Friday, January 9, 2015

The Great Hair Experiment

Midshipman 4/C Anne Hotis
(with short hair)
testing her lungs for something that
I'm sure was very important at the
time, but I can no longer recall.
  Parents' weekend -
summer of 1985.
Yesterday, the navy announced that it's putting a halt to short haircuts for new female recruits, aligning the navy with the other armed services, which do not require new female accessions to cut their hair.

I was surprised to hear this—surprised it hadn't happened sooner.

In the case of women at the Naval Academy, we had this hair discussion over twenty-five years ago.

When my female Naval Academy classmates and I donned uniforms for the first time in the summer of 1985, our hair, when worn loose, had to fall above the collar. If it was longer than that, you had to cut it.

That's me in the picture to the left, standing on my chair in King Hall—our dining hall at the Naval Academy—when I was a plebe, or first-year student, with my short hair.

I know. I 'm standing on a chair. My classmates in the background are doing it, too. For those of you who did not attend the Naval Academy, suffice it to say, that's the subject for another blog article.

In the mid-eighties, women in the fleet had been wearing their hair long hair for years (once out of boot camp, that is), putting it up in an appropriate manner when in uniform. But not midshipmen. We had to jump through hoops to adopt the same standards at the Naval Academy.

Today, when female midshipman are in uniform, they can simply pin their hair up if it falls below the collar mark. Easy. But what's easy now, wasn’t so easy then.

To that end, several of my classmates and I participated in a "ground breaking" experiment. In our first class, or senior, year, a select few were allowed to grow our hair long to test the theory that female midshipmen were in fact capable of pinning our hair up to meet military standards.

Midshipman 1/C Anne Hotis
(with long hair)
accepting her diploma from our Superintendent,
Rear Admiral Virgil L. Hill.
Fortunately for the female mids today, we were successful, and now they can wear their hair long when not in uniform.

I guess I'm just surprised it took so long for the navy to follow suit with regard to females entering boot camp.

But hair, Anne? Really? You're devoting blog space to this?

Yeah, I know. It's a small thing. But it was nice to be part of a change like that. Great, also, to finally see it come full circle.


  1. Yes, a small thing, but really it speaks pretty loudly about gender barriers. I love hearing about your military experiences. Thanks for sharing!

  2. You mean ADM Charles R. Larson was not your favorite SUP?

  3. So, why can't the guys have long hair too?

    1. Not sure why guys can't have long hair. Great question . . .

  4. Anne....tempted to grow an afro!!!

  5. 30 years later and I still recall that Plebe Summer; I haven't had my head shaved since Indoctrination Day (I-Day) in JUL85!

  6. Hard to forget that day, Russell! Thanks for reading, by the way!