Cornrows and camo?

In its quest for conformity, the U.S. Army’s ban on certain hairstyles popular among African American women has got it tangled up in criticism of racism.

Since the ban took effect, 16 women of the Congressional Black Caucus have asked Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel to overturn the regulation on behalf of the 26,700 African-American women on active duty, who find it absurd to attempt to keep their hair straightened in war zones. Also banned were tattoos in highly visible places. Critics say the new grooming standards are an unsubtle way to reduce the Army’s size post wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.  

  —Diane Richard, writer, April 22

Image: Bryan Meltz for The New York Times

Source: Helene Cooper, “Army’s Ban on Some Popular Hairstyles Raises Ire of Black Female Soldiers,” The New York Times,April 20