BYU's Beard Ban
What is Brigham Young University's policy on students having facial hair?
The university's policy prohibits male students, faculty, and employees from having a beard. It does allow mustaches if they are trimmed and do not extend past the corners of the mouth.
When did this policy begin?
In July 1969, BYU President Ernest L. Wilkinson[BIO] sent a letter to the parents of students outlining new dress and grooming standards, which included a prohibition on beards. In September, J. Elliot Cameron,[BIO] the dean of students, warned students that they could not register for classes if they had a beard.
Before then, did BYU allow beards?
When did the move away from beards begin?
Starting in the mid-1960s. Wilkinson frowned upon the "grimy" look of "beatniks" and warned that the university would not tolerate students involved with the counterculture of the decade. By 1968, he began to express a desire for male students of BYU to be clean-shaven.
How did students react to the new policy?
It appears that most students accepted the new standard without any problems.
Why did Wilkinson single out beards in BYU's dress and grooming standards?
During the 1960s, beards were counter-culture and often worn by hippies and recreational drug users. By discouraging beards, Wilkinson and his successor, Dallin H. Oaks,[BIO] hoped to encourage a conservative, corporate grooming standard.
Does this prohibition apply to Church employees generally?
Possibly? Full-time male employees of the Church are expected to uphold Church standards, but internal Church employee guides on a beard policy are not publicly available.
Does the Church teach that beards are evil or sinful?
Are Latter-day Saint men generally allowed to have beards?
Yes. There is no general prohibition against beards.
What about for bishops?
There is no official policy requiring bishops or other local leaders to be clean-shaven. However, it is not unusual for higher authorities (such as the Stake President) to encourage new bishops to remain clean-shaven.
In general, how do BYU students feel about this policy?
There is no reliable surveying data on the general attitude toward beards among the BYU student body. Anecdotally, most students seem fine with the policy, though there are mixed opinions. Some have staged protests against the policy.
Is there any indication that BYU may eventually remove the beard rule?
Does BYU grant exceptions to this rule?
Yes. Students may obtain a "beard card" that exempts them from this policy under certain conditions, such as medical needs or religious reasons (e.g., for Muslim men).
Do other universities have dress and grooming standards?
Yes. It is not common in the United States, but a couple of universities do.
Is it legal for universities do this?
- J Quinn
“I don't care about beards... But I do hate that BYU culture seeps into the rest of the church as if it's the "higher law." That's exactly how many BYU grads see themselves, by the way. Or maybe just the ones I know who state that overtly. I'm not just paraphrasing.”
- Brianna W
“This is similar to me to dress standards like shorts or sleeve length. The negative way to put it is policing your body or appearance, but the positive of it is creating safety and cleanliness and the kind of vibe where learning and also faith study happens.”
- Aaron K
“Jesus had a beard, right?”