After nearly 60 years, beards are back at Disney

Disney characters the "Seven Dwarfs" walk along Main Street during a parade at Disneyland in Anaheim, California May 2, 2005. REUTERS/Robert Galbraith

ORLANDO, Florida (Reuters) - Six of Snow White’s seven dwarves have them, along with Merlin the Magician and Aladdin’s genie, and now men working at Disneyland and Walt Disney World can sport one too -- a beard.

From next Friday, front line male employees at Disney’s parks and resorts will be allowed to grow a beard in the biggest change to the company’s conservative, clean-cut dress code since pantyhose became optional for female employees in 2010.

The change came during the company’s periodic review of employee requirements, and had been requested by some “cast members,” which is what Disney calls employees who work face-to-face with the public, Disney spokeswoman Andrea Finger said.

“We’re careful to maintain our heritage and the integrity of our brand,” Finger said.

The brand includes the “Disney Look,” described as fresh, clean, neat and approachable. The dress code governs everything from hair color and style to jewelry and fingernail length. The rules will require beards to be short and neat.

Facial hair had been banned at the Disney company since the 1950s opening of Disneyland in California, but that was relaxed in 2000 when the company allowed moustaches with strict rules on bushiness, width and length, said Eric Clinton, a Disney union leader.

Clinton said the response by younger workers to the change was: “Finally, I can take a vacation and grow a beard.” However, some of the more senior Disney employees “tend to be a little more traditional and consider this a departure from the heritage we’ve been taught by Disney,” he said.

Disney is also instituting “casual Fridays” when behind-the-scenes workers may wear neat jeans and polo shirts, and female workers may wear sandals.

Editing by Michelle Nichols and Paul Thomasch