The Walt Disney corporation has traditionally banned facial
hair - until now. Disney originally imposed its ban in 1957,
despite the fact that its founder, Walt Disney, always wore
a mustache. The ban was introduced by Disney as part of a campaign
to differentiate his theme park from sleazy, carnival-like competitors
that sprang up in America in the post-war years. All male workers
at Disney theme parks in the USA and France have had to abide
by the company's fresh-faced, short-haired code.
Now, after 43 years, Disney has decided to allow employees
at its theme parks to grow mustaches. The company's decision
has been forced by a shortage of suitable workers in a tight
US labor market. However, beards will still be banned.
The partial lifting of the ban was welcomed by Disney employees,
who have been exasperated by what they regard as double standards
in enforcement of the rules. Apart from Disney himself having
a mustache, the clean-shaven regulation was not applied to those
on the creative side of the company or to senior executives.
The Disney theme parks have been struggling to fill job vacancies
and the labor pool in Florida is particularly dependent on the
Latin-American community, which has a well known fondness for
beards and mustaches. The ban on facial hair has claimed some
awkward scalps. In 1990 the first officer and several other
mustachioed crew members aboard the retired liner Queen Mary,
which was owned by Disney, were sacked for refusing to shave.
Soon afterwards there was dismay among crew members and embarrassment
among officials when a Harrods boutique was opened on the ship
by the bearded British Royal family member Prince Michael of
This rule has been the focus of considerable anger and frustration
from ethnic and religious communities. For Sikhs, it is unacceptable
to cut any hair. Policies that require clean shaving or short
hair cuts effectively ban Sikh's from such a job. Shaving requirements
can also sometimes affect members of the African-Amercian community.
African-Americans are susceptible to pseudofolliculitis barbae.
This is a condition where close shaving of the scalp or beard
leads to numerous ingrowing hairs leading to extensive inflammation
and skin scarring. The only practical remedy is not to shave or
have close cropped hair. Work policies requiring a clean shaven
appearance can prohibit some job candidates if they have pseudofolliculitis
Similar rules about shaving apply in many other organizations.
However, some show flexibility to those with religious or medical
reasons for not shaving. For example, the British army has a policy
of clean shaving and short hair cuts, but since the formation
of Indian Sikh battalions during the second world war, an exception
has been made for religious reasons.