Online Exclusive

2014: The Year of the Tactical Beard

Way back about two decades ago… yeah, the early 1990s… you weren’t “tactical” unless you were wearing Royal Robbins pants.  Remember those? The break through clothing item that catapulted 5.11 Tactical into the law enforcement market in a big way?  That was THE item you had to wear if you were going to be (or appear) tactical.

Then it was boots.  If you weren’t wearing Rocky or Bates, nylon uppers over black leather lowers that would polish to a high shine, you simply weren’t tactical.  And heaven forbid you wear one of those other brand names that were about half the cost because then you were simply a “wanna be.”

Then it was the CQB/Rigger’s belt from Blackhawk.  If you had the audacity to still be wearing a leather belt, you simply weren’t in the know.  Obviously, if you were a tactical operator, you had to understand the value of the CQB/Rigger’s belt.  And if you didn’t understand it… or didn’t have one to wear… you only embarrassed yourself if you dared to ask what made that particular belt special.


Well, I could go on, but you get my point.  Every so often there comes into vogue a new “it” item that is required if you’re going to be identified as a “tactical” guy or as an “operator.”  This year, walking around SHOT Show, this item seemed to be… the Tactical Beard.  Several others have made this observation and I had to chuckle when I read or heard it.

Across the past couple of years, the longer we keep troops in Afghanistan and Iraq, the more images we see of front line military operators who, for whatever reason, have beards that are four or more inches long.  At SHOT Show, the number of people I saw walking around with a full beard, nicely grown out and groomed, whether they had any hair on their head or not, seemed much higher than in previous years.

Obviously there are also those who don’t have “the beard.”  Like yours truly, there are plenty who are sporting the “junior beard,” otherwise called a goatee. (Actually, as was pointed out to me by Chuck Buis at ATK/Blackhawk, a goatee is JUST the chin hair.  If you have the goatee AND a moustache, then you have a Van Dyke.)  Then there are those who remain clean shaven – probably because they have such strong features and they don’t want to cover up “their handsome.”

Be that as it may, there is no question that the tactical beard is the current in and cool thing in the operational – or perceived as such – arena.  You CAN be “tacti-cool” without the beard, but it’s definitely an exclusive club and offers up an assumed recognition.  It was interesting at SHOT Show to see the groups of beard guys all hanging out together, almost as if everyone else was somehow without a clue.

So, what I’m wondering is this: What’s next?  Any ideas what the next tacti-cool thing will be?  Pants? A belt? A shirt? Pack? Holster? Knife?  I’m soliciting guesses…