Army Permits Turbans, Hijabs, and Beards in Uniform


Feb 14, 2012
New Army policy OKs soldiers to wear hijabs, turbans and religious beards

Observant Sikhs and conservative Muslim women are now able to wear religious head coverings, thanks to a directive issued Tuesday that updates the Army's grooming and appearance regulation.

Sikh soldiers also are allowed to maintain their beards, according to the update.

Soldiers will still have to submit their requests for brigade-level approval, but the move opens up service to people who otherwise would have had to abandon cherished religious practices to serve.

Since 2009, religious accommodation requests received by the Army have largely been from soldiers wanting to wear a hijab or a Sikh turban or patka with uncut beard and hair, according to the directive.

"Based on the successful examples of soldiers currently serving with these accommodations," Army Secretary Eric Fanning wrote in the directive, he decided to move forward with those accommodations as long as the colors match the uniform of the day.

"The Army has reviewed its policies to ensure we allow every opportunity for qualified soldiers to serve, regardless of their faith background," Lt. Col. Randy Taylor, an Army spokesman, said in a statement. "We believe in preserving the First Amendment right of free exercise of religion for those who want to serve in the U.S. Army."

But when training or deployment calls for it, soldiers will still be required to wear combat helmets or other protective gear.

“While we still seek a permanent policy change that enables all religious minorities to freely serve without exception, we are pleased with the progress that this new policy represents for religious tolerance and diversity by our nation's largest employer,” said Harsimran Kaur, legal director for the Sikh Coalition, in a press release from Becket Law, a firm that represents several Sikh soldiers.

Kaur is co-counsel for Capt. Simratpal Singh, whose 2016 lawsuit against the Defense Department lit on fire the discussion of religious accommodations to uniform policy.

Army Times
Sikh Army captain sues DoD to keep beard, turban

Previously, Sikhs had been able to wear beards and turbans in the Army, up until a 1980s ban.

"Sikhs have a history of heroic service in militaries around the world — including in the U.S. until about thirty years ago," Eric Baxter, senior counsel at Becket Law, said in the release. "Now their strength will be added back to the Army without the threat of forced shaves and haircuts.”

Staying in regs

Though Fanning's decision opens up the option for hijabs, turbans and beards, soldiers will have to submit requests with an explanation of their sincerely held religious beliefs to their brigade commanders for approval.

If the commander, or a designated O-6, denies the request, they must send it to the G-1, who will send it on to the Army secretary for final approval.

Hijabs must be worn underneath patrol caps or berets, for example, and made out of a "subdued" material -- nothing shiny -- that matches uniforms, which could include black, brown, green, tan or navy.


An example of authorized hijab wear with the Army Service Uniform (Source: Army Direction 2017-13)

"The material will be free of designs or markings, except that a Soldier wearing the Army Combat Uniform may wear a hijab in a camouflage pattern matching the uniform," according to the directive.

The scarf also has to be worn close to the hair and jaw lines, so not covering any part of the face, and the ends have to be tucked into the uniform top.

Beards must be under 2 inches, measured from the bottom of the chin. Grooming products are allowed to keep them neat, but nothing petroleum-based is allowed if a protective mask needs to be worn.


Examples of authorized wear for the patka (under-turban) or turban (Source: Army Direction 2017-03).

Turbans, as well as under-turban head coverings called patkas, have to follow the same color guidelines as the hijab. There are no bun size restrictions for turbans, but hair has to be completely covered.

And soldiers assigned to Ranger, Special Forces or airborne units will be able to wear tan, green or maroon turbans to match the berets.

Sikh or Muslim soldiers who were previously granted exemptions will receive new accommodation memoranda by Jan. 10, according to the directive.

The directive also calls on the assistant secretary of the Army for acquisition, logistics and technology to test existing equipment as well as alternative gear that can provide better protection for soldiers with beards.

"Study results show that beard growth consistently degrades the protection factor provided by the protective masks currently in the Army inventory to an unacceptable degree," the directive states. "Although the addition of a powered air-purifying respirator and/or protective mask with a loose-fitting face piece has demonstrated potential to provide adequate protection for bearded individuals operating in hazardous environments, further research, development, testing and evaluation are necessary to identify masks that are capable of operational use and can be adequately maintained in field conditions."

Until then, soldiers with a religious accommodation allowing a beard may not attend schools requiring toxic chemical agent training, nor can they be assigned to positions requiring compliance with biological, chemical or nuclear surety requirements as outlined in Army regulations. This means bearded soldiers may not serve as CBRN officers or specialists.

A beard accommodation also may be temporarily suspended when a specific or concrete threat of exposure to toxic CBRN agents requires all soldiers to be clean-shaven, including those with medical profiles, according to the directive.

In addition to these changes, the directive from Fanning also allows female soldiers to wear dreadlocks or locks in accordance with existing grooming standards for braids, cornrows and twists.

Soldiers also can wear religious bracelets, similar in style to medical alert, missing in action, prisoner of war, or killed in action identification bracelets, while in uniform or in civilian clothes on duty.
Of particular note to the SOF community:
And soldiers assigned to Ranger, Special Forces or airborne units will be able to wear tan, green or maroon turbans to match the berets.
Hijab....dreadlocks...:wall::wall::wall::wall::wall::wall::wall::wall::wall::wall::wall::wall::wall::wall::wall::wall::wall::wall::wall::wall::wall::wall::wall::wall::wall::wall::wall::wall::wall::wall::wall::wall::wall::wall::wall::wall::wall::wall::wall::wall::wall::wall:. What ever happened to fitting in?
Last edited:
Dreadlocks have been accepted for a long time...otherwise EO/SHARP complaints were about to go down. And then you had the famed dreadlockbun which was larger than the head.
So does that mean that leadership approved these hairstyles in order to reduce the number of EO/SHARP complaints? Or did they just end up bowing to political and moral pressure for the sake of inclusivity?
The Sikhs are some of the fiercest warriors through history and they served proudly in India and the U.K. I'm glad to see this rule change.
An exception for the Sikhs make sense. I thought that historically they are a warrior caste that you can only be born into. I just don't see why leadership applied the same logic to dreadlocks and hijabs.
Last edited:
I just don't see why leadership applied the same logic to dreadlocks and hijabs.

In 2017 that kind of stuff just does not seem as important to me as it did even two years ago.

Similar to my feelings about gays and transgenders serving openly in the military, if a person wants to serve their country, and their having dreadlocks and hijabs does not compromise the mission, then who cares?

Give me a military full of individuals who meet the mental and physical standards of their MOS, and who genuinely want to be there.

Give me a military full of individuals who do not have to spend their waking moments hiding who they really want to be, or feeling inferior or disrespectful because they are not able to practice their religion.

In trade for those things, I believe then you will have a military full of people who will be proud to wear the uniform, who will be protective of the jobs and the secrets that they keep. They will not feel resentful or fearful of their command, but instead feel like valued contributors. The pay off for something like that, it in incalculable.
Yes, but will Scientologists be able to wear their nautical uniforms while serving in the military? Oh, wait, they don't serve in the military. They serve some dead lunatic...


I have no problem with the Army's turban, hijab, beard thing. Sikhs are badasses, like Ghurkas. As long as you're pulling your weight and your headgear doesn't compromise your position, go nuts.
Last edited:
@Ooh-Rah I see your point and the validity behind it. To me dreadlocks are a cultural construct and I don't see the benefit of having them being exempt from grooming standards. As for hijabs -and it kills me to use the "p" word- I just see Islamic patriarchy embodied in cloth.

Well, the rastafarians are some of the most relaxed in combat :D
@Ooh-Rah I see your point and the validity behind it. To me dreadlocks are a cultural construct and I don't see the benefit of having them being exempt from grooming standards. As for hijabs -and it kills me to use the "p" word- I just see Islamic patriarchy embodied in cloth.


Have you ever seen black female hair that hasn't been chemically straightened? If you have you will know that it doesn't just work like more "fine-haired" women's hair. The best way for a black woman (probably) to get her hair within regulation would be something like this:

aka corn rows. Otherwise, without using chemicals it would be poofy and well out of regulation and "unprofessional".

If you think it's a cultural point on how black hair works and not science then I would love to see white women's hair magically go into an afro. Since it's just culture and all.

- There are plenty of black females whose hair can go into a regular bun and that's great. This rule seems to just acknowledge there are different hair types and this way helps keep the force looking professional.
Huh. Looks good!

Army Eases Uniform Regulations to Allow More Religious Exemptions

WASHINGTON—The U.S. Army relaxed its rules this week for soldiers seeking religious exemptions to uniform regulations, a move the Army says will better enable it to recruit a broad range of troops.

The new rule announced Tuesday makes it easier for Sikhs, Muslims and members of other religious groups to wear turbans, beards, headscarves and other signs of religious devotion. Brigade commanders can now grant such permissions where previously individual soldiers had to petition the secretary of the Army.

The regulation, which could be reversed by the incoming Trump administration, gives soldiers the benefit of the doubt, instructing commanders only to deny an exemption if they feel a soldier doesn’t have a sincerely-held religious belief or if it poses a “concrete hazard” to the soldier. For example, an unkempt beard interferes with the safe use of gas masks by troops who might exposed to noxious chemicals.

“The Army has reviewed its policies to ensure soldiers can serve in a manner consistent with their faith so that we can recruit from the broadest pool of America’s best,” Army Secretary Eric Fanning said in a statement. “This directive provides the guidance our leaders and soldiers need and enables the Army to better reflect the nation and citizenry it protects.”

Observant Sikh men don’t trim their beards, instead twisting them so they are worn close to the face, and wear a turban. Some observant Muslim women wear a head scarf known as a hijab.

This photo provided by the Sikh Coalition shows Army Capt. Simratpal Singh. The Army this week relaxed its uniform regulations, making it easier for Sikhs, Muslims and members of other religious groups to wear turbans, beards, headscarves and other signs of religious devotion. PHOTO: JOVELLE TAMAYO/ASSOCIATED PRESS

Dreads or cornrows, okay. When you stack it so that the hat/ beret is resting atop a mountain of hair? Nope. Is it okay for men to do the same thing as long as they have a "man bun?"