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Germany

After German 'Hair Force' Jokes, Military Brass In Berlin May Ban Piercings, Tattoos

In the swinging 70s, the long-locked “German Hair Force” was a major source of embarrassment for the country’s military leaders. Forty years later, the German Armed Forces are once again struggling with image issues, this time related to tattoos and pierc

German soldiers in full camouflage (Bundeswehr/Stollberg)
German soldiers in full camouflage (Bundeswehr/Stollberg)


*NEWSBITES

BERLINIn 1971, then Defense Minister Helmut Schmidt declared a war on "mop tops," issuing his ill-fated "hairnet decree" as a way to convince German soldiers to stop growing their hair modishly long. Schmidt assumed soldiers would voluntarily have their hair cut shorter rather than wear a wimpy net.

He thought wrong. Soon the whole world was making fun of the "German Hair Force." Worse still, military doctors reported an upswing in "oily sticky hair and dirty bed linen," and even parasites, because soldiers' manes weren't getting enough air under the helmets and weren't combed often enough.

A year later, Schmidt reversed the decree. Henceforth, soldiers' hair could not be long enough to touch either their shirt collar or their uniform when their head was in an upright position. Nor was hair permitted to cover either eyes or ears.

The rule still applies today. Regulations state that "modish haircuts are allowed as long as they are not out of the ordinary either in color, cut or shape." Punk doos, Mohawks, pony tails and braids are not allowed. Soldiers can wear long sideburns and beards only when on leave.

Toward a ban on body art

These days, however, an even more pressing concern for Germany's top brass are the tattoos and piercings that are popping up on the arms, in the ears – and elsewhere – of their young troops. Already they are a growing source of conflict between soldiers and their superiors. What happens, for example, when a nose ring is judged to be too large because it could catch on a rifle?

So far, the words "tattoo" or "piercings' have yet to appear in any regulations. Germany's current minister of defense, Thomas de Maizière, is hoping to change that. He recently ordered a re-write of the Joint Service Regulations. The new "Dress Code and Outward Appearance of Male and Female Soldiers in the German Federal Armed Forces' will be issued in the summer of 2013. More specific rules relating to visible body ornamentation are likely to appear even sooner.

Read the full story in German by Simone Meyer

Photo - Bundeswehr/Stollberg

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Society

Parenthood And The Pressure Of Always Having To Be Doing Better

As a father myself, I'm now better able to understand the pressures my own dad faced. It's helped me face my own internal demands to constantly be more productive and do better.

Photo of a father with a son on his shoulders

Father and son in the streets of Madrid, Spain

Ignacio Pereyra*

-Essay-

When I was a child — I must have been around eight or so — whenever we headed with my mom and grandma to my aunt's country house in Don Torcuato, outside of Buenos Aires, there was the joy of summer plans. Spending the day outdoors, playing soccer in the field, being in the swimming pool and eating delicious food.

But when I focus on the moment, something like a painful thorn appears in the background: from the back window of the car I see my dad standing on the sidewalk waving us goodbye. Sometimes he would stay at home. “I have to work” was the line he used.

Maybe one of my older siblings would also stay behind with him, but I'm sure there were no children left around because we were all enthusiastic about going to my aunt’s. For a long time in his life, for my old man, those summer days must have been the closest he came to being alone, in silence (which he liked so much) and in calm, considering that he was the father of seven. But I can only see this and say it out loud today.

Over the years, the scene repeated itself: the destination changed — it could be a birthday or a family reunion. The thorn was no longer invisible but began to be uncomfortable as, being older, my interpretation of the events changed. When words were absent, I started to guess what might be happening — and we know how random guessing can be.

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