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Gender-Neutral Haircuts and Visible Tattoos: Disney Loosens Rules for Theme-Park Employees

Disney announced that it will allow employees at its theme parks more flexibility when it comes to personal presentation after years of enforcing a strict dress code.

Josh D’Amaro, chairman of Disney Parks, Experiences and Products, announced the decision Tuesday, April 13th, stating that Disney will “allow greater flexibility with respect to forms of personal expression surrounding gender-inclusive hairstyles, jewelry, nail styles, and costume choices; and allowing appropriate visible tattoos.”

Disney park employees have been subject to rigid dress and presentation codes since Disneyland first opened in Anaheim, California in the mid-1950s. Reader’s Digest broke down some of the company’s etiquette rulebook last year, highlighting requirements that governed everything from haircuts that conformed to traditional gender roles to rules regarding fingernail length, and piercings. Over the years, as the Orlando Sentinel pointed out, some of those rules have been relaxed: In 1994, female park employees were allowed to put on eye shadow and eyeliner; they were allowed to don sleeveless tops, Capri pants and slingback shoes with open toes in 2010; in 2012, men were allowed to start sporting beards.

These standards were part of Disney’s “Four Keys” — safety, courtesy, show, and efficiency — though as D’Amaro noted, the company recently added a fifth key: Inclusion. “Like The Four Keys before them, The 5 Keys — with Inclusion at the heart — will continue to guide us as we interact with guests, collaborate together, create the next generation of Disney products and experiences, and make critical decisions about the future of our business,” D’Amaro said.

D’Amaro added that the goal of this change was to “have more representation and accountability across our organization.” He said the company wanted to change its dress code rules “to not only remain relevant in today’s workplace, but also enable our cast members to better express their cultures and individuality at work.”

Disney’s decision to rollback some of its presentation rules comes amid other changes to outdated aspects of its theme parks. In January, Disneyland announced that it was changing one of its oldest rides, the “Jungle Cruise,” to remove problematic and racist elements, including depictions of indigenous Africans. And at Magic Kingdom in Orlando, “Splash Mountain” — which was originally based on the notoriously racist 1946 movie Song of the South — is being altered to instead center around Disney’s first film with a black princess, 2009’s The Princess and the Frog.

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