slicked back into a bun. This allows for a proffesional appearance without chemically altering your hair.

Natural hair, when long enough can be slicked back into a bun. This allows for a proffesional appearance without chemically altering your hair.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.


Sarah on December 12, 2017:

You should add a bob wig to this. I been natural and I refuse to put braids in my hair all the time. We are allowed to have wigs. If it’s a regular duty day, throw that wig on lol.

Andrea on June 01, 2017:

I see that I am very late to this post! I am in the service as well... I did love your article and I'm sorry if it feels like I'm bashing, but natural hair isn't really a hairstyle. Also I would like to see the cons like I.e weaves=$$$, twa=breakage from headband like I said not here to hate, but maybe help. Also we can get dreads now

BODYLEVIVE from Alabama, USA on January 23, 2017:

I've noticed that many of my Sista's are going natural but I just refuse to cut off my hair just to do natural. Being in the military doesn't leave much time for hair so you have to do what you have to do. Great hub, enjoyed the read, nice pictures too!

Naturalista on December 08, 2016:

For those of you considering wearing natural styles or your twa it's not as easy as you do nothing get up and go. The styles are allowed but you still have to look groomed and neat and even then your leadership can not approve. Also wearing weave to basic training might not be the best idea, you won't be able to properly take care of it

tajah brooks on November 25, 2016:

hey im going to the army soon i would like to know if wearing lace closure is in military regulations ? and should i wear it ?

Meisha on September 24, 2016:

Good evening. From reading I see that most people are within the navy ... My assumption is regardless of where your enlisted army regulation is army regulation. My hair is permed on the end only about 3 inches of so natural...i was debating between getting cornrows for basic or just getting my hair relaxed m my hair is Halle Berry short and I Probobaly won't be able to bring proper hair supplies to maintain the perm...or so they have this at the store there? I am stuck on what to do...there are not many black women to ask during my drill. I leave in just 20 days and need to make a decision fast...what do you suggest?

Mya Gibson on August 27, 2016:

I have JROTC, and I want to get box braids but I don't want them to be small... I wanted to know, how large will I be able to get them so my bun won't touch my collar? Please help me!!? ( I plan on getting them in the middle of my back at least)

Danielle on August 24, 2016:

Hi, I plan to retest for the military in a few weeks. I have a tapered cut, and I plan to cut the longer part before basic. Am I allowed to have this style...I've seen white females with the tapered cut before while in the military, but never a black female...Would I be allowed to keep my tapered cut?

Sam on August 04, 2016:

Originally, I was planning to wear a pull on,pull off wig for basic training (BT) . Now, I've decided to sew it in because it's going to be a lot of jumping etc.

My BT and AIT is over a year long. I was wondering if we are able to leave the compound anytime during BT and AIT ? I would like be able to go to a hair dresser to have my hair beneath the wig washed and my sew in redone.

Debra on June 26, 2016:

Hi, I was wondering would I be able to wear a fake bun for basic training due that my hair is really short and can fit in a tiny bun ?

Deanna on June 16, 2016:

Can you have crochet braids?

Alexus on June 05, 2016:

I ship out for boot camp in about 5 months. My recruiter says the only thing we're allowed to wear are really small braids. I'm very hesitant because I don't want to have any problems with weave but I'm natural which can be a hassle without proper products and things so I don't know what to do. HELPPPP

Brionna on May 26, 2016:

I was thinking about getting box braids before I leave for bmt, is that allowed?

Dani Norris (author) from Virginia Beach on December 28, 2014:

Weave is perfectly fine. I've seen many people go through boot camp with it. The length of your hair sounds perfect for going through, since it falls within regulations. You won't be allowed to wear ponytails or buns until you graduate.

Dani Norris (author) from Virginia Beach on December 28, 2014:

As far as having to take your hair out you should be fine. The issue I saw girls having was if the braids were too long, they were cut. Make sure your braids aren't too long since you won't be allowed to wear buns or ponytails.

Dani Norris (author) from Virginia Beach on December 28, 2014:

Well great news Saquonna the Navy hair regs were recently updated, and two strand twists are now authorized! Look it up :)

Lindsey on August 08, 2014:

Hey there! I was recently told that a weave is a no go because they need to be able to check your hair for lice during reception. My hair is in an awkward in between stage (the front is ear length and the back/middle is at my collar bone....when I put in it a bun it looks crappy as some of my hair can't stretch far enough to tie back) My head looks huge in braids and I can't imagine going back to permed hair. What would you do!

Nona on August 02, 2014:

Hi DC. I will be going to basic training for the Army soon and want to make sure that I do the right thing in regard to my hair. My hair is permed but is very short (stingy ponytail short). I normally wear weaves especially since I am trying grow my hair back, but considering the conditions, I was contemplating small box braids. At least then I would get through the duration of basic training. Is this correct? I've heard about women having to take their hair out. Also, are micros allowed? I was told that they weren't.

Saquonna Wheeler on May 27, 2014:

Not many options on wearing your hair natural except for the TWA. I am currently in the Navy Reserves and get hassled about every DWE for my twists (which disguise my locs) both of which higher ups insist are unauthorized due to a statement on the NPC website in the FAQ section.

Dani Norris (author) from Virginia Beach on May 11, 2014:

As long as the braids are uniform in appearance( all the same size) you can pull them back into a bun during your enlistment. During bootcamp, however, they are known to cut braids. For basic training have short hair that does not touch your collar to avoid getting your braids cut down short. Your best bet would be to either wear your short afro, or to put it in cornrows. If you go in with any hairstyle that is long, they will cut it. Whether it is braids, weave, or your natural hair.

kami on March 16, 2014:

I have a short very kinky afro under my current style medium size individual braids. Would that be ok? I don't want to have to deal with mi fro during basic...i can just throw these in a bun but I don't know how well the navy accepts natural hair is in regulation but just hard to manage

Dani Norris (author) from Virginia Beach on February 24, 2014:

Cornrows are fine for Basic. When I went through, myself as well as several other girls had them. I also knew a lot of people who had wigs or sew ins, as long as it looks natural and is in regs you should be fine. Good luck and congrats on your decision to join the Navy!

MacayBrown on December 04, 2013:

Okay, i ship for the Navy in 30 days. Ive been natural for a year and my afro is pretty big at this point. I don't want to use chemicals in my hair, and i was wondering your opinion on whether cornrows would be okay for basic training. I also considered a weave cut to regulations but ive heard horror stories about it being taken out and them cutting your hair. My current protective hairstyle is a wig but i heard that wasn't allowed either. What is best for bootcamp? and do hair regulations change after bootcamp?

Dani Norris (author) from Virginia Beach on September 01, 2013:

Yes! You can wear a wig. As long as it fits within the hair regulations for your branch.

Johanna on August 19, 2013:

Is okay to wear a wig in the Army when you're headed to Basic M. Training?

Dani Norris (author) from Virginia Beach on July 17, 2013:

Your welcome Jamila, hope it helped!

Robinson? I don't remember you, but Im sure I probably was. I'm still here in PCola

Robinson on July 17, 2013:

Norris from Pensacola ??? You were in my duty section. This is weird !

JAMILASANDERS on July 17, 2013:

Thank You

Dani Norris (author) from Virginia Beach on June 04, 2013:

Hello Adrian. You can have bangs, the rule of thumb with hair is that it cannot interfere with your headgear. For bangs, they cannot show beneath your cover. I had bangs for a while, and when I had long ones, I pinned them to the side when in uniform. With short bangs they were fine and didn't show when I wore my cover. Hope this helps! Thanks for reading :)

adrian on June 03, 2013:

When getting a sew in does it matter if you get a bang or not?

Dani Norris (author) from Virginia Beach on April 07, 2013:

Highlights are allowed. However they have to look natural and have to be complimentary. For example you couldn't have black hair with Blonde highlights. Thanks for reading and commenting!

Ana on April 06, 2013:

Can women have highlights in the military? Nice article.

Dani Norris (author) from Virginia Beach on March 23, 2013:

Thank you for reading my article! I appreciate it :)

mintinfo on March 22, 2013:

Hi DC, this is a great article on the dilemma of managing the African hair. Geep writing and soon your scores will get up there.