No smoking, no chewing gum, no hands in pockets, no jeans or runners, shirts tucked in, top button closed, no long sleeves rolled up, no beard growth, no visible neck or face tattoos, hair short above the ear for men, collar length for women or tied up and tucked away under the hat, never over the eyebrows and face, no visible buns or ponytails and definitely no combination of hair dye or "conspicuously unnatural colours".

These are just some of the rules outlined in the garda's new uniform and dress code policy document issued by the Garda Commissioner last Thursday. The rules apply not just to all uniform and plain clothes full-time gardaí while on duty, but also to members of the Garda Reserve and civilian staff who represent An Garda Síochána on a daily basis.

There are those who might say that such a policy harks back to a bygone era and is more redolent of an Ireland of the 1950s and 1960s. Au contraire, according to the gardaí, who insist the policy "provides for greater inclusion of personnel from diverse backgrounds as well as being non-discriminatory in every facet of its content".

And there is some evidence of this.

In this policy, gardaí have taken into account the beliefs and obligations not just of people of different religions but also of different gender orientation. Sikhs are permitted to wear the turban as part of the garda uniform and carry the Kirban, (an iron sword or dagger with a single, curved edge which can be either sharp or blunted) as they are obliged under the five articles of their faith.

Reserve Garda Ravinder Singh Oberoi
Reserve Garda Ravinder Singh Oberoi is permitted to wear a turban and to grow a beard

Uniformed gardaí may also wear a prayer hat (Kufi or Topi) or skullcap (Kippah) underneath their official issue garda cap. Muslim women are permitted to wear the hijab under a garda hat, but it must be suitable for quick release. The face, shoulder numbers and any other identification also have to remain in view.

In fact all uniformed rank and file gardaí and sergeants must wear their shoulder number visible on the epaulettes of their shirt, tunic, patrol jacket, fleece and all other uniforms. Protesters have often complained that this has not always been the case.

The document is also progressive in that it considers the needs of any garda or staff member undergoing transition and those of a gender identity outside the binary. These people can discuss in confidence with their supervisor, the appropriate work wear that best fits their needs, "wherever practicable and necessary".

The work wear to be worn will be decided on a consultative basis. The garda Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Office will be involved in the process and is also open for guidance on any other items or articles of gender, religious faith or culture.

The document is clear that gardaí have to be "impeccably turned out" when attending court. They must wear long sleeved shirts and must not wear high visibility jackets, patrol jackets or fleeces in court. There is no room for 'black and tans’ either; the instruction states that "under no circumstances will members appear in court in part uniform, part civilian attire".

When attending the higher courts, (Circuit Court and above), rank and file gardaí may choose to wear their formal uniforms but officers and Inspectors attending court must be in full formal uniform appropriate to their rank and the relevant court.

The garda uniform cannot be worn or brought out of the State without special permission.

In what is a major change to policy, gardaí are now permitted to have beards, a luxury once only afforded to those working undercover, and then in many cases grudgingly. The move was introduced in deference to members of the Sikh religion who may wish to join the gardaí and one person has now signed up. Garda Ravinder Singh Oberoi is currently serving in the Garda Reserve.

However gardaí can only grow their beards during their annual leave or on rest days "to ensure their appearance does not look unprofessional whilst on duty during the initial growth".

In other words, no uneven patches or stubble. Beards and moustaches must be neatly trimmed and tidy at all times and there are specific instructions on the care of facial hair which include measurements.

"With the exception of established beards and moustaches that are between 0.5 cm and 2 cm in bulk," the document says, "a clean shaven appearance must be maintained whilst on duty".

"No portion of a moustache will extend beyond the corners of the mouth or fall below a line parallel with the bottom of the lower lip."

The rules for male and female hair also apply to beards and moustaches. They too "must not be dyed in conspicuously unnatural colours". If a garda grows a beard or moustache, his picture on his identity card must look like him.

Gardaí in uniform
Gardaí must keep their hair neat and tidy at all times

While gardaí can of course wear a wedding or a signet ring, they cannot wear rings with prominent stones or settings on duty "because of the risk of injury".

Female gardaí can wear only one set of small stud type earrings. Wrist and ankle bracelets are forbidden, as are nose, eyebrow, lip, tongue or any other visible body piercings, but exceptions may be made for specialist operations.

There are also rules in the 34 pages of the new dress and uniform policy about mobile phones (no personal calls except in an emergency), the wearing of glasses and sunglasses (at their own risk and only official issue), personal hygiene and the wearing of the uniform when pregnant (until such time as it becomes impractical and uncomfortable to do so).

Gardaí say the policy is "designed to ensure consistency with the highest professional standards" and it is fair to say that somewhat paradoxically, An Garda Síochána is trying to encourage greater diversity through greater uniformity.

All garda staff have therefore been told to smarten up and stay smart. They have not as yet been told to "pull up their socks" but then, perhaps that instruction will be contained in a forthcoming version.