The British Army is allowing all its soldiers to grow beards for the first time in 100 years.

King Charles III personally weighed in on the decision to permit British soldiers to sport fearsome facial hair, according to a news story from Forces, which falls under the British Ministry of Defence.

“The feedback from His Majesty The King, our allies and partners, the public and our own people all informed the decision which has been made in the interest of SP [Service Personnel],” the British Army announced. 

Under the new grooming standards policy, British soldiers can grow beards up to 25.55 mm long, or roughly 1 inch. Only full beards are allowed – no patchy or uneven growth. Exaggerated colors are also not permissible. All beards must be trimmed off the cheek bones and neck.

Prior to the change, British soldiers could only grow beards if they were in certain billets, such as Pioneer Sergeant and Bugle Major.

The British Army’s decision to allow all soldiers to wear beards came after a monthslong review of personal appearance.

“An extensive audience of Regular officers and soldiers, Reservists, Full-Time Reserve Service staff and veterans have taken the opportunity to provide their views,” an Army spokesperson said. “We have listened to our people and acted.”

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But before any of you impetuous colonists ask your chain of command if you too can rock some serious whiskers, please take heed: The U.S. Army, Marine Corps, Air Force, and Space Force are not currently considering allowing service members to grow beards, service officials told Task & Purpose.

“Navy regulation allows service members to grow authorized beards for religious accommodations or medical conditions,” a service spokesperson told Task & Purpose “At this time, the Navy is not considering the authorization of beards fleet-wide.”

U.S. military officials have long claimed that American service members need to be clean shaven so that they can get a proper seal on oxygen and gas masks – although other NATO countries have found this is not necessarily true.

Although U.S. special operations forces have worn beards while operating in countries such as Afghanistan to abide by cultural norms for men, they were also expected to be shorn of their excess facial hair after their deployments ended.

Military branches have also granted individual exemptions for service members who have requested to grow beards on religious grounds Sailors and Marines suffering from medical conditions worsened by shaving have also been able to receive no -shave chits in recent years.

But overall, the U.S. military has continued to require most service members remain clean-shaven to present a professional and squared-away appearance. To underscore how delicate the issue is within the American military: Members of the Air Force’s 1st Special Operations Wing are required to attend a shaving class before they can request medical waivers for shaving.

In fact, American military leaders are so concerned about service members’ appearance that Army Gen. Mark Milley, then chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, cited the U.S. victory at Iwo Jima in World War II as a reason why Marines needed to continue to get haircuts during the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

“As the son of a Navy corpsman who hit the beach at Iwo Jima with the 4th Marine Division, it took extraordinary discipline to conquer that island with 7,000 Marines killed in 19 and 20 days and put a flag on Suribachi,” Milley said during an April 14, 2020 Pentagon news conference. “That Marine victory was the result of incredible discipline of America’s 911 force and the expeditionary force. It may seem superficial to some, but getting a haircut is part of that discipline.”

It wasn’t always like this. The American Civil War was a golden age for military beards. Some of the Union’s top commanders including Ulysses S. Grant and William Tecumseh Sherman had magnificent facial hair.

During World War II, sailors aboard U.S. Navy submarines were encouraged to grow beards to save water, according to the Naval Historical Foundation, a non-profit group that disbanded in 2022.

In 1970, then-Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Elmo Zumwalt announced that sailors would be able to grow beards, mustaches, and sideburns. But the ban on bristles returned in 1984.

While it is unlikely that the U.S. military will relax grooming standards to permit beards anytime soon, there was once a time when it seemed inconceivable that service members would be able to put their hands into their pockets and avoid reprisals. 

As the Navy recently demonstrated, anything is possible.

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