Can you have a beard in the Navy? The answer to this question used to be simple- no facial hair for our protectors of the seas. But now, the answer to this question isn’t quite so simple. As the wheel of change has affected different parts of the Navy, a closer look is being taken at decades-old rules and regulations that may not be quite so necessary anymore.
The event that kicked off this conversation was an update to hair regulations for women. As of this month, women in the Navy are allowed to wear ponytails, braids, or wider buns when in uniform. In a speedy response, the hashtag #WeWantBeards flooded Twitter, with men asking the Navy to change the tight regulations placed on them as well.
Before 1984, beards actually were allowed in the Navy. The necessity of a breathing apparatus usage led to them being banned, a cause similarly cited by the Army.
While to some this issue may seem trivial, too many it is not. One member of the National Guard took the time to write out his informal resignation in an open letter to the Pentagon, stating that the inflexibility when it comes to allowing servicemen to have tidy, well-kept beards was a key factor in his decision. He argues that allowing beards will lead to more servicemen staying in, which would actually save money, as retaining service members is less expensive than training new members. Additionally, it’s his belief that changing this inflexible standard could bolster the declining interest in enlistment across all of the armed forces.
Last fall, the Army considered a similar move, but only briefly. In a heartbreakingly short period of time, they ruled against allowing beards, citing safety concerns, but did admit to allowing approximately 1.1 million Soldiers to have beards to accommodate their religious beliefs or harmful skin conditions that don’t allow for daily shaving. However, these men could be ordered to shave if the situation called for it.
Navy Seals enjoy a sort of gray area when it comes to allowing beards. These relaxed grooming standards are meant to facilitate blending into certain cultural environments. They’ve earned this bit of leeway- Navy Seals’ Beards are renowned for their epicness.
For now, the Navy hasn’t responded to its men calling for the Right to Beard. Only time will tell, but we can’t wait to find out.