Hair Ponytail Female Air Trooper, part of HQ Sqn, 6 AAC marshaling a Wildcat Helicopter onto a netted load Credit Defence Imagery ID 45164379

Soldier's ponytail ignites social media storm over new hair policy

Hair Ponytail Female Air Trooper, part of HQ Sqn, 6 AAC marshaling a Wildcat Helicopter onto a netted load Credit Defence Imagery ID 45164379

A female British Army teacher has ignited a debate over new rules on hairstyles in the Army and Royal Air Force – by pointing out that the way she wears her hair does not affect her ability to do her job.

Captain Katie Spence, an Education and Training Services Officer, from the York Army Education Centre, commenting in a lighthearted post on Twitter, said: “I can report having worn a ponytail rather than a bun to work – 

“I didn’t get caught in the printer.  

“I can still do my job.  

“No headaches.  

“The world hasn’t ended.” 

She added: "Thanks to whoever changed the rules - little changes like this go a long way." 

Capt Spence's post, in response to an earlier announcement about changes to the British Army and Royal Air Force’s hair policy, ignited a storm of debate on the social media platform, with scores of people from the military community coming out both for and against the policy changes. 

The British Army and the Royal Air Force announced it had updated their policies on hair “to better reflect modern society” earlier this week, with changes including that “in working dress, servicewomen's hair can be worn in a bun, ponytail, plait or cornrows."

The new policy will "offer greater choice", according to the RAF, which tweeted: "The new policy reflects our diverse Whole Force whilst continuing to uphold the excellent appearance standards expected of serving personnel." 

It follows an earlier change in policy by the Royal Navy in May, with the Second Sea Lord announcing that female personnel in the Senior Service could wear their hair in a ponytail or plait while in working rig – job-specific dress worn at sea and ashore.

The post, on Capt Spence’s personal Twitter account, sparked a raft of replies, with many giving their views on the reasons why the Armed Forces and other frontline public roles, have strict policies on hair. 

Chief Inspector John Owen of Staffordshire Police, admitting that "maybe I'm a dinosaur", said: 

"I've never thought this was about women being treated differently. Hair up for men and women (in policing) as it's a safety hazard (pretty easy for an assailant to grab hold of) - no other reason." 

RAF aircraft engineer Jonathan Wilcox tweeted in support of the post about the hairstyle, by confirming that the women he saw wearing their hair in a ponytail had managed to get on with their work just as easily as they had before. He said: 

“😂👏🏻I can also confirm that there were similarly no issues at @RAF_Marham today’s far as I know. I even saw an SAC with her hair in a ponytail whilst wearing an issued rucksack and there were no incidents!”

Some people, commenting about how the new policy discriminates against men who want to have their hair long, called for equality for both genders with James Gianni on Forces News' Facebook page saying: 

“So females in the infantry are allowed to rock ponytails but the blokes still can't have their hair long?” 

While Kevin Walsh added: 

“Why can’t men have long hair. Men and women are doing the same rolls. Therefore the services should not be discriminating against male service personnel.” 

In a general response to statements like this across social media platforms, Capt Spence said: 

"I unfortunately don't have the time to respond to the "what about men" comments, but if you actually do want to read about men's dress regs rather than getting upset about women's hair, all the Army's uniform rules are detailed in a document called AGAI 59." 

In support of the Capt Spence’s tweet, Mike Hill said: 

“To be honest I can't see what all the fuss is about. Many young cadets (male) in the late 60s 70s had long hair. It just meant that in the field or on the ranges they had to wear a hair net. I'm sure your all sensible enough to wear your hair in a style suitable for the task.” 

Rob on Twitter asked Capt Spence whether she had lost any hand to hand fights since the change in hair policy to which the soldier replied, saying:

"Funnily enough the opportunities for hand to hand combat in an Army Education Centre are rather few and far between, but I promise I will put my hair back in a bun should the occasion ever arise."

Former Army Officer @staff_ex on Twitter added another benefit of women in the Army and RAF not having to wear their hair in buns anymore, saying: "I bet the drive to work is about 1000 times more comfortable…". Capt Spence said: 

"SUCH a comfy drive in... Not having to sit at a weird angle was GREAT! 🚘" 

The British Army says its changes apply to all regular and reservist personnel, stating plaits, ponytails, twists, cornrows and locks are all permitted.

Male soldiers are allowed "well-groomed hair", including twists, cornrows and locks, provided it does not cover the face or touch their collar or ears.

What do you think? Are you in favour of the policy changes or not? Let us know at [email protected]

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