Only One Rank In The British Army Is Allowed To Have A Beard On Parade

The British Army, one of the proudest parts of our nation. And when on parade, they are the pinnacle of discipline.

Usually, their hair is short back and sides in style, their uniform immaculate, and their faces are clean shaven.

That is unless you hold the rank of Pioneer Sergeant. Then, and only then, are you allowed to show off your beard on parade.

This rank has existed since the 1700s and saw one man, the 'pioneer', march in front of the regiment.

Back then, he would wear a 'stout' apron to protect his uniform, and would carry on axe to clear the path for anyone following behind - according to the Forces Network.

Credit: Forces Network

The pioneer sergeant would also be responsible for killing horses wounded in battle - often involving having to cut one of its legs off so the rider could receive a new animal. This was also done to prevent the horse being sold on (and to avoid this further, each horse had a number branded on its hoof).

Pioneers were, traditionally, the largest, strongest and most imposing members of the army, and carried tools such as swords, pickaxe's, billhooks and shovels.

However, none of the above indicates as to why a beard may be necessary for the role. As well as being the forefront of the army, the Pioneer was also the blacksmith, and thus was allowed a beard to help protect his face from the soaring heat of the forge.

In more modern times, the pioneer sergeant is responsible for woodwork, but will still wear the traditional aprons and axes.

Credit: PA

Although a beard is a formal allowance in that rank, other ranks are allowed to grow beards for certain reasons, including: skin medical - for example, temporary skin irritation; or religious reasons - for example, Sikhism prohibits cutting your hair.

Elsewhere, the Navy allows beards but not moustaches, which, strangely, are accepted in the RAF, Army and Royal Marines - albeit not extending below the edge of the mouth.

Navy personnel must seek permission to grow their beard, and when they do, are expected to keep them for at least six months.


As for the other hair on your head - your barnet - according to, males must have the 'top of the head... neatly groomed' and 'the length and bulk of the hair must not be excessive or present a ragged, unkempt or extreme appearance'. The hair must also not fall over the eyes or ears.

For females, a similar rule applies, with 'trendy styles that result in shaved portions of the scalp or designs cut into the hair' being prohibited.

Featured Image Credit: PA

Michael Minay

Mike Minay is a trending journalist at LADbible. He’s co-ordinated interviews with some of the big names from the world of news and sport including ITV’s Robert Peston, Sky Sports’ Jeff Stelling and darts champion Michael van Gerwen. His reporting days began on University radio in Birmingham, before moving to BBC Sport Online – creating content for large events such as Wimbledon and the FA Cup final. Mike still commentates on Football League matches at the weekend. A Manchester LAD at heart.

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