Ottawa

Military personnel sound off about letting their hair down

For the first time, women in uniform will be allowed to wear ponytails. Nylon stockings will also be optional while wearing a skirt, as will flat shoes instead of pumps or oxfords.

Updated dress code also loosens rules around nylons, shoes

A member of the Canadian military shows off her ponytail in Ottawa on April 11, 2019. The military has decided to loosen a number of restrictions involving its dress code, allowing women in uniform to wear ponytails. (Hallie Cotnam/CBC)

What do Canadian military personnel in Ottawa think about the latest update to the Armed Forces dress code?

For the first time, women in uniform will be allowed to wear ponytails. Nylon stockings will also be optional while wearing a skirt, as will flat shoes instead of pumps or oxfords.

Previously, female military personnel with long hair were required to keep it in braids or buns while on duty. They were also required to wear five-centimetre pumps or oxford shoes — as well as nylons — if they were working in skirts.

CBC Radio's Ottawa Morning spoke to military personnel on their lunch break at the Rideau Centre, beside DND headquarters, to get their thoughts on the changes.

The DND employees spoke on the condition of anonymity, saying they're not allowed to do interviews with media.

First reactions

One military member Ottawa Morning spoke to didn't take long to embrace the new policy.

"When my colleagues told me about it, I took the bottom elastic out of my braid and shook it into a ponytail!" she said.

Another woman said not wearing nylons while in uniform would feel "weird" — but getting out of heels would be a nice switch.

"The flats are nice, though," she said. "Because you can drive."  

A recruiting tool?

Could loosening the rules encourage more women to join the military?

Shortly after taking command in 2016, Gen. Jonathan Vance said he wanted women to make up 25 per cent of the military by 2026.

At that time, women made up barely 15 per cent of the Armed Forces.

"You never know. The strangest things make people say yes or no," said one female military member.

"I don't think it'll be overly effective," added a male soldier. "I think the effectiveness in recruiting will come from showing the generation coming in that there's a meaningful career in the military."

No mullets, please

According to the Canadian Forces policy on hair length, men are currently required to have haircuts that are no more than 15 centimetres long.

They must also have two-and-a-half centimetres' clearance above the shirt collar, and not a single hair shall "touch the ears or fall below the top of the eyebrows."

Could the new ponytail policy mean the haircut restrictions for male soldiers are also about to change? 

That was the question on the mind of one military member.

"My only thought is, why is [the change] restricted to women?" she said.

"Meaning, if we can wear our hair long, if we can braid it, we can put it in a ponytail — yet we still restrict our men to having a certain length of hair? Is that the next step?"

With files from The Canadian Press

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