Army could overturn beard ban to attract more recruits

Soldiers are currently expected to be clean-shaven like these officer cadets at Sandhurst
Soldiers are currently expected to be clean-shaven like these officer cadets at Sandhurst - EDDIE MULHOLLAND FOR THE TELEGRAPH

The British Army is considering overturning a 100-year-old beard ban to attract more recruits.

Although the RAF and Royal Navy have already permitted full set beards, the Army has yet to relent on its stance.

Current rules state that beards can only be grown with the commanding officer’s authorisation.

Exceptions are usually only granted on medical or religious grounds, or where tradition permits.

A decision on beards being allowed at the individual’s discretion could be made as soon as this month, if it is debated at the executive committee of the Army Board next week, The Sun reported.

The newspaper added that an insider said the “ban on beards” would need to be reconsidered if it was putting people off joining the military.

A defence source insisted it was “not unusual” for the Army’s stance on beards to be discussed as the force keeps dress and appearance “under constant review”.

They added that men were generally expected to be clean-shaven.

British Army soldiers may in future be able to grow a beard which is allowed for service personnel in the RAF and Royal Navy
British Army soldiers may in future be able to grow a beard which is allowed for service personnel in the RAF and Royal Navy - SGT JONATHAN LEE VAN ZYL/UK Mini/PA

In an open letter in 2018, an officer in the Royal Engineers warned that young fashion-conscious men might be put off joining.

“We are an organisation that needs to recruit and putting up artificial barriers because of an inability to change isn’t what we are about,” he wrote in Soldier magazine.

“While attending a recent recruiting event I couldn’t help but notice that a large percentage of the potential soldiers were sporting facial hair. It made me wonder how many of them were put off joining up because they can’t have a beard.”

As of Sept 1 2019, the RAF allowed personnel to grow a beard. However, they specified that a “hipster” beard was off limits and that the maximum acceptable length of a beard was grade 8 (25.5mm).

The following year the Royal Navy changed its rules to allow Rastafarians to keep their long hair and beards.

An Army spokesman said: “There has been no change in Army policy regarding beards, which can only be grown with the commanding officer’s authority. Exceptions are usually only granted on medical or religious grounds, or where tradition permits. However, dress and appearance policy is under constant review.”

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