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Canadian Forces allow beards, face tattoos in updated dress policy

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July 6, 2022
By Talent Canada

HMCS MONTREAL's Naval Boarding Party participates in training drills during Operation REASSURANCE, in the Mediterranean Sea on March 25, 2022. Photo by: Corporal Braden Trudeau, Canadian Armed Forces photo

The Canadian Forces (CAF) will allow members to have beards and face tattoos, among other changes announced as it updates a five-decade old dress policy.

“The bottom line is, the Canadian Forces Dress Instructions are about fifty years old and so the policy as a whole was overdue for revision,” it said in an FAQ it posted. “The appearance of the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) has not kept pace with the Canadian society which it serves.”

Overview of the changes

The old policy prohibited behaviour “such as chewing gum, slouching, placing hands in pickets, smoking or eating on the street and walking hand in hand.”

Now, the CAF is calling for its members to “on all occasions reflect credit on the CAF and the individual.”


Gender-based uniforms

Uniforms are no longer gender-based.

“Both catalogues are open to all members and they may be intermixed. CAF members may choose whichever design best fits, as long as it is worn as per the Dress Instructions. Some restrictions may be imposed in certain circumstances such as on parade.”

Shaving head

Recruits no longer have to shave their head for basic training.

Maximum length of hair

There are no restrictions on length of hair.

“However, long hair must be tied when extending below the top/ridge of the shoulder or that extends below the service dress collar for ceremonial occasion. It must not prevent the proper wear of headdress and must not impede the visibility of the member’s face. Safety and operational requirements shall be met.”

Hair colour

Colouring of hair is now allowed in all orders of dress unless it inhibits an operational duty.

“For example, bright coloured hair may have a negative operational impact during field operations or training. Leaders are invited to discuss with their members to find a simple, suitable accommodation, such as a scarf to cover the hair.”

Beards and facial hair

The wearing of sideburns, beards, moustaches and goatees, or combination of style, is authorized for all members of the CAF from recruitment to release.

There is no maximum or minimum length. Only, they must be kept neatly groomed and symmetrical in style while always complying with safety requirements and operational requirements.

However, the military retains the right to order restrictions of the wearing of facial hair to meet safety and operational requirements.

“This instruction does not supersede Federal or National safety codes or regulations.”

Face tattoos

Tattoos are permitted on the face as long as they conform to regulations. Mainly: “Tattoos that the member knows, or ought to know, are associated with criminal activities (e.g. criminal gangs), tattoos that promote and/or express, on the basis of a prohibited ground of discrimination as defined in the Canadian Human Rights Act (CHRA), the following: hatred, violence, discrimination, or harassment: and tattoos that a CAF member knows, or ought to know, promote and/or express: racism, sexism, misogyny, xenophobia, homophobia, ableism, or sexual explicit material.”


Piercings are allowed, but only on ears.

“The only piercing jewellery authorized are single or single set of stud or single stone earrings (one in each ear) in the earlobe(s) only,” it states. “Piercings are not permitted on the face. Earrings shall not exceed one centimetre square or diameter. Gauges/spacers shall not exceed 2.5 cm in diameter.”

A full list of the changes is available at https://www.canada.ca/en/services/defence/caf/military-identity-system/dress-manual/changes-canadian-forces-dress-instructions.html


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