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Military uniform

Military uniform


Military uniform is the standardised dress
worn by members of the armed forces and paramilitaries of various nations. Military dress and military
styles have gone through great changes over the centuries from colourful and elaborate
to extremely utilitarian. Military uniforms in the form of standardised and distinctive
dress, intended for identification and display, are typically a sign of organised military
forces equipped by a central authority. History A distinction should be made between uniforms
and ethnic dress. If a particular people or culture favoured a distinctive dress style
this could easily create the impression of uniformly dressed warriors. The issue is further
complicated by the fact that the distinctive features of particularly effective warrior
classes were often copied – weapons, armour, fighting style and native dress. Thus the
distinctive and colourful clothing of the Hungarian hussars became a model for hussar
units all over Europe. The kilts and sporrans of Scottish highland clans were distilled
into regimental dress when the British Army started to recruit from these tribal groups.
Mercenary or irregular fighters could also develop their own fashions, which set them
apart from civilians, but were not really uniforms. The clothing of the German Landsknechte
of the 16th century is an example of distinctive military fashion. Special units such as Zouaves
developed non-standard uniforms to distinguish them from troops of the line.
Antiquity There are a few recorded attempts at uniform
dress in antiquity, going beyond the similarity to be expected of ethnic or tribal dress.
One example is the Spanish infantry of Hannibal who wore white tunics with crimson edgings.
Another is the Spartan hoplite in his red garment. The terracotta army discovered in
the tomb of the first Emperor of China have a superficial similarity but closer examination
shows up to seven different styles of armour, which do not appear to have been standardised
within separate units. Rome The legions of the Roman Republic and Empire
wore fairly standardised dress and armour, particularly from approximately 40 AD onward,
when Lorica Segmentata was introduced. The lack of unified production for the Roman army
meant that, despite a certain degree of standardisation, there were still considerable differences
in detail. Even the armour produced in state factories varied according to the province
of origin. Fragments of surviving clothing and wall paintings indicate that the basic
tunic of the Roman soldier was of red or un-dyed wool. Senior commanders are known to have
worn white cloaks and plumes. Centurions — the century commanders who made up the long serving
backbone of the legions — were distinguished by transverse crests on their helmets, various
chest ornaments corresponding to modern medals, and torques, and the vine stick that they
carried as a mark of their office. Late Roman and Byzantine
The regular thematic and Tagmata troops of the Byzantine Empire are the first known soldiers
to have had what would now be considered regimental or unit identification. During the 10th century,
each of the cavalry “banda” making up these forces is recorded as having plumes and other
distinctions in a distinctive colour. While some auxiliary cohorts in the late Roman period
had carried shields with distinctive colours or designs, there is no evidence that any
one Roman legion was distinguished from another by features other than the numbers on the
leather covers protecting their shields. Medieval feudal
The feudal system of Western Europe provided instances of distinguishing features denoting
allegiance to one or another lord. These however seldom went beyond colours and patterns painted
on shields or embroidered on surcoats. Orders of military monks such as the Knights Templar
or Hospitaler wore mantles respectively of white or black over the usual pattern of armour
for their periods. In the later part of the Medieval period instances of standardised
clothing being issued for particular campaigns began to occur. English examples included
the white coats worn by Norfolk levies recruited in 1296 and the green and white clothing that
identified Cheshire archers during the 14th century.
Ottoman Empire The highly organised armies of the Ottoman
Empire employed distinctive features of dress to distinguish one corps or class of soldier
from another. An example would be the conical black hats of felt worn by the Deli cavalry
of the early 19th century. However the basic costume was usually that of the tribal group
or social class from which a particular class of warrior was drawn. As such it was sufficiently
varied not to rank as “uniform” in the later sense. An elaborate system of colourful standards
largely provided unit identification. Even the appearance of the Janissaries was likely
to reflect individual means and taste, although red was a favoured colour and the white felt
zarcola headdresses were similar. It was not until the reorganisation of the Ottoman Army
by Sultan Mahmud II during the 1820s that completely standardised dress was issued.
Navies In an early instance of camouflage awareness,
the sailors of Imperial Rome are reported to have worn blue/green tunics. However uniform
dress was not a feature of navies until comparatively recent times. This may reflect the considerable
difference in roles and conditions of service between sailors and soldiers.
Until the middle of the 19th century only officers and warrant officers in the Royal
Navy wore regulated uniforms. Through the 18th century to the Napoleonic Wars navy officers
had a form of dress broadly resembling that of army officers, though in dark blue with
white facings. In the early 19th century Royal Navy officers developed a more distinctive
form of uniform comprising a cocked hat, dark blue coatee with white collar and cuffs, dark
blue or white trousers, or breeches. Epaulettes and braiding were gold and varied according
to rank. In a simplified form this dress survives as the modern ceremonial dress for flag officers.
Throughout this period sailors supplied or made their own clothing. Sailors developed
traditional clothing suitable for their work: loose-fitting trousers with belts made of
rope; tunics that slipped over the head, with arms to above the wrist so that the cloth
would not foul in ropes passing through a cleat or pulley. For cold weather, a jumper
was knitted from yarn or wool. For wet weather, old sail cloth was made into a coat that was
waterproofed with tallow or fat. In these days, the officers would designate certain
afternoons to “make and mend”. A sailor with little clothing to make or mend used this
time as “time off”. In January 1857 the decision was taken to
issue complete uniforms to petty officers and seamen. This included features which can
still be recognised in the Class I uniform of ratings in the modern Royal Navy – notably
the wide blue collar with white tapes, a black neckerchief, white lanyard and blue or white
jumper. The flared “bell bottom” trousers disappeared after the Second World War.
Because of the global dominance of the Royal Navy from Trafalgar to the Second World War
RN uniforms became the model for virtually all other navies. While certain distinctive
features emerged – such as the red pompom worn on the crown of the French sailor’s cap,
the open fronted jacket of the German Navy or the white round cap of the U.S. Navy – the
overall pattern remained standard until the development of specialist working or protective
rigs during the Second World War. Regimental dress The styles and decoration of military uniforms
varied immensely with the status, image and resources of the military throughout the ages.
Uniform dress became the norm with the adoption of regimental systems, initially by the French
army in the mid-17th century. Before 1600 a few German and Dutch regiments had worn
red or yellow coats. From about 1626 onwards some Swedish infantry had been issued with
standard coloured dress under Gustavus Adolphus. However in the main the levies of the 15th
and 16th centuries wore civilian dress and regiments were dressed at the expense of their
colonels in whatever style and colours the colonel preferred. Even Royal guards would
sometimes only be issued with distinctive coloured or embroidered surcoats to wear over
ordinary clothing. To help armies distinguish friend from foe scarves, pieces of foliage
or other makeshift identification known as “field signs” would be worn, (A practice still
recognised under international humanitarian law and the laws of war as a “distinctive
sign”. Field signs were easily removed or donned, as in the example of John Smith a
squire on the Royalist side who at the Battle of Edgehill put on the orange scarf of the
Parliamentarians and with no more elaborate disguise succeeded in recapturing the lost
royal standard from the hands of Earl of Essex’s own secretary.
By this time, in France at least, the general character of the clothes and accoutrements
to be worn on various occasions was strictly regulated by orders. But uniformity of clothing
was not to be expected so long as the “enlistment” system prevailed and soldiers were taken in
and dismissed at the beginning and end of every campaign. The beginnings of uniform
are therefore to be found in truly national armies, in the Indelta of Gustavus Adolphus,
and the English armies of the English Civil War. In the earlier years of the latter, though
the richer colonels uniformed their men, the rustics and the citizens turned out for war
in their ordinary rough clothes, donning armour and sword-belt. But in 1645 the Long Parliament
raised an army “all its own” for permanent service, and the colonels became officials
rather than proprietors. The New Model Army was clothed in the civilian costume of the
date—ample coat, waistcoat, breeches, stockings and shoes—but with the distinctive colour
throughout the army of red and with regimental facings of various colours and breeches of
grey. Soon afterwards the helmet disappeared, and its place was taken by a grey broad-brimmed
hat. From the coat was eventually evolved the tunic of the mid-19th century, and the
hat became the cocked hat of a later generation, which generally disappeared during the decade
of 1800-1810 to reappear in the late 19th and early 20th century, by which time it had
its original form of a “slouch-hat.” For service in Ireland the New Model Army’s red coat was
exchanged for one of russet colour, just as scarlet gave way to khaki for Indian service
in the 19th century. The cavalry, however, wore buff leather coats and armour long after
the infantry had abandoned them. Thus the principle ever since followed—uniform
coat and variegated facings—was established. Little or nothing of sentiment led to this.
By choice or convenience the majority of the corps out of which the New Model Army was
formed had come to be dressed in red, with facings according to the colonel’s taste,
and it is a curious fact that in Austria sixty years afterwards events took the same course.
The colonels there uniformed their men as they saw fit had, by tacit consent, probably
to obtain “wholesale ” prices, agreed upon a serviceable colour, and when in 1707 Prince
Eugene procured the issue of uniform regulations, few line regiments had to be re-clothed. In
France, as in England and Austria, the cavalry, as yet rather led by the wealthy classes than
officered by the professional, was not uniformed upon an army system until after the infantry.
But in 1688 six-sevenths of the French cavalry was uniformed in light grey with red facings;
and about half the dragoon regiments had red uniforms and blue facings. The Marquis of
Louvois, in creating a standing army, had introduced an infantry uniform as a necessary
consequence. The native French regiments had light grey coats, the Swiss red, the German
black and the Italian blue, with various facings. The French grey was probably decided upon,
like the Austrian grey, as being a good “service” colour, which could be cheaply manufactured. During the 18th century the normal military
uniform in Europe comprised a standardised form of civilian dress. One distinctively
military feature were the long canvas gaiters which came up to mid-thigh and had multiple
buttons. Dress was surprisingly standardised between European armies in cut and general
outline. The distinction normally lay in colours. Within each army different regiments were
usually distinguished by “facings” – linings, turnbacks and braiding on coats in colours
that were distinctive to one or several regiments. The Royal Comtois Infantry Regiment of the
French Army, for example, had large dark blue cuffs on its off-white coats. To a certain
extent the functions required of a given group of soldiers were reflected in their dress.
Thus artillery uniforms in most armies were usually of dark blue – for the practical reason
that handling black powder would have soiled lighter coloured clothing. Infantry drummers
and cavalry trumpeters often had “reverse” colours with coats the colour of the regimental
facings and facings the colour of the regimental coats.
Officers were relatively slow to accept uniforms. During the late 17th century they were often
dressed in individual styles and colours according to their own taste and means. In part this
was because the uniform dress issued to the rank and file was considered a form of livery
– the mark of a servant and demeaning to members of the social class from which officers came.
One early practice in the French and other armies was for officers to wear coats of the
facing colour of their regiments. Rank insignia as such was unknown until well into the 18th
century. The gorget hanging from a chain around the neck was the only universally recognised
mark of an officer until epaulettes developed from clusters of ribbons formerly worn on
the shoulder. In the British army officers were ordered to adopt epaulettes by a clothing
warrant dated 1768. Even when officers’ uniforms became the subject of detailed regulation
they remained easily distinguishable from those of other ranks, by the better quality
and richness of the materials and trimmings used.
New uniforms were issued with surprising frequency in some 18th century armies. It should however
be remembered that a soldier had to march, parade, fight and sometimes sleep in the same
garment and that such extras as greatcoats or working clothes were seldom issued until
the end of the century. 19th century The first fifteen years of this century influenced
the appearance of military uniforms for much of the rest of the century. In particular,
some French uniforms – notably those of the cavalry regiments of the Imperial Guard – are
considered as being amongst the most striking and distinctive of the time. The cost of the
French uniforms varied widely, going from 200-250 francs for a line infantryman’s outfit
to 2000 francs for a cuirassier’s uniform. Cavalrymen of the Guard had not less than
10 different uniforms. One justification for the expensive parade dresses of the Guard
was that they would “lead the people of the conquered nations to regard the French uniforms
with unreserved astonishment”. As a general trend France and other European states replaced
their bicornes by feathered shakos or crested helmets
The ornamental peak of the military uniform was reached in the early 19th century in Western
Europe. Sometimes the Napoleonic Wars are identified as being the acme of colourful
and ornate uniforms, but actually the several decades of relative peace that followed were
a time of even more decorative styles and embellishments. The Napoleonic soldier on
campaign was likely to present a shabby and nondescript appearance as unsuitable peacetime
dress quickly deteriorated or was replaced with whatever local substitutes were available.
Until later on in the century dyes were primitive and different batches of uniforms worn by
the same unit might present differing shades, especially after exposure to rain and sun.
The white uniforms popular amongst many armies through the 18th and early 19th centuries
soiled easily and had to be pipeclayed to retain any semblance of cleanliness. Green
as worn by Jäger and Rifle regiments proved particularly prone to fading until suitable
chemical dyes were devised in the 1890s. British soldiers were known for their striking red
clothing. This was actually a fairly dull shade of madder red until the general adoption
of scarlet for tunics in the 1870s. The American industrial revolution began in the Blackstone
Valley, of Massachusetts and Rhode Island, with early textiles, from 1791. Among the
earliest manufacturers of US military uniforms was the Capron Mills at Uxbridge, Massachusetts
from 1820. The American Civil War It is generally supposed that Union soldiers
wore blue uniforms and Confederate soldiers wore grey ones. However, this was only a generalisation.
Both the Union and the Confederacy drew up uniform regulations, but as a matter of practical
reality neither side was able to fully equip its men at the outbreak of the war. Existing
state units and quickly raised volunteer regiments on both sides wore a wide variety of styles
and colours in the early stages of the war. Some regiments—such as the North’s Brandenberg
Sharpshooters and the South’s Alexandria Rifles—had green uniforms, while the French zouave style
was widely imitated. The Union eventually got most of its men into
regulation Federal blue but this often faded until it appeared grey. Originally the Confederate
government relied on the “commutation” system which required the states to provide their
own uniforms. While the commutation system was in place, many states were not able to
provide an ample supply of uniforms and captured federal uniforms were common. Later in the
war the Confederate national government provided uniforms from a central depot system, including
the famous Richmond and Columbus depots. Many photographs of Confederate soldiers from later
in the war are wearing standardised uniforms. As Sherman’s men marched across Georgia and
up the Carolinas, they were cut off from supply by the Union and began wearing clothing of
Confederate origin. Confederate soldiers used a variety of vegetable and imported dyes which
would fade to a “butternut” colour. The end of bright colours Until 1914 the majority of armies still provided
colourful dress uniforms for all ranks, at least for parade and off duty wear. These
often retained distinctive features from the past. Most Russian troops for example wore
the very dark green introduced by Peter The Great in 1700. German infantry generally wore
the dark “Prussian blue” of the previous two centuries. This and other features of the
historic Prussian Army uniform were generally adopted by the other German States as they
fell under Prussian influence before and after the Franco-Prussian War of 1870. Bavarians
however continued to wear light blue and Saxon regiments retained a number of distinctions
after the establishment of the German Empire. Two regiments of the Prussian Guard and one
of the Russian were still issued with the brass mitre caps of the 18th century grenadier.
The British infantry retained their scarlet tunics for parade and “walking out” wear while
the bulk of French regiments wore red trousers with dark or light blue tunics. The infantry
of the Austro-Hungarian Empire discarded their historic white tunics in 1868 in favour of
dark blue. Retained however were the extremely large number of colours appearing on collars,
cuffs and shoulder straps to distinguish the various regiments. There were for example
ten shades of red, ranging from cherry red to pink. The Swedish Army had favoured dark
blue with yellow facings since the beginning of the 18th century. There was infinite variety,
even within smaller armies, between regiments, branches or ranks and the subject is a very
complex one. However, by 1914, drab colours were increasingly
being adopted for active service and ordinary duty wear. The British first introduced drab/khaki
uniform in 1848 in India and this khaki drill became more generally worn from the Indian
Mutiny of 1857 both in India and Africa. A darker version, known as “service drab”, was
adopted for home service field wear in 1902, the same year that the US Army also adopted
khaki for non-dress occasions. The Italians introduced grey-green in 1909, followed by
the German and Austrian armies who adopted different shades of grey. The Russians had
changed to a grey shade of khaki in 1908, following their experience in the Russo Japanese
War of 1905. There was however strong attachment to the colourful uniforms as previously worn
on all occasions and the process was not an inexorable one. The Danish Army adopted grey-green
uniforms for all occasions in 1903, reverted to a combination of dark and light blue in
1910, took up light grey in 1915 and finally settled for khaki in 1923. The Imperial Russian
armies following their adoption of khaki-grey field uniforms in 1908, took the opportunity
to upgrade their parade uniforms to much more elaborate and colorful styles, and were experimenting
with a mix of khaki and bright colours when war broke out in 1914. The Japanese Army probably
went further than most in adopting khaki for all occasions after 1905, although even here
officers of all branches and the cavalry of the Imperial Guard retained traditional coloured
uniforms for formal and ceremonial occasions. With the exception of Western influenced units
such as the “Ever-Triumphant Army” of the Taiping Rebellion Chinese armies of the 19th
century wore dress that was broadly variegated. Embroidered chest panels and coloured buttons
on headdresses were used to distinguish rank and sometimes unit. From 1910 the Imperial
Chinese Army adopted dark blue uniforms of Japanese style with coloured facings of red,
white or yellow to distinguish the different branches. The Imperial Guard Division had
a light grey uniform with the same branch colours as the line. A khaki summer uniform
was worn by the entire army. The First World War finally put an end to
the expensive practice of furnishing colourful uniforms to all ranks of the various armies.
Amongst the frontline troops of the combatant powers in August 1914 only the Belgian and
French armies saw active service in bright colours and old fashioned headgear. The Imperial
German field grey of 1910 retained a number of traditional features such as spiked helmets,
shakos, busbies and coloured piping from the older uniforms. The demands of modern warfare
as well as financial economy soon saw these survivals vanish and by 1916 all involved
armies were in either khaki, various shades of grey or sky blue. The coloured uniforms
of peacetime were often relegated to depot wear by recruits doing their basic training.
Steel helmets first appeared in the form of the “Adrian” helmet adopted by the French
Army in 1915. The practical advantages of this innovation led the British and German
armies to adopt their own helmets by 1916. Other armies followed suit – the Belgians
and Italians for example copying the French model and the Austro-Hungarians that of Germany.
Between the wars The drab uniforms of 1914-18 remained in general
use until the Second World War. This was partly for political reasons since the Republican,
Fascist, Nazi and Communist regimes that replaced many of the old monarchies and empires had
little interest in preserving the splendours of their predecessors. However even in those
societies where there was social and political continuity the trend was away from the traditional
uniforms worn prior to 1914. The British Army reintroduced full dress for Guards regiments
and regimental bands, while permitting officers to wear their mess, blue or green “patrols”
and full dress on appropriate occasions. The French reintroduced “grande tenue” in 1927
for North African regiments which were mostly dependent on voluntary recruiting, and after
1930 required all regular officers to acquire dress uniforms in the pre-1914 colours of
their branch or regiment. Elsewhere full or coloured dress of traditional cut was generally
restricted to formal uniforms for officers and long service regulars, ceremonial guards
and a few other limited categories. The Spanish Army exceptionally continued to issue coloured
uniforms to all its conscript rank and file until 1926 and thereafter to the garrisons
of Seville, Barcelona and Madrid for special ceremonials until 1931. These included red
trousers for the line infantry, following the French practice in an example of cross-border
influence. The use of steel helmets was by now almost
universal and a number of countries adopted their own designs moving away from the German,
British and French models of the First World War. The Italians, Soviets, Japanese, Swiss,
Spanish and Portuguese were amongst these. Steel helmets, originally simply items of
utilitarian protective clothing, were adopted as parade headdress by the French, German,
Italian and Soviet armies, amongst others, between the Wars. Second World War
Uniforms of varying shades of khaki and grey were universal in the Second World War but
the cut and outline appearance of the different armies still made identification in the field
relatively straight forward. A Soviet soldier would, for example be distinguishable from
his German opponent by his general outline, even in the fog of battle. British, American,
Japanese and French uniforms still retained some distinctive features, even as they became
more and more utilitarian in the course of the War.
The US Army discarded its First World War style field uniforms in 1941 in favour of
a very plain and practical combat dress in a thin light brown wool shirt and slightly
darker trousers. This was worn in conjunction with a smart olive drab “Class A” dress uniform—which
in many cases varied to a rich “chocolate” brown tunic worn with khaki trousers. There
was a khaki version of the Class A dress uniform for summer wear. The war started with American
combat troops wearing combat shoes with “spats”, replaced later in the war with 2-buckle combat
boots. By contrast, British soldiers, other than
officers, had their 1938 battledress for all occasions.
In Germany the Nazi regime retained uniforms with many traditional features from Imperial
Germany for its army uniforms, such as field grey cloth, marching boots, collar litzen
and breeches; German Panzer troops had a special combat uniform made of black wool and German
troops serving in tropical climates had uniforms in a shade of khaki. Later in the war, severe
leather shortages led to the replacement of marching boots with ankle height shoes worn
with gaiters. Imperial Japan used a light brown or khaki
colour for most Imperial army uniforms—though there was also a green service dress tunic
for officers. Footwear was reddish brown jack boots, while soldiers wore shoes with leg
wrappings puttees). From 1935 to 1943, Soviet Army uniforms for
all troops were an intermediate shade of brown; uniforms included a field uniform, a service
dress “kittel” tunic worn with breeches or trousers, and a dress uniform “mundir” tunic.
Soviet tank troops wore the gymnastyrka shirt, kittel in a bluish grey colour. In 1943, the
Soviet Army began to re-adopt many Tsarist Army features, notably braided shoulder boards,
which had previously been forbidden as a sign of an undesirable “social class” mentality.
The reintroduction in 1943 was, presumably, a relatively inexpensive means of boosting
low Soviet troop morale. Once reintroduced to the Soviet Army, the use of shoulder boards
was never rescinded and they remained part of the uniform until the dissolution of the
Soviet Union. The distinct bluish grey colour for tankers was eliminated in 1943, from which
point on all units of the Soviet Army wore brown.
Modern uniforms The utilitarian necessities of war and economic
frugality are now the dominant factors in uniform design. Most military forces, however,
have developed several different uniform types, including combat dress, working dress, service
or ordinary duty uniforms and ceremonial full dress. The practice of wearing a form of full
dress off duty has largely died out as the modern soldier prefers the casual clothing
of his civilian peers. Soldiers of the French Armed Forces do however still wear their kepis
and a modified form of parade dress off duty, which can be seen every 14 July, during the
Bastille Day Military Parade, in Paris. Camouflage All of the above armies wear some form of
camouflage uniforms for training and active service. These generally resemble each other
and armies in the field are no longer differentiated by the distinctive cut or colour of their
clothing. Camouflage clothing, being cheap, comfortable and practical, has increasingly
become the usual dress for daily wear in most armies, superseding the various “service”
uniforms which were often the field dress of previous wars. In poorer parts of the third
world, especially Africa, the camouflage clothing worn comes from a variety of sources and is
of many different patterns, so that an army’s dress is definitely military, but to a large
extent not uniform. Parade
As noted above, traditional coloured uniforms have long since given way to clothing more
suited for actual combat in modern conditions. While by no means extinct, bright colours
are now usually reserved for wear by units having ceremonial functions, some bands and
officers attending formal occasions. Elite units normally contrive to having some distinctive
features. The United States Marine Corps are well known for their traditional midnight
blue tunics and sky blue trousers. These “dress blues” are worn for formal occasions such
as the Marine Corps Birthday Ball in November. The British Household Cavalry and Foot Guards
wear uniforms largely unchanged from 1914 for “public duties” i.e. ceremonial.
The military of many countries have adopted the economical expedient of smartening up
combat uniforms for parade by adding medals, neck scarves and coloured berets to the terrain
coloured camouflage uniforms intended for combat. As an interesting example of the combining
of old and new features of uniform the French Spahis and the Spanish Regulares still wear
the flowing cloaks, fezzes, turbans and sashes of the North African colonial regiments from
which they are descended with modern khaki or camouflage clothing, on appropriate occasions.
Modern uniforms by country Britain
The British Army generally retains its traditional full dress uniforms only for bands and units
performing ceremonial functions. See British Army Uniform for more detail.
An attempt dating from the early 1950s to provide other British soldiers with a plainer
dark blue or green No.1 dress did not meet with much enthusiasm; indeed, most soldiers
are not issued with their own No.1 dress, and the most common occasion when it is now
worn is for a wedding. Parade dress for most British regiments is khaki No. 2 dress with
No 1 Dress coloured peaked caps, berets or Glengarry bonnets. Following the introduction
of the Combat Soldier 95 clothing system of Disruptive Pattern Material this is worn for
most day-to-day business replacing the old ‘working’ uniform of green Lightweight Trousers
and Shirt/Jersey, albeit that these are still used as ‘Barrack Dress’ by some office based
personnel. However, the proposed Future Army Dress, which is currently being developed
by the British Army, includes a return to Barrack Dress for all arms, including ‘non-iron’
shirts and trousers in a similar pattern to that of the current No.2 Dress uniform. Tradition
is however still strong in British military culture and there are many regimental distinctions
added to some uniforms. One example is the King’s Royal Hussars who wear their historic
crimson trousers with all orders other than fatigue or combat dress. The “trews” or tartan
trousers of Lowland regiments have been retained for certain orders of dress in the amalgamated
Royal Regiment of Scotland, although the kilt of the Highland regiments is the parade dress.
Mess dress in traditional scarlet, blue or green is worn by officers and senior NCOs
of all regiments for formal evening dress. Canada
See Uniforms of the Canadian Forces The Operational dress of the Canadian Forces
is basic uniform worn by members during operations and all other occasions beyond ceremonial
duties. France The battle dress of the French Armed Forces
is the FÉLIN system combined with SPECTRA helmets. France has adopted a light beige
dress uniform which is worn with coloured kepis, sashes, fringed epaulettes, fourragères
and other traditional items on appropriate occasions. As an alternative parade dress,
camouflage uniforms can be worn with the dress items noted above. The legionnaires of the
French Foreign Legion wear white kepis, blue sashes and green and red epaulettes as dress
uniform, while the French Marines wear blue and red kepis and yellow epaulettes. The sappers
of the French Foreign Legion wear the basic legionnaire uniform but with leather aprons
and gloves. The Chasseurs alpins wear a large beret, known as the “tarte”, and mountain
outfits. Sailors of the French Navy and Fusiliers Marins wear a dress uniform dating from the
19th century with a distinctive red pom-pom on the round cap.
The infantry and cavalry of the Republican Guard retain their late 19th century dress
uniforms, as do the military cadets of Saint-Cyr and the École Polytechnique. A medium blue
evening dress for officers is now seldom seen but individual branches or regiments may parade
bands or “fanfares” in historic dress dating as far back as the Napoleonic period.
Germany The German Army has retained a form of field
grey for dress wear though of modern cut and worn with berets, although some senior officers
still prefer peaked caps. The collar braid stripes, that distinguished regiments of the
Prussian Guard prior to 1918, have become a general feature of modern German uniforms.
The Mountain infantry troops retain a more traditional dress uniform. The Nationale Volksarmee
of the former German Democratic Republic also maintained a stone grey uniform, following
the Imperial German tradition. Whereas the western backed Federal Republic of Germany
clothed its armies in US pattern uniforms immediately after the Second World War, East
German units retained high collared tunics, “Stiefelhosen”, and “Marschstiefel”.
Italy The traditional headdresses of the Bersaglieri,
Horse Artillery and Alpini are still worn by the Italian Army, the Bersaglieri even
wearing their flowing feathers on steel helmets as part of their combat dress. Officers of
all branches have a dark blue dress uniform of modern cut while the Corazzieri, Mounted
Carabinieri and cadets of the Military Academy of Modena wear ceremonial uniforms which date
back to the 19th century. Individual regiments with a long history, such as the Lancieri
di Montebello and the Granatieri di Sardegna occasionally parade honour guards or other
detachments in their pre-1915 dark blue uniforms. Russia
The Russian Army has retained a number of features, such as officers’ epaulettes, high
boots and long greatcoats with collar patches for all ranks, which can be traced back to
Tsarist days. The dress uniform for officers is of the same distinctive blue/green colour
as the “Tsar’s green” worn until 1914. The Kremlin Guard has in recent years been issued
with a special ceremonial uniform which closely resembles that of the infantry regiments of
the Imperial Guard immediately prior to the First World War.
Serbia Serbian army use new modern uniforms named
M-10 which is very comfortable for soldiers,according to soldiers these are better than old Yugoslav
uniforms. Spain
The Spanish Army has reintroduced a number of dress uniforms dating back to the pre-1931
Monarchy. These include a variety of parade uniforms worn by various units of the recreated
Royal Guard as well as the traditional dark blue and white uniforms of the Guardia Civil
and the blue tunics and red trousers of the 1st Infantry Regiment. While only worn by
limited numbers of personnel on special occasions, these uniforms include such distinctively
Spanish features as the “Ros” shako of the infantry and the Royal Guard, and the Tricorn
of the Civil Guard. Officers of all branches wear dark blue or white gala uniforms for
social and ceremonial occasions. USA In recent decades, many militaries around
the world have gradually simplified the range of uniforms issued. For example, most U.S.
servicemen now wear camouflage utilities for daily duty and all but the most formal occasions-whereas
in the past the service uniform would be worn unless a soldier was engaged in a dirty or
physical task. As an example of modern practice, the US Marine Corps has a distinct blue dress
uniform, but other uniforms include khaki button-up shirts, forest-green coats, and
combat camouflage. In other services where camouflage is normally a non-issue, such as
navies, coloured uniforms are still issued, e.g. the US Navy’s white officer uniform for
warm weather. The United States Armed Forces allows every branch to develop and use their
own uniforms. In recent years, many Battle Dress Uniforms with famous US Woodland pattern
were replaced. USMC developed new digital MARPAT pattern, while the Army developed Universal
Pattern for its standard combat uniforms, though a special camouflage pattern more appropriate
for use in Afghanistan was fielded in 2010. Popular disdain among US troops for the beret
headgear as part of the “default” headgear for wear with the ACU uniform led to a regulation
revision in 2011, with the standard “default” headgear for wear with ACUs now being the
ACU patrol cap, which provides a much better degree of sun protection for the eyes). Based
on recommendations made during a comprehensive briefing by Task Force Uniform on Feb. 24
2006, CNO Michael G. Mullen agreed to production of both a BDU-style working uniform for all
Sailors E-1 to O-10 and a more practical, year-round service uniform to withstand day-to-day
classroom and office-like environments where the service uniform is typically worn. The
new Navy Working Uniform is now worn by naval sailors and officers. On 6 June 2006 the US
Army announced that its green and white uniforms would be superseded by the Army Blue Uniform
as a universal service uniform in the historic colours of dark blue and light blue. The new
service dress would be introduced in 2007 and become obligatory for all ranks by 2011.
The Air Force makes use of its Airman Battle Uniform as a common daily uniform. The breakdown
is of sage green, foliage green, sand tan, and a green blue arranged in elongated digital
stripes. The footwear worn with ABUs are sage green suede boots and head covering is the
ABU pattern Patrol Cap, or the beret of the relevant career field. The purpose of the
colors and patterns in this uniform serve to help one blend into the concrete-like color
of the flight line on which the uniform is most often worn outside. Aside from ABUs,
the most common uniform to be worn would be dress blues which incorporate a light navy
blue for bottoms, and the same shade to match the top jacket. Underneath the top jacket
either a long sleeve or short sleeve sky blue shirt may be worn with a tie or neck tab whenever
wearing the top jacket. The jacket is reserved for more formal events. Placed on the outermost
tunic, the Airman may pin their ribbons and career badge as optional with their name plate
as the only mandatory item. For head gear a flight cap of matching shade to the pants
and similar in appearance to the former Army green garrison cap and the shoes are a black
high polished dress shoe. Other, but not standard, head gear includes the flat top mess dress
cap and the appropriate beret career field beret. Blues, though the second most used
uniform, receive far less service than ABUs. Those performing duties not suited for the
formal dress uniform may wear ABUs instead. The Mess Uniform uses the same pants and jacket
as dress blues, but with a white under shirt, bow tie and cumber band and the same black
dress shoesPurpose
Distinctive clothing One purpose of military uniforms is to clearly
distinguish combatants who are protected by the laws of war from other persons carrying
weapons, who do not always enjoy such protection. Another purpose in historical times was to
make it difficult for deserters to avoid detection; military uniforms were so distinctive with
many metal buttons and unique colours that they could not be modified into unrecognisable
clothing. In societies where the military was important,
the soldiers were dressed to impress the population and themselves. If the commander raised and
equipped the troops out of his own pocket, the appearance of the soldiers was also designed
to impress his superiors. Attractive or distinctive uniforms could make a military career desirable
to young men. As late as 1914 the British Army found that regiments with particularly
striking off duty or parade uniforms found it easier to attract recruits. Thus the four
Rifle regiments in their sombre dark green had a higher public profile than the great
mass of line infantry in scarlet. Nationalism
During the Boxer Rebellion, the Muslim Gansu Braves under General Dong Fuxiang used traditional
Chinese clothing instead of western style uniforms, reflecting the opposition of the
movement to foreign influences. Visibility or camouflage
Throughout the 18th and 19th centuries, the typical colour scheme included bright and
highly contrasting colour arrangements which made it easier to distinguish units in battle.
Coloured uniforms were useful in enabling commanders to spot troop locations on battlefields
that were often completely obscured by smoke from the black [gunpowder] used in both muskets
and cannons. Large flags were another aid to co-ordination and location for commanders.
However, with the growing prevalence of accurate rifles and other ranged firearms as standard
weapons for infantry, it was found, from about the 1880s on, that these colours made soldiers
easy targets for enemies to shoot at a distance. These weapons used a new smokeless powder
that generated far less smoke leaving the battlefield un-obscured by smoke and making
brightly coloured troops into highly visible targets. In reaction, the various militaries,
beginning with the British Army, changed the colours, predominantly to such ones that blended
in more with the terrain, such as khaki, grey or olive drab for the purposes of camouflage.
In addition, this idea was followed with uniforms suitable for particular climates and seasons
such as white for snowy regions and tan for sandy ones. Now most armies have some form
of camouflaged uniform, such as the British DPM.
Many modern military forces now use a system of combat uniforms that not only break up
the outline of the soldier for use on the battlefield during the daytime, but also employ
a distinctive appearance that makes them difficult to detect with light amplification devices,
such as night-vision goggles. These modern “digital” print uniforms present a somewhat
splotched appearance, generally of somewhat muted colours, that provide visual concealment
in a variety of surroundings. The US Army now issues, for all theatres of operations,
the Army Combat Uniform, which replaces the Battle Dress Uniform and the Desert Combat
Uniform. The colour scheme on these ACUs is a faded greentan pattern of random-appearing
rectangular shapes. Pocket outlines on the front of the jackets are offset from vertical,
so as to present a less distinctive straight line for the eye to follow while using NVGs.
The US Marine Corps also issues similar uniforms with their MARPAT pattern,.
Logistics Mass-produced uniforms are a good way to equip
thousands of soldiers quickly and efficiently. Uniforms in standard sizes and designs are
also easier to replace on campaign. As an example, English levies raised for service
in Ireland or the Continent during the 17th century came to be provided with clothing
purchased in bulk and often of a standard colour or cut. This was however only a temporary
wartime expedient and the development of uniforms as such had to wait on the formulation of
a system of permanent regiments, notably by the French Monarchy.
Psychological warfare The appearance of the troops was often enhanced
in some way to intimidate the enemy. The tall, mitre-shaped caps worn by grenadiers in the
18th century made their wearers appear bigger and more impressive. King Frederick William
I of Prussia had a guard unit of especially tall men with tall mitre hats, the Potsdam
Giants. Prussian hussars wore the “skull and crossbones” on their hats from 1740 to 1918.
This tradition continues into the present day with nose art and fin flash on combat
aircraft. The unique combat uniforms of the US Marines has also led to nicknames given
by the enemy; “Black boots,” “Yellow Legs” and “White sleeves” to name a few.
The warriors of ancient Sparta, normally known for their austere lifestyle, wore expensive
red cloaks. Reportedly this was adopted as the only colour on which the spilled blood
of their enemies would not leave stains. There is a popular myth that the historic red coat
of the English soldier was adopted for the same reason.
Hair styles in military organisations usually follow civilian fashions, but sometimes certain
features are associated with soldiers. In the late 19th century, the ornate beards and
moustaches worn by the officers of the day, which complemented their rank and age, were
also worn by socially equivalent civilians. In the 20th and 21st centuries, the “high
and tight” haircut often distinguished low-ranking soldiers, particularly infantrymen, or, in
the United States, Marines and Soldiers of all ranks. The principal purpose, however,
of the “high and tight” is to prevent lice, promote general hygiene, and with modern regulations
against beards to ensure a good seal is made around the face when using a gas mask.
See also List of camouflage patterns
Types of Uniforms Battledress
Mess dress Full dress
Dress uniform Physical training uniform Components of military uniform: Military antiquities and collectibles:
Militaria Police patch collecting
Military styles: Costumes
Facial hair in the military Other military clothing:
Armour For Military uniforms depicted in art see
Military art Related lists:
List of uniforms and clothing of WWII British Army Uniform
Uniforms of the Canadian Forces Uniforms of the United States Military
Modern equipment and uniform of the French Army
Imperial Indian Army Uniforms Notes References
Bueno, José María, El Ejército de Alfonso XIII – La Infantería de Línea, Madrid: Barreira,
p. 26, ISBN 84-86071-02-X  Elliott, Jane E., Some did it for civilisation,
some did it for their country: a revised view of the boxer war, Chinese University Press,
p. 126, ISBN 962-996-066-4, retrieved 2010-06-28  Kannik, Preben, Military Uniforms of the World,
London,: Blandford P., p. 147, ISBN 0713704829  Lanxin Xiang, The origins of the Boxer War:
a multinational study, Psychology Press, p. 207, ISBN 0-7007-1563-0, retrieved 2010-06-28 
Pfanner, Toni, Military uniforms and the law of war, International Review of the Red Cross
86: 93–124  Asquith, Stuart, New Model Army 1645-60, Osprey,
p. 32, ISBN 9780850453850  Attribution
 This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Atkinson, Charles
Francis. “Uniforms”. In Chisholm, Hugh. Encyclopædia Britannica 27. Cambridge University Press.
pp. 582–593.  External links
An overview of the development of camouflage uniforms
Images of military uniforms in New York Public Library’s Digital Gallery
Anne S. K. Brown Military Collection, Brown University Library
Company of Military Historians Website {US} Civil War Old Photographs Page
U.S. Civil War Era Uniforms and Accouterments


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