US Army

The Army has authorized female soldiers to wear ponytails while in uniform, marking a significant departure from a long-held policy that's drawing both support and criticism.

The branch approved the move back in February, initially only allowing ponytails to be worn while conducting field or fitness training.

The change was made due to concerns over certain health conditions, including alopecia -- a type of hair loss -- and to stop hair damage caused by a tight bun.

After hearing feedback, the Army has expanded the policy to allow ponytails with all uniforms, it announced Thursday, citing health and "tactical" benefits.

"This new modification is more practical for our female soldiers," Sgt. Maj. Brian Sanders, the Army G-1 Uniform Policy Branch sergeant major, said. "It allows them flexibility in a tactical environment, while maintaining a professional appearance in garrison. This change also helps to alleviate hair loss and damage to the scalp."

The new changes allow for female soldiers to wear a bun, a single ponytail, two braids or a single braid. All such stylings should hang down the center of the back and may hang no lower than the bottom of the shoulder blades while standing at attention, the Army says.

The exemptions during training will remain in place.

The #USArmy today announced an update to its grooming policy, which now allows female Soldiers to wear ponytails in all authorized U.S. Army uniforms

"Commanders will analyze the risk of a free hanging ponytail or braid and use commander’s discretion to determine if long hair will be secured or tucked inside the uniform top," Sanders said.

The change received some criticism, mainly from older officers or men, some of whom are now demanding that the Army allow male soldiers to grow beards if female soldiers can wear ponytails.

"Why not men?" was one of the first responses to the Army's announcement on Twitter.

"This is how it starts!" posted another user. "Let standards down a little bit at a time … Sad day for America’s Army."

The #USArmy today announced an update to its grooming policy, which now allows female Soldiers to wear ponytails in all authorized U.S. Army uniforms

"I’m a female in the active-duty army and even I think this is too far," one user claimed. "Even in the pic, the girl’s braid is messy."

Some accused the Army of trying to be "woke," while others focused on the idea that an enemy combatant might grab a ponytail.

The change did prompt praise from many, however. Some were quick to point out that other armies allow female soldiers to wear ponytails in combat and have done so for some time now.

"I leave the Army, and now they’re letting women be women," another user said. "Congrats to the army ladies on being able to wear ponytails in uniform along with earrings and nail polish."

"These comments make it very clear who has served vs who has never served," one user argued. "If you have a problem odds are you haven't served or been around the women serving. This is great for them and I'm happy for my friends who can now do this."

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