The Canadian National Defence announced Wednesday that its military personnel will now be able to sport facial hair in uniform as long as beard length doesn’t cross the line into skinny jean-wearing, craft beer-conversing, Bon Iver-listening territory.
“Have you had this new IPA? It’s a dandelion medley blend. Good for new beginnings.”
Canada’s top military commander issued the new facial foliage order, along with updated grooming instructions and circumstantial exceptions, as a recruiting effort to make joining the Canadian Armed Forces a more appealing option for the general public, CBC reported.
Beards must remain neatly groomed and “shall not exceed two centimetres in bulk,” the announcement said. Additionally, areas of the neck and cheekbones must continue to be clean-shaven.
A culmination of years of requests by service members to ease restrictions, the new policy “recognizes that greater control over personal appearance enhances organizational morale and our ability to attract a wider range of Canadians,” Chief Warrant Officer Alain Guimond said.
Religious exceptions for growing a beard have existed for some time within the Canadian armed forces, a policy also adopted by the United States for Sikh soldiers in a 2017 Army directive after years of requests (and a lawsuit).
In April, a soldier from the 795th Military Police Battalion was granted authorization to grow a beard after he appealed to that 2017 directive, claiming it applied to all religions, including the soldier’s Norse pagan faith.
“I grant your accommodation, subject to the standards and limitations described below,” commander Col. Curtis Shroeder wrote to the 795th Military Police Battalion soldier. “In observance of your Heathen; Norse Pagan faith, you may wear a beard, in accordance with Army uniform and grooming standards for soldiers with approved religious accommodations.”
The Canadian National Defence’s Sept. 26 announcement placed heavy emphasis on maintaining a clean appearance, meaning our neighbors to the north will not tolerate hipster lumberjack or “do you even operate, bro?” beards.
“We did a lot of working groups and consultations,” Guimond said. “We need to keep an appearance for the Canadian public so we are all the same and clean. So, those beards absolutely need to be trimmed.”
Canada’s Navy, meanwhile, will continue maintaining its own facial hair policy, one that allows sailors to grow beards while in port but requires clean-shaven faces once at sea.
That policy was instituted in the early 2000s, when Canada’s navy determined that certain emergency equipment onboard ship, such as respirators or gas masks, were easier to wear and use without any chin curtains getting in the way.
J.D. Simkins is a writer and editor for Military Times, and a USMC veteran.