Members of the Canadian Armed Forces will get a new look in September after the Department of Defense announced an updated dress code for the first time in 50 years on Tuesday.
Beginning in early September, CAF members may dye or grow out their hair, wear non-costume jewelry like rings and necklaces, and display facial tattoos.
Men’s and women’s uniforms are also being offered to all genders and can be intermixed, so soldiers can wear what suits them best.
Other changes include allowing CAF members to have long fingernails, eyelash extensions, earrings, sunglasses and wear backpacks over one shoulder.
Officials say the new dress code must not interfere with a soldier’s day-to-day operational duties, so long hair, for instance, must be tied back or covered with a headscarf.
Behaviour expectations were also more lenient, removing a provision that forbade a soldier from “chewing gum, slouching, placing hands in pockets, smoking or eating on the street and walking hand in hand.”
However, it is a soldier’s responsibility to present themselves professionally while in uniform.
General Wayne Eyre, Canada’s chief of defence, said uniformity has traditionally been used as a form of discipline.
“But uniformity does not equal discipline or operational effectiveness any more than the colour or length of your hair defines your commitment or professional competence,” said Eyre in a video posted on social media.
Eyre said the CAF will balance its traditions with service needs and society’s expectations while addressing the “inherent stress created by rapid generational change.”
More changes can also be expected within the coming months, he said.
“What we will not change is our need to be a disciplined and operationally effective force,” said Erye.
“The Canadian Armed Forces is based on solid ethical principles and values of mutual respect. Our appearance in uniform, just like our standards, shall always be positive and professional at all times.”