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Canadian soldiers ordered to trim beards and tie back hair in dress code update

The national flag is seen on the shoulder tab of a soldier's battle dress uniform at Canadian Forces Base Trenton, in Trenton, Ont., April 14, 2022. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Christopher Katsarov The national flag is seen on the shoulder tab of a soldier's battle dress uniform at Canadian Forces Base Trenton, in Trenton, Ont., April 14, 2022. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Christopher Katsarov
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Canadian soldiers are being ordered to trim their beards and tie back long hair after restrictions were previously lifted in 2022.

"Hair extending below the lower portion of the shirt collar must be tied back away from the face," an update from the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) states. "Facial hair is to be no more than 2.5 cm (1 inch) in length/bulk for any style."

As part of a bid to be less prohibitive and attract more troops, Canada's military relaxed its dress code in 2022 to allow everything from artificial nails to face tattoos and coloured hair. All styles of facial hair and sideburns were also authorized, including dyed and braided beards, while hair could be any length if it didn't cover the face and was tied back if longer than shoulder-length.

"While the changes have had many positive effects, there has been inconsistent interpretation and application," the Forces said in its update.

Canadian soldiers previously turned heads at a prestigious international military skills competition in April, where several sported business-in-front and party-in-the-back hairstyles as they finished in an impressive second place.

"The Canadians have embraced the mullet," an American member of the gold-winning team told the British Forces Broadcasting Service at the time. "We prefer a nice combed head of hair – clean cut – and that's our secret sauce."

Under the updated rules, hair volume should also not prevent the wearing of headwear or protective gear like helmets, while necessary hair accessories like elastics and bobby pins must either be black or a similar colour to one's hair – whatever colour it may be.

"What got lost in translation is what we, who choose to serve, represent when we wear the CAF uniform," Canadian Armed Forces Chief Warrant Officer Bob McCann said in the announcement. "We do not represent just our individual selves but everyone who wore this uniform and fought before us so that we can enjoy the freedoms and way of life we get to enjoy today."

Canadian Armed Forces members were notified of the changes last week. The new dress code rules come into effect on July 2. Religious and spiritual accommodations are still permitted.

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