The Ministry of Defence softened their approach on body hair (e.g. beards) for specialists. New British Army hair regulations may now attract more skilled cyber-specialists to join up.
2019 Update: The updated version of this article includes information about the Royal Air Force (RAF) allowing personnel to grow beards.
ARMY HAIRCUT RULES: The British Armed Forces is well known for its strict approach towards body hair.
Even so, it appears they have eased some of their regulations and stipulations for some soldiers with long hair and facial beards.
The aim of the new relaxed hair policy is to entice so-called 'cyber warriors' into military recruitment (e.g. for covert operations).
Officially, the guidelines offered by the Royal Navy show that they still outlaw facial hair (at the time of writing).
Their ruling also applies to "designer stubble" and any beards they see as (quote) "taking an excessive amount of time to grow".
The surprise move suggests the Ministry of Defence has softened its tough stance and relaxed their policy for the cyber-warfare division.
A report states they will allow a waiver for certain 'specialist recruits'. In simple terms, they have changed their adherence to general military regulations on appearance and body hair.
Let's look at the details:
There is a valid reason why British army hair rules and regulations are being relaxed. It is to attract the country's experts to enlist for its cyber reserve.
It is not uncommon for hi-tech cyber individuals to exhibit long hair along with, what many see as, an 'unkempt beard'.
This sudden revelation follows a 2015 Air Chief Marshal report. It claimed the MoD had waived military fitness tests for cyber reservists. They cited the leniency to avoid dissuading skilled individuals who were too unfit to meet physical standards.
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There is no doubt that cyber warfare has become an accepted and prominent threat to security. In 2015, the top brass in the UK issued warnings that ISIS cyber-attacks could target hospitals and power stations around the country.
A high ranking politician addressed the seriousness of the situation by stating:
"What if our electricity supply, air-traffic control, or our hospitals were successfully attacked online. The impact could be measured not just in terms of economic damage - but in lives lost".
Thus, the British military is drawing on home-grown talent from the technological private sector to keep pace with cybercriminals.
It appears the new rules will mean making concessions to a long standing tradition in British army haircut regulations.
There is another significance to all of this. It is the recognition and value seen in technical skills towards warfare in the 21st century. Even so, relaxing the rules on body hair in the military is not all plain sailing - and there has been opposition.
One source at a South West military base said the sight of cyber reservists displaying long hair while in uniform angered some soldiers. The approach got a severe blasting as 'disrespectful' by this particular source.
Many people have worked for the MoD on IT projects as consultants - even those with long hair and a beard.
The argument is that if they can set up IT systems for the RAF and Royal Navy, there's no reason why they shouldn't wear their hair and beard the same way as in any other IT function.
The situation may upset some members of the traditional armed forces. Seeing our 'cyber-troops' not conforming to their dress codes disturbs many.
And so, having different dress codes with different uniforms (or plain clothes) could be the solution.
There is one very famous regiment based at Hereford. They allow (and they encourage) 'non-military standard' haircuts and facial hair. It is one of the UK forces which most others look up to and respect in depth.
Let's leave it right there by saying - 'Who Dares Wins'.
Personnel from the Royal Air Force can grow beards from the 1st of September 2019. The new RAF beard policy aims to promote 'inclusivity' allowing serving members to wear (quote) "a smart, neatly-trimmed, full set beard".
The RAF reaffirmed that members still need to maintain "high standards of appearance" and the MOD will not accept "scraggly or patchy beards". The rules apply to regular and reserve personnel.
Reason behind the RAF beard ban?
Historical and practical reasons were behind the original banning of beards by the Royal Air Force. Facial hair made it more difficult to get an airtight seal while wearing a gas mask and other breathing apparatus.
The British Army appear to have no plans to revise their current rules for facial hair. At this point, they only accept moustaches.
Even so, they do allow personnel to grow a beard if they hold certain appointments and military ranks. They include Drum Majors, Pioneer Sergeants, Pipe Majors, Bugle Majors and Goat Majors.
And the Navy?
As the current rules stand, Navy personnel who would like to grow a beard need to get approval from their commanding officer.
If approved, they get a period of time to grow out their facial hair. Once it's grown, they would need to present their beard for an inspection. The RAF did not yet confirm whether their rules on beard-growing will operate the same.
The Queen gave special permission to Prince Harry for sporting a beard at his wedding to Meghan Markle because he chose to wear his Army uniform for the ceremony.
Note: All three services (e.g. Army, Navy, and RAF) allow the wearing of beards when based on religious grounds.
British Army Hair Regulations for Specialist Recruits in United Kingdom