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Canada’s cadets rock mullets at annual military competition

Canadian Armed Forces officer cadets were business in the front and party in the back at an annual military skills competition in the U.S.

“The Canadians have embraced the mullet,” an American cadet from the gold-winning team told the British Forces Broadcasting Service. “We prefer a nice combed head of hair – clean cut – and that’s our secret sauce.”

An April 30 video posted on the broadcasting service’s Forces News Facebook page shows a handful of uniformed Canadians rocking the retro hairstyle, with long locks in the back and hair trimmed shorter on the front, top and sides.

Two Canadian teams participated in the 57th annual Sandhurst Military Skills Competition at the United States Military Academy at West Point, N.Y., representing the Royal Military College of Canada in Kingston, Ont., and the Royal Military College Saint-Jean in Quebec.

Placing an impressive second and fifth respectively, they competed against 46 teams from 14 other countries on April 26 and 27. The gruelling two-day competition tests officer cadets’ military skills, physical endurance and teamwork, and includes events like rifle marksmanship, swimming in full combat gear, performing combat first aid and navigating 43 kilometres of difficult terrain. Canadians have placed first four times since 2006.

“The Canadian team this year also seem to be powered by mullets, not a tactic adopted by the Americans,” a Forces News correspondent said in her coverage of the event. “Canada thought they and their mullets had done enough, but in the end it was [the United States Military Academy’s black team] who brought it home.”

Mullet Mayhem! 💈 The Canadian team brought their own sense of style to the Sandhurst Military Skills Competition at…

Posted by Forces News on Tuesday, April 30, 2024

As part of a bid to attract more troops and diversify its ranks, the Canadian Armed Forces relaxed its dress code in 2022 to allow everything from artificial nails to face tattoos and coloured hair. The changes also mean recruits no longer have to shave their heads for basic training, while hair can be any length as long as it doesn’t cover the face and is tied back if longer than shoulder-length.

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“We’ve heard from our members that the existing dress instructions were not inclusive, and did not allow our members to represent their authentic selves while in uniform,” Maj.-Gen. Lise Bourgon said at the time the dress code changes were announced. “Professional skills and competence are not defined by the length or the colour of your hair.”

With Canada’s second-place finish in this challenging competition, Bourgon appears to be right.

The U.S. army, by contrast, requires men to have completely shaved or closely trimmed hair. Only natural hair dyes are permitted, although women are allowed to tie back long hair. The U.S. army also only permits beards for religious reasons, while Canada allows neatly groomed sideburns, beards, moustaches and goatees of any length.

In an April 29 news release, the Canadian teams’ commanders congratulated them for their performance – without a single mention of their winning style in a field of clean-cut competitors.

“The performance of the teams from RMC and RMC Saint-Jean at this international competition attests to the quality of the military training provided at the Canadian Military Colleges,” Canadian Defence Academy commander Maj.-Gen Denis O’Reilly said. “The lessons learned will help them throughout their careers as future leaders and show them as an inspiration to the rest of the military community.”

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