Disney Co. loosens employee dress policy

— Mickey Mouse can now sport cornrows, and Minnie can wear hoop earrings.

The Walt Disney Co. is loosening grooming rules for workers at its theme parks, another shift from the squeaky-clean standards set by the company's founder decades ago.

Under a new policy adopted last month, male park workers for the first time can wear braids provided they are above the collar, neatly tied close to the scalp and in straight rows. Female workers have been able to braid their hair for years.

"It is really becoming a mainstream look," said Melissa Valiquette, manager of Costuming, Cast Image and Appearance at Walt Disney World.

Men will also be allowed to wear different styles of shirts, while women can wear more revealing footwear and less conservative earrings. (Hosiery is still a must.)

The changes were based on comments from workers and focus groups involving at least 60 Disney visitors who were shown photos of different clothing and hair styles and asked if they had objections to park workers wearing them.

"Walt was a staunch conservative when it came to appearances but he was definitely a person who believed in changing with the times," Valiquette said.

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