Military uniforms are an integral part of life serving in the armed forces in the United States. Each branch of the military has their own unique traditions, which have translated into unique uniforms. There are different uniforms for different occasions: working or combat, service, and dinner or Mess Dress. There are also military uniforms for hot weather, cold weather, maternity, and specific jobs like cooking and medical jobs. Uniforms also differ from enlisted servicemen and officers. There have been many changes to many military uniforms in the last few years; this article will discuss the most current uniforms in use.
Each branch divides their uniforms into working, service, and evening dress:
Working, utility, combat, or undress uniforms are worn when out to sea, deployed, garrisoned, or working in an environment that would soil clothing. Frequently it is made in a “wash and wear” fabric that does not need to be ironed. MARPAT, short for Marine Pattern, or UCP for Universal Camouflage Pattern is a digital camouflage integrating various colors to blend in with the environment or, when working, to mask wear and stains. A camouflage military jacket is worn with these. Military boots are worn with this dress.
Service Dress uniforms are worn for formal functions, when reporting to a command, when traveling, when serving on a court-martial, making official visits, etc. It is similar to a business suit or work dress to civilians.
Full Dress, Blue Dress, etc. uniforms are worn for ceremonies like changes of command, retirements, commissioning, and decommissionings, funerals, weddings, etc. This is equivalent to “black tie” to civilians.
Dinner Dress, Mess Dress, or Evening Dress uniforms is very formal and is only used in the most formal of situations and ceremonies and is equivalent to “white tie” for civilians.
Each type of uniform looks different because of their different functions, and while it would be impossible to explain every possible type of military uniform in this article, here is what the Service Dress uniform looks like for each of the different branches of the military.
Army Service Uniform
With the Army Service uniform, the green and white service uniforms that were previously mandatory are currently being phased out and the blue service uniform will be the only one required. Class A consists of a white collared shirt, Army blue trousers or skirt, Army blue jacket, black tie or neck tab, and black boots. The insignia is worn on collars and ribbons. The nametag and badges are worn on the jacket.
The class B service uniform is worn without the jacket and tie or neck tab. The insignia is moved to the shirt instead of being on collars.
Navy Service Uniform
The Navy Service Uniform is worn by enlisted personnel E-1 to E-6 and consists of a short-sleeved khaki shirt, black trousers, and black garrison cap. Women wear similar clothing and can change a black skirt for slacks. Rank insignia is worn on collars and cap. Black dress shoes are also worn along with nametag and ribbons. Service Khaki is worn by chief petty officers (E-7 to E-9), chief warrant officers, and commissioned officers. This uniform consists of a khaki button-up shirt, trousers, and belt with gold buckle. Rank insignia is worn on the collars and nametag. warfare insignia and ribbons are also worn. Three types of headgear and brown oxford shoes are authorized for this uniform. Summer White Service uniform consists of white shirt, trousers, belt, and white dress shoes. Officers wear shoulder boards while chiefs wear metal collar insignia. Women’s officer uniforms carry shoulder boards while chiefs’ collars go undecorated.
Marine Corps Service Uniform
Service uniforms in the Marines are differentiated by the letters A or Alpha, B or Bravo, and C or Charlie. The Service A uniform is the base uniform and consists of a khaki long-sleeved button-up shirt, green trousers or skirt, green jacket, khaki tie (or green neck tab for women), khaki web belt, tie clasp, and black shoes or pumps. Ribbons, insignia, and marksmanship badges are also worn. The Service B is identical to Service A except the jacket is removed and ribbons may be worn on the shirt. Service C is identical to B except a short-sleeved shirt is worn with no tie. The garrison or barracks covers are approved for wear with the service uniform as well as a green ribbed sweater.
Air Force Service Uniform
The Air Force Service Dress uniform has a short-sleeve or long-sleeve light blue shirt for men or blouse for women depending on the weather. These shirts are worn with or without ties and with or without tie tab. The rank insignia, blue plastic nametag, and specialty badges are worn on the shirt. If the climate permits, a three-button dark blue coat is worn over the shirt and features epaulets for metal officer rank insignia with a 1 inch strip at the bottom of sleeves for general officers. Alternate outerwear is authorized with this combination of uniform elements including a blue cardigan sweater, a lightweight blue jacket, a blue pullover sweater or a brown leather A-2 flight jacket. However, the flight jacket is limited to only enlisted aircrew, aeronautically rated officers, and officer and enlisted space and missile operations personnel.
Coast Guard Service Uniform
The current Coast Guard Service Dress Blue (SDB) is worn by both officers and enlisted personnel. The uniform features a blue four-pocket single breasted jacket worn with trousers which are a slightly darker shade of the same blue. The shirt is a light-blue button-up shirt with a pointed collar, two pockets on the front of the shirt with flaps, and enhanced shoulder boards for officers. When the uniform is worn in short-sleeve order (called Tropical Blue), a pin-on collar insignia is worn for Petty Officers. Though the uniform is very similar to the one worn by the U.S. Navy, there are no khaki uniforms, and the same color uniform is worn by all personnel.
There are many other types of uniforms and dress worn by members of the U.S. military. For example, even though most of the Service Dress uniforms require Oxford shoes, soldiers wear military boots with work uniforms. You can buy things like military jackets and military boots even if you’re not enlisted at many Army surplus stores or a uniform center. To learn more, speak to a serviceman today or visit a military recruitment center.