Sixty years ago, if you weren’t going to work in a suit, tie and perfectly clean shaven, then clearly, you were a hippie. In many offices these days, however, especially ones in creative fields, showing up in anything other than jeans, a T-shirt and a five o’clock shadow (if not a beard) would make you the weird one.
But there are still some careers you can get into where the clean-shaven look is common, if not expected. And then there are still more careers where, well, if you show up with anything other than baby-smooth cheeks you’d best start looking for a new career entirely.
The military, obviously, is one of these careers. But another, less obvious job that requires a perfectly shaven face is when you’re a firefighter. “All firefighters are required to be clean shaven by 8 a.m. each morning,” Captain Erik Scott, Public Information Officer for the Los Angeles Fire Department, told me when I reached out to the LAFD to find out why that’s even a thing in the first place. “Beards and goatees are prohibited, but we have specific grooming standards regarding moustaches and sideburns.”
Considering that it’s department policy to be “clean shaven by 8 a.m.” while on the job, it doesn’t take a genius to imagine that those “specific grooming standards for moustaches and sideburns” have got to be pretty rigorous, as well. And, according to the department’s own guidelines, they are:
Sideburns shall be well groomed, neatly trimmed, and shall not extend beyond the inner seal of a properly worn breathing apparatus facepiece. Sideburns shall not extend below a horizontal line level with the bottom point of the ear when the head is erect.
Moustaches shall not cover the upper lip, shall be well groomed, neatly trimmed, and shall not protrude beyond the natural facial “smile” crease, nor extend beyond one half (1/2) of an inch below the corner of the mouth. Extreme styling of moustaches is not permitted.
So why is it that firefighters have such strict grooming standards in the first place? “First off, we are a paramilitary organization,” Captain Scott explained, which might sound like we’re dealing with heavily armed fire-fighting militia dudes, but only refers to how the organization is structured, a la the police department. “Also, we have to maintain a clean shave to ensure a proper face seal for the self-contained breathing apparatus face masks we wear when we go inside a fire.”
And there you have it — unlike your office job, where having a beard couldn’t possibly make the difference between life and death, firefighters need to be clean-shaven so they literally can still breathe while rescuing you from a giant fire.
Coolest job ever.