RAF to allow beards for the first time

Image source, PA Media
Image caption,
Prince Harry wore the frockcoat uniform of the Blues and Royals during his wedding

Royal Air Force personnel will be allowed to grow beards under new rules aiming to promote inclusivity.

The hair-raising move, which comes into force on 1 September, will allow serving members to wear "a smart, neatly-trimmed, full set beard".

The RAF has insisted members will still have to maintain "high standards of appearance".

"Scraggly or patchy beards will not be accepted," a Ministry of Defence spokesman said.

The RAF says: "This move will help broaden the recruitment pool, promote inclusivity and help us retain our highly-skilled personnel."

Beards were originally banned in the RAF for historical and practical reasons - hair makes it harder for gas masks and other breathing apparatus to form an airtight seal around a person's face, according to the spokesman.

The new rules, which will cover both regular and reserve personnel, will be confirmed in a routine internal notice.

There are no plans to revise the rules for facial hair in the Army, where only moustaches are allowed.

Under current rules in the Army, beards are permitted for operational reasons, such as covert operations.

Certain appointments and military ranks, such as Pioneer Sergeants, Drum Majors, Pipe Majors, Bugle Majors and Goat Majors are allowed beards.

Navy personnel hoping to grow a beard currently have to get approval from their commanding officer.

They are then allowed a certain amount of time to grow their facial hair, before having to present their beards for inspection, a government spokesperson said.

It's yet to be confirmed whether beard-growing in the RAF will operate in the same way.

All three services allow beards on religious grounds.

Prince Harry was given special permission from the Queen to keep his beard during his wedding as he chose to wear his Army uniform during the ceremony.