New mandates took effect last month for members of the military, but some soldiers said the regulations for hairstyles unfairly targeted African American women.
Now, a House panel is asking for a review of the rules, giving some soldiers hope that the hairstyle restrictions could go away.
"When you're fighting for your life, and you're fighting for your country, you're not even thinking about your hair," said Mattie Addison, of Clarksville.
Soldier and mentor for life, Addison is a 24-year Army veteran. Around the Love of Hair Salon Suits across from Fort Campbell, she's a barber known as simply 'Miss Mattie'.
"I like this," said Addison. "I'm still involved with the soldiers. A lot of them don't know I've been in the military for that long. I assume it's cause I look good!"
Working hard on her feet, Addison said she hears all the Army buzz.
Lately, a lot of that buzz has been about the new hair regulations, telling female soldiers not to have twists or multiple braids bigger than a quarter of an inch in diameter, no dreadlocks and no uneven or oversized cornrows.
The Congressional Black Caucus said African American women are being unfairly targeted while a House Armed Services Committee has just asked for a full review of the regulations.
"They're feeling as though they're being picked out of a group," salon owner Felicia Washington-Farley said.
Washington-Farley said she's seen a major drop in the number of female soldiers coming in since the regulations.
"They're wearing more wigs, so therefore, they're not coming into the salon for their services," Washington-Farley said.
Army officials said the rules are to help in wearing military headgear and to maintain a uniform look. Army officials said African American female leaders were involved in the development of the new hair standards.
Addison said it is vital to look professional in the military, but such specific regulations are tough to follow.
"It's going to be hard to get clarity because of the style of the hair, because we have different type hair," Addison said. "We have to come to the middle with it."
After 24 years of service, she said she's glad to hear soldiers voicing their concerns about unauthorized hairstyles, and exercising the freedom of speech she fought to protect.
"Time always brings changes, so we have to be ready to deal with the change," Addison said.
A White House petition against the regulations have gathered more than 17,000 signatures. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel has ordered a review.
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