#WeWantBeards: Sailors asking the US Navy to lift its ban on facial hair

#WeWantBeards: Sailors asking the US Navy to lift its ban on facial hair
There's an online campaign aimed at persuading the US Navy to once again allow sailors to grow beards. (Image source: YouTube screencap)

A new campaign has emerged on social media following the Navy’s decision last week to loosen the rules on grooming for female sailors. Now, servicemen are joining in a public plea for the Navy to scrap its ban on beards.

Is this really a movement?

Looks like it. The Associate Press reports that a sailor’s social media post with the hashtag #WeWantBeards was shared thousand of times, giving the rallying cry attention by the likes of the Navy Times and Navy Advancement Career NPC & Bupers News via Facebook.

An online petition was also launched, calling for “professional and regulated beards for the US Navy.” The author of the petition, Trevor Amos, argues that sailors have a “strong tradition” of donning beards, and that lifting the Navy’s ban would cause “recruiting numbers to skyrocket.”

The Navy banned beards in the 1980’s not only in an effort to promote a professional look among sailors, but because facial hair can interfere with the proper fitting of equipment like respirators and masks.

Mustaches are currently allowed by the Navy (under certain specifications), and shaving waivers are granted for religious or other reasons if authorized by a sailor’s commanding officer.

Will the Navy bend on the no-beard rule?

While it’s unlikely the Navy will begin allowing handlebar mustaches or any flashy styles, there’s a chance they might look at the #WeWantBeards campaign’s request and arguments — considering the rules for women’s grooming were eased in spite of past safety concerns.

The Navy listened to female sailors’ feedback and allowed previously-banned lock hairstyles and wider buns to be worn, after learning that standard grooming rules meant helmets and other gear didn’t always fit properly and caused discomfort for some.

Making a similar argument on behalf of men, naval information systems technician Bill Williams commented in response to a Facebook live video promoting the #WeWantBeards movement: “It’d be really great because I know that when I shave for multiple days in a row, it starts to really hurt.”

One supporter of Amos’ petition commented that “beards can be maintained without hindering gas mask seals.”

While also making an impassioned case that some of the Navy’s greatest sailors had beards and that they can be groomed in a professional way, Amos made the case the lifting the ban would be a way to draw more millennials to serve — much in the same way the military saw more recruits after easing their tattoo policies.

“Why is it still so hard to recruit in this day and age?,” he asks, and then gives his own explanation: “Part of the answer lies in the bare chins of boatswain mates around the world.”