Beards and War: Which armies allow beards?

Humans have unfortunately developed a long and storied history in the art of war and beards have been there from day 1. From caveman tribes and ancient Mesopotamia to contemporary armed forces, beards have been involved, sometimes even advantageous, in every conflict. Beard and facial hair regulations in these organizations have varied throughout history, sometimes being mandatory, other times being blacklisted. Here’s a look at facial hair rules, regulations, and exceptions in modern armed forces.

1. USA

The United States Army, Air Force, and Marines prohibit beards citing hygiene and safety. Limited exemptions are made due to religious reasons. Interestingly, mustaches are allowed as long as the hair is well-groomed, “neatly trimmed, tapered, and tidy”. America’s army regulations continue by saying that "no portion of the mustache will cover the upper lip line, extend sideways beyond a vertical line drawn upward from the corners of the mouth...or extend above a parallel line at the lowest portion of the nose."

2. Saudi

One of the best-funded defense forces in the world, the Saudi Arabian Armed Forces (SAAF) allows beards and facial hair as part of the uniform. SAAF soldiers are also allowed to wear mustaches.

3. India

As a general rule, the Indian Army and Indian Air Force does not allow its people to grow beards. Religious Exceptions are made for Muslims and Sikhs and operational exemptions are also allowed.    

4. Russia

Historically, Russian soldiers rocked beards but then Peter the Great completely banned them from the army. Peter also made mustaches a requirement for every soldier excluding officers but the ban on beards in Russian Armed Services endures even today.

 

5. Pakistan

Beards are permitted in the Pakistani Army but a special request form needs to be filled out and approved. Religious and Health reasons (akne, skin allergy) are the most common explanations for growing a beard.

6. United Kingdom

The British Army, Royal Air Force, and Royal Marines all permit their soldiers to grow mustaches and connected side whiskers/side burns. Medical and religious exceptions are considered. Weirdly, The Royal Navy has only allowed beards but never mustache s alone - a beard or mustache  can not be worn without the other and the beard must be full (i.e. cover the whole jawline) and joined to the mustache .

7. Germany

The Bundeswehr allows soldiers to grow a beard if it is short, unobtrusive and well-kept. Facial hair should not impact the use of any equipment like a gas mask. Further, stubble may not be shown; thus if your a German soldier, you better grow it during your furlough! 

8. France

French military personnel are allowed to grow a beard or mustache  only when they are out of uniform. The facial hair has to be "correctly trimmed" and soldiers have to ensure that the beard is compatible with the use of certain equipment.

9. Turkey

Turkish Armed Forces do not allow facial hair. Uniformed personnel have to be clean-shaven at all times.

10. Egypt

Egypt has had a tumultuous, up-and-down past with regards to facial hair regulations in the armed forces. In 1954, the Egyptians banned facial hair in the army and police forces but this rule has been continually challenged in practice and in court

 

11. Canada

Only recently (25 September 2018) did Canada allow the wearing of a beard by junior members. In no case is a beard allowed without a mustache  and only full beards may be worn (not styled ones).

12. South Korea

The South Korean Armed Forces does not allow beards. 

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