Canadian Armed Forces updating dress code

It will soon be acceptable to have long hair, face tattoos, and beards in the CAF. As Mark Neufeld reports, the decision to was made to keep the military in step with the culture and society it protects.

By Mark Neufeld

The Canadian Armed Forces is updating its dress code to be more inclusive and keep pace with the society it serves. Service members and applicants will now be allowed to wear longer hairstyles, have facial hair and face tattoos among other changes.

The Government of Canada says the decision to update the Canadian Forces Dress Instructions was not made lightly. In a recent statement, they say that the Canadian Forces Dress code is about fifty years old, and the policy as a whole was overdue for revision.

“We need to change with society. We’re a direct reflection of the people that we serve, and we need to be more inclusive and change if we want to stay relevant with Canadian society,” explained Todd Appel, 38th Brigade Sgt. Major.

“There’s been minor changes made throughout the years, but this is a more significant change.”

Appel says there are a still few months for service members to adjust and understand the changes, as they don’t go into effect until September.

The updates to the dress code are varied: Doing away with specific gender-based uniforms. Going forward, male or female uniform patterns are open to all members and they may be intermixed.

Recruits will no longer have their heads shaved for basic training, and there are no longer restrictions on hair length or hair colour. Long fingernails are allowed as long as they do not impede the performance of duties.

“It’s all about being inclusive and respectful and allowing people to have their own identity within the organization,” added Appel.

Face tattoos are now also permitted as long as they don’t promote hate, violence, or gang activity.

Tattoo artist Jesse Watson thinks it’s the right move by the CAF to relax rules around tattoos. He says society is evolving its understanding around inclusivity and it only makes sense the armed forces would be a part of that evolution.

“I’m so thankful that our armed forces are allowing people to get neck tattoos, face tattoos, and allowing them to express themselves,” said Watson.

Since the dress code changes were announced publicly there have been mixed reviews. Online comments range, some calling the changes disgusting, while others applaud the move.

Appel says increasing recruitment was not a motivating factor for the changes, but they may have a positive effect on encouraging more people to enlist.

“It definitely could be a bonus.”

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