Permission to shave, sir? No! - Times Online
RAF soldiers have been given permission to grow bushy beards for tours of duty in Afghanistan.
Scottish airmen in Kandahar bear a more than passing resemblance to their wild Pashtun counterparts complete with wavy beards and ferocious moustaches.
In what is believed to be a first for the RAF, several airmen were asked to grow their facial hair because it is considered a mark of authority in Afghanistan. The men, from RAF Lossiemouth, credited their facial hair with enabling them to command respect from the Afghanistan people.
Senior personnel also said that their presence had helped significantly to reduce the number of rocket attacks on Kandahar airfield.
Their success would come as no surprise to the leaders in the American Civil War it is harder to find a picture of a general from the century conflict without a beard than with one. In fact, the beard was once the only universal item in every military organisation across the world.
From the time of ancient armies until recent memory, the beard was standard issue among soldiers. In modern combat, the act of shaving was set aside mainly for gentleman officers, who regularly shaved even their heads and eyebrows.
But by the time of the Second World War, armies had banned beards for reasons of uniformity, hygiene, discipline, or tactical demands such as the proper fitting and seal of a gas mask.
Think of The Thin Red Line and the fearsome bearded Highlanders. It is about time the fighting troops dropped the effete practice of scraping their faces to give themselves girly skin and reclaimed beards from the tree huggers.