Sergeant Dan Ling with bear

Could The Army Lift Its Ban On Beards?

Sergeant Dan Ling with bear

Pioneer Sergeant is the only position in the Army allowed to have a beard on parade (Picture: Crown Copyright).

The Army's policy on dress regulations, including facial hair, is "routinely" reviewed, according to an officer.

Lieutenant Colonel Rachel Emmerson was responding to a letter in Soldier magazine, which suggested the service's policy could change at some point, amid concerns it is putting people off from joining the service.

It is protocol to be clean-shaven when dressing in Army uniform unless the permission of the commanding officer is obtained.

Otherwise, there are only a few exceptions in the Army which allow for servicemen to have a beard, such as skin complaints or for religious reasons.

What is a Pioneer Sergeant?

The review on policy has come to light in a letter to the Soldier magazine.

Captain Dave Somerville, a Royal Engineers officer wrote in saying he had been at recent recruitment event and was struck by how many potential soldiers were sporting facial hair and how many were put off joining up because they can't have a beard. He wrote:

"I have 38 years of full-time service under my belt so I've seen more than my fair share of changes, but one constant seems to be the attitude we have to facial hair.

"I still can't understand why we are so against it as an organisation."

Prince Harry beard
The Queen gave the Duke of Sussex special permission to have facial hair while wearing his Army uniform at his wedding (Picture: PA).

Captain Somerville suggested that the argument that the seal between a respirator and a soldier's skin could be compromised by hair growth, was no longer valid as the Army is becoming increasingly diversified.

"I have heard the respirator excuse trotted out many times, but frankly that really doesn’t make sense," he said.

"Rightly we allow certain individuals to have beards for religious reasons and they are as likely to require the use of that piece of kit as any of us.

"The most annoying reason though is tradition, just like the one where we wore red tunics and advanced slowly towards the enemy."

Royal Navy beards
Navy personnel must request the permission of their Commanding Officer before growing a beard.

In response, Lt Col Rachel Emmerson, from the Employment Branch of Army Manning told the Telegraph she accepted that beards are seen more often these days as more members of religious minorities are joining the armed forces.

Lt Col Emmerson said: "We must also ensure the army attracts as many potential applicants as possible while maintaining the right appearance policies to protect the culture and ethos from which we derive our operational effectiveness.

"As such we routinely review such regulations including those relating to facial hair.

"Facial hair must be modified if required to ensure protective equipment does its job."

In a London barbershop, some people said "recruitment would be higher" if the Army allowed people to have beards:

A YouGov poll in 2017 found among 18 to 39-year-olds more than 60% had facial hair of some kind.

This year, the Queen gave Prince Harry special permission to have facial hair while wearing his Army uniform at his wedding.

Related topics

Join Our Newsletter


Amazing view from RAF Voyager supporting Typhoons from XI Squadron

Gurkha recruits face chemical attack test in most arduous training to date

Veterans wear long-awaited Nuclear Test Medals in public for first time