More than 80 years after the reign of King George V, his fulsome facial hair remains the hirsute benchmark for some of Australia’s emergency services.
The Queen’s grandfather was the proud owner of a beard-and-moustache combo and his photo still appears in the Australian Federal Police national guidelines as an example of the “clean, tidy and neatly trimmed” versions permissible in the ranks.
“A full beard (King George V style) or goatee-style beards are the approved beard styles,” the guidelines read.
Officers must be cleanly shaven from the lower jaw to the shirt collar and moustaches cannot be wider than the outer edge of each eye or extend beyond the bottom edge of the upper lip.
‘Handlebars’ and ‘horseshoes’ are not permitted.
Victoria Police officers are required to be clean shaven while on duty.
“Beards are not permitted unless you have exemption under religious, cultural or medical grounds,” the online guidelines specify.
“Trimmed moustaches are acceptable as long as they do not extend below the bottom lip.”
In March 2020 several Ambulance Victoria paramedics shaved off their facial hair to ensure COVID-19 face masks could be properly secured.
In Western Australia, state police were directed to remain clean shaven for the duration of the pandemic, to maximise the effectiveness of face masks.
Neat, trim, closely cropped
In Australia’s defence forces, some facial hair regulations date back to the 19th century.
Across the Navy, Air Force and Army, “the length and grooming of hair and facial hair when in uniform is regulated”.
More specifically, in the Navy “beards are to be neat, trim and closely cropped, to a minimum bulk of 4mm and a maximum of 50mm,” according to regulations published recently in Navy News.
Considerations for imposing the length restrictions include risks of hair getting caught or ignited and reducing the effectiveness of protective equipment.
The article outlines the history of facial hair regulations, including that mandatory shaving was scrapped in 1879 when clean water on board ships was a precious commodity in the new-age of steam-powered vessels. Shaving was not considered a priority.
Beard-wearing Warrant Officer Andrew O’Shea says facial hair in the Navy can be a serious investment of time.
“It needs to be brushed and cut well,” he told Navy News.
“I thought it would take less time in the mornings – I was wrong.”