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Is Facial Hair The Next Body Art Battleground?
If you're a member of the New York Police Department or you work at a Disney theme park, the answer is probably "no." If you play for a Major League baseball team, be sure to check. What are we talking about? The right for men to grow and wear a beard or other styles of facial hair.
It come as a surprise to many people that different organizations might ban or allow men to wear facial hair or not, but in some fields this is a hot button topic. In January 2008, the NYPD revised the dress code for officers, and the result was the nearly all forms of facial hair are now banned, barring the mustache. No beards, no goatees, no sculpted or elaborate facial hair of any kind. Starting in 1957, Disneyland banned all facial hair on male employees, a rule that persisted until 2000, when they relaxed the ruling enough and began to permit mustaches only.
I recall my own father coming out to the breakfast table on morning when I was in high school and the beard he'd worn for many years was suddenly gone. My mother, sister and I were all stunned, especially when he said he'd shaved it off as there was a new boss at work and nobody knew yet if he approved of beards or not. I was stunned to find that this can be a standard, off-the-record practice in the corporate world. However, in the last twenty-five years, it's become more and more a specifically noted part of the corporate dress code. And in the last few years, as other styles of body art have moved into the mainstream, it seems as though the regulation of facial hair has become a hotly-debated frontier of men's fashion.
Most of the genuine debate, if there is any, centers around what different people perceive as a "professional appearance." Much as with arguments about nose piercings, or hair styles, facial hair rarely has an actual effect on the physical performance of someone's job. In the food service industry, where cleanliness guidelines are a must, it makes sense for many men to not wear facial hair so that foods are not contaminated, but would the wearing of a beard really have an effect on how a policeman does his job?
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