The airman’s beard

Permitting beards, regulating lengths

Other than tradition, there is no good reason for a the Indian Air Force to impose a blanket ban on beards. Sikh officers in all three armed services and the police force are allowed to wear beards and turbans. Beard-keeping is a tradition in the Indian Navy, and naval officers are allowed to keep beards regardless of their religious persuasion. Now, if operational reasons demand it—say, it gets in the way—it makes sense to ask the concerned officers to trim or shave their beards off.

Just like the armed forces have a sensible policy on haircuts, uniform and other aspects of turnout, they could have the same for beards, mustaches, sideburns and eyebrows. It need not involve religion at all, as long as it involves common sense.

The airmen who are fighting to keep their beards on their jobs might be motivated by religion. But the decision to allow them to keep them need not.

3 thoughts on “The airman’s beard”

  1. Most armed forces around the world discourage (or outright ban) beards. Sitting away from the action with no knowledge about the history and traditions of these forces, and pontificating to them about allowing ppl to grow beards when there are more serious things to worry about is both hilarious and absurd.

    There are a couple of reasons that I can think of to ban beards:

    1. Fitting of the oxygen masks in the aircraft – a clean shave is always better fitting, a critical aspect when you’re hurtling and twisting at supersonic speeds.
    2. Discipline and decorum – an impt aspect of all armed forces, hence the almost universal rule about beards, and even mushes.

    Incidentally, even in the Navy, one needs the Captains permission to grow a beard, and even that, is subject to his approval about its appearance and maintenance.

    So stop nitpicking and let the forces concentrate on more important things.

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