August 13, 2014 Updated: August 13, 2014 at 8:29 pm
A move by Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel this week to ease military hairstyle restrictions earned applause from a Colorado Springs salon owner, who said the change makes combat and fashion sense.
Hagel, under pressure from the Congressional Black Caucus, announced Monday that he'll allow troops to sport braids, twists and cornrow styles that the Army, Navy and Air Force cracked down upon in regulations.
Lyza Gardner, proprietor of Xpressions Beauty Studio on South Academy Boulevard, said the change gives troops easily maintained hairstyles that are perfect for the battlefield.
"It gives them a nice, neat appearance when they are roughing it," Gardner said. "They don't have to worry about it."
The styles take long hair and make it easier to manage through braids and twists that can keep hair under control for weeks at a time.
Gardner said the styles, including those deemed unmilitary under the old rules, keep hair close to the head and above the collar in a bun.
Groups complained that the Pentagon's hair regulations were racially insensitive because the styles under scrutiny were popular with African-American women.
"We strongly encourage you to reconsider the updated regulation as it relates to grooming standards and how it allows individuals from every community to feel proud and welcome to serve in our nation's armed forces," the Congressional Black Caucus wrote to Hagel in April.
Hagel responded by easing hair regulations and dumping language that banned hair deemed "matted."
Hagel left in place stern new Army regulations on tattoos, which bar soldiers from getting facial and hand tattoos and limit the number and types of tattoos that can be on display.
The relaxed hair regulations aren't a fashion free-for-all. Styles like Mohawks and spikes are out, along with anything else that doesn't fit regulations, from color to length.
But the eased regulations will allow women to more easily style hair, Gardner said.
"They get a cornrow or a weave and have that for two months - they don't have to worry," she said.
The trick now, is to keep troop hairstyles well-maintained.
"Three or four months later, they don't look professional," she said.