Yes, you did read that headline correctly. The Royal Air Force has announced it will no longer permit women to wear skirts on parade, in a bid to appear more inclusive.
The ban is reported to have been implemented in light of recent feedback from women who complained that marching in skirts is uncomfortable – although they have been quick to point out that servicewomen can still opt to wear them at all other non-marching times.
An RAF spokesperson told The Sun that the uniform policy is intended to revamp the RAF’s image as a “modern and inclusive employer”.
“We have men who want to live as women, women who want to live as men and personnel who do not identify with any gender,” the source added.
“The view was we need a uniform policy to cut through all of that and say there is one uniform for everyone and that’s that.”
However, not everyone is so enamoured with the wardrobe update, if The Sun is anything to go by, quoting Colonel Richard Kemp, former commander of the British forces in Afghanistan:
“There are obviously too many people in the RAF with too little to do if they have time to agonise over whether or not women should wear skirts in ceremonial uniform,” he reportedly blasted.
It’s not the first time the RAF has reviewed their uniform policy. Up until 16 years ago, female officers weren’t even allowed to wear trousers alongside their male counterparts. In 2001, it was announced that women could reject their skirts for the first time in the force’s history, promoting equality between the sexes. They certainly achieved that goal: designers based the RAF’s new look on the uniform of tunic and trousers worn by male RAF officers at the time.
The change was declared the biggest image shake-up since the air force’s creation in 1918 and was even given an official new name – entitled “Number One Best Blue.”
Only time will tell if this newest uniform change will have an effect on the numbers of women who apply to join the RAF. According to the latest statistics, in 2016 there were 4,680 women employed by the RAF. To put this number in context, that’s just 14% of the total 33,460 work force.