For the third time in a little over a month, I’m here to regale you with a tale of beard disdain and discrimination in the workplace, and yet as many times as I see these types of headlines pop up, I still get a stirring in my beard that urges me to continue to share these stories. We may never live in a world that fully accepts our facial hair, and we may have to suffer through dress code policies and Dollar Shave Club commercials that urge us to cut off our facial displays of manliness. But I carry the hope that one day my children, or my children’s children, may work in a Publix, or for UPS, or even for the Gloucestershire Constabulary in the UK, and wear their beards freely and proudly.
BBC News reported this week that Gloucestershire Constabulary’s new dress code is about to change, and Chief Constable Suzette Davenport is setting her sights directly on eradicating beards. The fact that officers in both the Metropolitan Police as well as the more rural Gloucestershire Constabulary are allowed facial hair might be surprising to American readers, since it is contrary to our traditional understanding of law enforcement dress codes here in the US where generally, police officers are not allowed facial hair below the lip. But while the Gloucestershire Constabulary was once in favor of facial hair freedom, the police chiefs are now working to squash those allowances and prohibit beards and ruin everything. Well, it was fun while it lasted.
But this is where things get interesting. The police chiefs aren’t ordering their officers to come to work completely shaven, or else risk termination. Instead, they’re open to letting their officers keep their beard if they so desire, as long as they are willing to wear a beard net on duty.
I’m sorry, are these guys serving string beans and cold pizza to seventh graders in the cafeteria? Are they cooking me a rack of lamb and mashed potatoes for dinner?
The issue of safety is certainly one that should be taken into account, as a long beard can be grabbed during a brawl and used in a weaponized manner against the wearer. But as Steve White, chair of the Police Federation of England and Wales points out in BBC News’ report, “People just need to be sensible. Long hair such as wild beards can be an issue as they can be grabbed, that’s why it’s important to keep long hair tied back on patrol. But a beard net? Chief constables shouldn’t be looking at such draconian measures.”
A beard net doesn’t seem to be a practical solution to the safety concerns, though, as it wouldn’t actually stop someone from doing harm to the wearer by inflicting pain, injury, and potential scarring.
And that’s just the emotional damage I’m talking about. Can you imagine the insults that are going to be hurled at these guys?
“Red Lobster called, they want their beard net back.”
It’s going to be hard to make collars when your vision is impeded by your own tears.
While the Gloucestershire Constabulary is currently undergoing the battle for the beard, the Metropolitan Police state that at the present time, they do not have any facial hair restrictions, but that officers without facial hair must be completely shaven. Which implies that in the UK, there is some bizarre netherworld that lies between having facial hair and not having facial hair.