Female soldiers will be able to ditch the bun for the first time as part of new hair rules that allow plaits and cornrows to reflect the military’s "diverse" forces.
The Army and the Royal Air Force confirmed the changes to the rules around hairstyles for women, which previously stipulated that hair must be worn in a bun, or sit above the neckline if worn in a short style.
Now, female members of the forces can choose to wear their hair in a ponytail, plait, cornrows or braids as part of the military’s bid to modernise its policy on female appearance.
It comes after the Royal Navy announced in May that female personnel would no longer be expected to wear a bun while in uniform.
Air Chief Marshal Sir Mike Wigston said the RAF’s new policy on hair had been born out of its Astra campaign, which aims to make the force better reflect modern society, from uniforms to working hours.
Sir Mike said that through the campaign “we are modernising how we look, empowering people with choice whilst maintaining the high standards we expect in Royal Air Force uniform”.
He added: “Watch this space; there will be more to come.”
Similarly, the British Army tweeted that it had “updated our hair policy to better reflect modern society”, as it set out the new hairstyles that were now acceptable for female personnel.
A number of female soldiers tweeted selfies showing their hair in plaits with the hashtag #battlebraid.
We have updated our hair policy to better reflect modern society.
In working dress, servicewomen’s hair can be worn in a bun, ponytail, plait or corn rows.
More information can be found on Defence Connect: https://t.co/K6jdco8Qpy pic.twitter.com/Qxb5Zi3Rn4
— British Army (@BritishArmy) August 2, 2021
A defence source told The Telegraph that the previous thinking around the bun was that hair should not be a “distraction” and that with it tied up neatly, from behind it was harder to distinguish between male and female soldiers.
“It’s what uniform means, that we all look the same,” he said.
However, he added that the military needed to reflect the 21st century in its attitude to appearance.
He said: “We will still be in uniform in what we wear but society has moved on. There are a variety of hairstyles that still look smart but don’t affect your performance. People have beards, people have long hair, why should they come to work and have to stop doing that?”
It is understood that there will always be situations where a bun is considered the safest hairstyle in certain roles within the forces.
An Army spokesman said its decision to revise its hair police was “made to provide individuals with greater choice, reflecting the needs of our diverse workforce and the society we represent”. However, it cautioned that the move “does not signify a lowering of overall standards of dress and presentation”.