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Navy Deletes Phrases Like ‘Faddish’ and ‘Complement the Skin Tone’ from Grooming Regs



The Navy is out with the first of a series of uniform policy changes following a monthslong study the service did to identify and end unintentionally discriminatory regulations.

Sailors will no longer be subject to leaders’ interpretation about what grooming standards are in “good taste,” “eccentric” or “complement the skin tone.” Those are three of the eight phrases that will be deleted from the service’s grooming standards.

“Faddish,” “complement the individual,” “smartness,” “conspicuous/inconspicuous,” and “outrageous” will also be nixed, Chief of Naval Personnel Vice Adm. John Nowell Jr. announced in a new servicewide policy.

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Nowell told reporters in February that the service would update grooming policies to make them less subjective. Some commanding officers might interpret the current language about skin tones, for example, to mean a Black woman can’t have blond hair, he said.

The updates, announced Thursday, mark the first in a series of uniform changes “aimed to enhance clarity, interpretation and application of uniform policies … by deleting subjective terms and phrases that lead to inconsistent application of uniform standards.” The updates were recommended by a task force assembled last year to identify policies that might put Navy personnel at a disadvantage based on their race, gender, sexual orientation, age or other factors.

“Sailors participating in focus groups, working groups and interviews cited numerous occurrences of inconsistent application and enforcement of grooming policies based on the interpretation of terms and definitions creating the perception of bias,” Nowell wrote.

Four other phrases in the Navy’s grooming policy will be revised or added to improve clarity, he added. The term “professional appearance” will be revised and “professional military appearance” added. Two other phrases — “complementary appearance” and “uniform distraction” — will also be added and defined, according to Nowell’s announcement.

The message didn’t say how many other changes to uniform policy regulations will follow. Task Force One Navy, which studied policies and held listening sessions across the fleet, made 56 total recommendations to the chief of naval operations on everything from recruiting strategies to promotion rules and ship names.

The task force found that Navy hairstyle and grooming regulations weren’t racially biased. However, the group’s final report adds, some of the subjective words used in the policies might result in “the perception of racial bias.”

— Gina Harkins can be reached at gina.harkins@military.com. Follow her on Twitter @ginaaharkins.

Related: The Navy’s Diversity Task Force Didn’t Recommend Allowing Beards. Here’s Why

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