Military sticklers for clean shaves and proponents of stingy no-shave chit distribution now have a surplus of ammunition to support their respective stances after guidance issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advised on acceptable forms of facial hair as a means of maximizing face mask utility.
Extensive facial hair growth can inhibit the protective functions of face respirators, the CDC advised in a 2017 infographic that resurfaced this week. Such devices have been employed throughout the world, along with surgical masks, in response to the stark increase of the number of cases of the virus officially named COVID-19.
It should be noted, however, that the CDC recommends only those who exhibit symptoms of coronavirus should wear a mask or respirator.
“No one cared who I was 'til I put on the mask.” - Bane
To date, more than 80,000 people worldwide have been diagnosed with the virus, which is presumed to be spread through coughs and sneezes between individuals within six feet of one another.
Addressing facial hair, the current belief is that any style other than a clean shaven appearance, select mustachioed variations, or, worst of all, a soul patch can interrupt the protective seal and allow harmful particles in and out of a respirator or surgical mask.
For military beard enthusiasts, this reasoning has a familiar ring to it. For decades, officials have eschewed facial hair options in favor of preserving one’s ability to create a perfect seal using a military-issued gas mask.
According to the infographic, a limited number of styles — with names like “The Villain” and “Anchor” — are permissible as long as the hair does not break the seal of the mask.
Aside from military personnel, the CDC guidance will undoubtedly come as unwelcome news to the small-but-loud community of “I would have joined, but—” make-believe operators, who, scientists have confirmed, rely on the appearance of hard-charging beards to disguise their deep-seated insecurities.
Coronavirus is spreading — all the tactical vetbro vests, spartan shields, and military-style patches in the world can’t protect you from natural selection.
Save us, Robert Neville.
Jon Simkins is a writer and editor for Military Times, and a USMC veteran.