The U.S. Navy has recently rolled back restrictions on hairstyles for female service members, which has led to a grassroots movement among men regarding their facial hair.
According to The Associated Press, the Navy announced in a recent Facebook Live video that it would be repealing bans on female hairstyles including certain buns, ponytails and locks. The move was in response to complaints from some recruits, especially minorities, who felt the branch’s restrictions did not properly address all hair types.
Comments among several sailors in response to that video led to a social media campaign that has attracted the attention of major news and military publications.
Proponents of the #WeWantOurBeards campaign have expressed a variety of reasons they support loosening restrictions that have been in place for more than three decades.
As TheBlaze reported, men in the Navy are permitted to wear neatly trimmed mustaches, but beards are generally prohibited. A commanding officer does have the authority to issue a waiver for special circumstances, such as religion.
Beards were initially banned in 1984, according to the AP, because they could potentially hinder sailors’ use of certain masks they might need to wear. Those who support the fledgling movement, however, argue that properly trimmed beards are compatible with the current generation of respirators and other equipment.
A petition grew from the frustrations of a few Facebook comments and advocates for a Navy rule change allowing “professional and regulated beards” among those serving in the branch.
As of Tuesday morning, the online petition had received signatures from more than 7,500 supporters.
The author, identified as Trevor Amos, argued that times have changed and giving young men today the option of joining the Navy with a beard would open recruiters up to a new pool.
“Since 2004 the search term ‘how to grow a beard’ has grown exponentially while searches for ‘US Navy enlistment’ have gone from low to microscopic in Google,” he wrote.
While the Navy will never offer the perks millennials might expect in the private sector, Amos wrote that the service does provide benefits including health care and travel. Allowing beards, he wrote, might help seal the deal for some young men considering enlistment.
“So why is it still so hard to recruit in this day and age?” he wrote. “Part of the answer lies in the bare chins of boatswain mates around the world.”
Amos also made the argument that sailors have sported beards, such as Joshua James, a legendary captain with the United States Lifesaving Service, a forerunner of the modern Coast Guard.
“There has been a long tradition of sailors wearing beards,” he wrote. “Every time I pass a portrait of Joshua James I am reminded of that fact. Woe unto anyone who calls Joshua James unprofessional for having a beard.”
He mentioned several other historic sailors, concluding that the beard ban “stopped over 200 years of tradition.”
Despite the online outcry, there seems to be little evidence at this time that the Navy is seriously considering lifting its ban. According to the AP, a spokesman cited a 2016 study that bolstered earlier reports suggesting beards can affect the fit and function of some respirators.
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