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Navy approves beards in uniform for only retired service members

Chief Operations Specialist James Conyne inspects a recruit's shave in the USS Kearsarge barracks at Recruit Training Command (RTC). (Spencer Fling/U.S. Navy)
June 02, 2022

The U.S. Navy will now allow sailors to have beards while in uniform — but only after they’ve retired.

According to a naval administrative message published last week, retired male sailors “are authorized to have facial hair (beard) when wearing Navy uniforms during authorized ceremonial events. Facial hair must be neatly groomed and be in keeping with a professional appearance.”

“Navy uniform policy updates directly support Sailor 2025 objectives to attract and retain the very best Sailors by finding greater flexibility in our policies and practices, including uniforms,” the message stated.

The Navy also announced several updates for women.

“Effective immediately, wearing hosiery with slacks or skirts is optional vice mandatory for female Sailors when wearing pumps or flats footwear.  When hosiery is not worn, shoe liners or no-show socks are required to be worn for hygienic purposes and to avoid abrasions or blisters caused by direct contact and rubbing between the foot and shoe,” the notice stated.

Additionally, the female officer and chief petty officer “summer white uniform belted slacks are re-designated as a basic component of both summer white and service dress white uniforms.  This policy change facilitates use of the same slacks for either uniform.”

The service also re-designated “the beltless dress white slacks worn with the female officer/CPO Service Dress white uniform” as an “optional vice mandatory component for purchase and wear.”

The changes went into effect on May 27.

“Navy Uniform Regulations apply to all Sailors equally, regardless of their rank, grade, ethnicity, position held or community assigned. Any difference between male and female grooming policies recognizes the differences between the genders. Navy uniform policy updates are the result of Fleet feedback, uniform working group discussions, command sponsored requests and direction from Navy leadership,” the NAVADMIN stated.

Last month, Dr. John P. Cordle, a retired Navy captain, argued in a Navy Times op-ed that all male sailors on shore duty should be allowed to have “short, well-trimmed beards.”

Cordle asserted that the Navy could save $5 million and 30,000 “wasted man-hours” each year if it allowed sailors to have beards. The move, he wrote, would also “increase advancement and retention of minority officers and enlisted personnel by 5% to 10%, and improve morale in the fighting forces.”

“There would be no negative consequences to safety or operations by allowing those on shore duty to grow beards while the impact on sea duty is adjudicated,” he wrote. “As one sailor put it, ‘I am an articulate, knowledgeable, proud sailor; having a beard does not define me; it is out of my control. The current policy makes me feel less of a person.’”