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British Army lifts century-old beard ban

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After years of discussions, the British Army has lifted its more than 100-year-old ban on beards, it said in a statement obtained by POLITICO.

The change comes after the army conducted a months-long review of its policy on personal appearance, which had previously only allowed for a mustache. King Charles III, British politicians and allies of the United Kingdom were all consulted in the decision, Sgt. Maj. Paul Carney said in a video sent to troops and made available to the media.

“There was an overwhelming majority who felt that the army ought to change its policy and allow soldiers to wear beards,” Carney said. “We’ve listened and we’ve taken action.”

Officers and soldiers will be allowed to grow beards — but they must maintain a professional appearance and adhere to specific guidance on what their beards can look like, Carney said. The policy went into effect on Friday to allow those on Easter vacation to immediately start growing out their facial hair.

Those going unshaven should expect to have their appearance reviewed to ensure that beards are in line with army regulations. On occasion, beards will still have to come off if the operational situation demands it.

Grant Shapps, who is U.K. secretary of defense, is among the proponents of the new measure. He told the Times last year that banning beards in the army was “ridiculous” and called on the institution to “modernize.”

With the change, Britain joins the armies of Denmark, Germany and Belgium, which already allow their troops to grow beards, the BBC reported.

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