The quintessential image of a U.S. solider is a tall, strong man with a close-cropped crew cut and a clean-shaven face. But the demographics of the U.S. Army have evolved far past that. The Pentagon still keeps tight controls on how soldiers can dress and has argued that these regulations promote “unit cohesiveness.” But, in a show of cultural sensitivity, says NBC News, the Pentagon is loosening the reins and allowing soldiers to wear items and garb of religious significance, like beards, turbans, or particularly meaningful tattoos—so long as they don't interfere with safety equipment or disrupt unit cohesion.
“Earlier this month, a major in the U.S. Army who is a Sikh American took his case to staffers on the Hill, explaining how he and other Sikhs should be able to serve in uniform and still maintain their religious beliefs, including wearing turbans and unshorn hair, including beards.”
According to the new regulations, which went into effect Wednesday, “Jewish service members can request permission to wear a yarmulke while in uniform. Muslim service members can request to wear a beard and carry prayer beads," says NBC. "Even Wiccan service members, those who practice "Magick," can seek accommodation — the directive covers all religions recognized by the U.S. military.”
These changes come just months after the Pentagon last refreshed the rules. In September, says Defense One, new regulations made quite a stir among the troops by banning visible tattoos, and tightening constraints on other aspects of dress.