Military uniforms


As I mentioned in another thread, one of my jobs is to organize the Memorial Day wreath laying ceremony for my community. Last year some of the military participants wore what I guess one would call either the casual or business casual uniforms. This year I told them to leave the business casual at home and bring their finest. Since I had Army, Navy, and Air Force participating I told them that the 300 or so people attending would compare their appearance with their sister services. Nothing like a little competition. :icon_smile_big:

I just got some of the pictures back this week and here is a sampling of what I got. I'm sorry that the images are so small. I don't know how to make them larger.

So what do you think? Based on the comments I got from people over the next few days I think it's safe to say that the Navy won by a substantial margin and, quite frankly, that surprised me. Of course if the Marines had been there-----



Active Member with Corp. Privileges
They Navy always wins and not just in the United States. Paul Fussell has lots of interesting commentary on this subject in Uniforms.


Senior Member
They Navy always wins and not just in the United States. Paul Fussell has lots of interesting commentary on this subject in Uniforms.

I'll have to look that up -- navies are a major interest of mine.

Incidentally, some very informative stuff on naval uniforms can be found on the Navy's Bureau of Personnel (BuPers) website:


And especially:
Ahhh, dress blues....

After having worn my own set of Cracker Jacks (re-imagined in HK so that they fit better, and of course having the dragons sewn into the insides of my liberty cuffs and under my 'cape'), I must say that the squids looked ship shape! Were there any officers on board for the ceremonies?
Once I became a 'Mustang', I had the honor of wearing my Officer Blues as well, but nothing compares to the enlisted dress blues. They are simply distinctive, and certainly not everyones cuppa.
I agree, though. Had Uncle Sam's Misguided Children been present (I say that with all due respect, I might add), they would have made the Navy come in second....
Warmest regards,


Were there any officers on board for the ceremonies?

I spotted two Colonels in the crowd, one Air Force and one Army; but the only commissioned participant was an Army 2nd Lt. who came with the firing detail. He looked every bit of 16 years old. He told me he was on his way to Iraq in a few weeks.

I think I need to correct an omission of mine. When I posted pictures of the Army, Navy, and Air Force I suggested that these were all of the "uniformed" personnel in the program. To be fair I should also show the others.

The Navy uniforms still win. :icon_smile_big:



Active Member with Corp. Privileges
I love the military, but I do have to say that those uniforms are not "slim fit" in the least, are they?

That seems to be one of the bigger changes over the last twenty years - the BDUs and dress uniforms seem to get baggier and baggier.


Airdales have M 14s, grunts M 16s and the squids look like they're holding penicillin pills

The Air Force had the M14 because they were the color guard and color guards usually use the M14 for ceremonial duty. For this purpose it looks much better than the M16. They were also the back up firing detail and they had M16s in the trunk of their car in the event they had been pressed into service for this duty.

The Army had the M16 because they were the firing detail only and the compact M16 is well suited for this duty.

The Navy had no weapons in the picture because they were the flag folding detail. They brought M14s with them as they were the color guard back up in the event of some unforeseen event that prevented the Air Force from getting there. As it was they weren't needed for this duty.

There were no shortage of rifles as everyone brought at least one, both 14's and 16's.



Super Member
They Navy always wins and not just in the United States. Paul Fussell has lots of interesting commentary on this subject in Uniforms.
That's generally pretty true. I'm probably going to join the Royal Navy University Training Corps next year; the ability to keep my beard and wear the uniform are major factors for me :)


Senior Member
I may be in the minority here, but I have never found the navy jumper to be an attractive uniform. I do like the officer tunics with the shoulder boards very much, though.


Active Member with Corp. Privileges
Like Cruiser says, if the Marines had been there... They have the nicest uniforms of the US armed forces IMHO, from their digital cammies to their dress uniforms.

Good Old Sledge

Senior Member
Semper Fi

I think that it was very sporting of us Former Marines to allow the other services a bit of lime light. As indicated, it really wouldn't have been much of a contest had the Marines landed...
Great pictures and good work, Cruiser.


Super Member
It's been a while since I wore a Navy uniform, but it appears that they are changing to what they call the "throwback" version of the service khaki for officers and CPOs. By "throwback" they mean "circa WWII."

I like the idea of going back to the use of a jacket for service uniforms, but I am not sure about this particular jacket.

I also do not understand why they would not also bring back a jacket for use with the service winter blues.
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The Louche

Super Member
^ I like these navy throwbacks above - sharp but they need to show a smidge of cuff! I live in DC and see Military officers on the Metro (subway) all the time. Personally, I think the Army's day-to-day dress greens have the most potential. Problem is the sill "blouse" approach they take. Four button jackets? IMO, this isn't draft day. I know many of you military guys will crow about tradition and the blouse, but I just can't help but think they would look better if they simply used a more conventional button count/stance (and didn't button the bottom button!)...

Just my .02



Senior Member
Ah, but would that present a particularly military appearance? Bear in mind, dear Louche, that civilian wear is derived from military and naval uniforms, and not the reverse.


Inactive user
My service spanned the changeover from crackerjack uniform with white porkpie flat hat to the present USCG blue jacket uniform. I went from people asking where my U boat was parked to people leaving their luggage with me at airports. I didn't mind so much as all 29,000 odd coasties had to struggle with new uniforms on ships designed to stow very tightly rolled woolens and cottons that could be shook out and quickly pressed if needed. I think it was true then commandant Admiral Chester R. Bender's wife thought seeing tshirts under the middie was gross and pushed for change. Ironic how we are finding solutions in old answers; khaki uniforms, .45 acp handguns and .30 caliber rifles. All thats lacking is welding some 55 gallon steel drums to Motorlifeboat bows to teach FNGs the tue power of the ocean.

PJC in NoVa

^ I like these navy throwbacks above - sharp but they need to show a smidge of cuff! I live in DC and see Military officers on the Metro (subway) all the time. Personally, I think the Army's day-to-day dress greens have the most potential. Problem is the sill "blouse" approach they take. Four button jackets? IMO, this isn't draft day. I know many of you military guys will crow about tradition and the blouse, but I just can't help but think they would look better if they simply used a more conventional button count/stance (and didn't button the bottom button!)...

Just my .02


I must beg to differ. The Air Force wears a 3-button tunic, and IMO it looks a bit too "civilian" in cut.

FWIW, the Army is phasing out the green "pickle suit" and will be going over to a slightly dressed-down version of its traditional dress blues (the uni w/ the rank-bearing shoulder straps for officers, just like on Civil War unis) as its "everyday" class-A uniform.

My Dad was a squid, and the Navy color guard and chaplain at his Arlington funeral were an impressive sight in their summer dress whites. However, no one has unis like the Marines' dress blues.


New Member
A quick survey of twentieth century service and dress uniforms, emphasizing the discontinued summer khakis and whites

Now that it's summer, our fashion interest turns to lighter fabrics and colors. In the past century, that was certainly true for American military personnel in dress and non-combat working situations. With the advent of lighter wools and synthetics and a desire to reduce the number of required uniforms, many of the most beautiful uniforms from the WWII and Cold War periods went away by the mid-1970s. I thought it would be nice to see some of them and some of the other interesting details about past uniforms.
These pictures and the information I present come from a wide variety of sources, and I apologize in advance to any veterans who may catch me in errors. I have only the highest respect for our service members past and present and I offer thanks in advance for any corrections and comments that anyone can share. So, on with the show:

I assume that most people have a passing familiarity with the current Armed Forces uniforms. Pictures of them as well as the newest proposed changes may be found in the following Wikipedia articles.

The distinction between service and field uniforms was non-existent before about 1920. The soldiers, Marines, and airmen who fought World War I did so in high-collared tunics of heavy wool. Lighter cotton tunics were used in tropical areas, still with a high collar.
Navy officers wore a high-collared blue tunic in winter and the still-used white tunic (choker whites; think An Officer and a Gentleman.) With the birth of Naval aviation, those uniforms were very poorly suited to working around airplanes, and so the Navy adopted its first ever cotton-khaki uniform in June 1917:

As colder weather approached, the same uniform in Marine Corps "forestry green" wool was approved in September 1917.

By the early 1920s, the high-collared uniform looked increasingly dated and was universally disliked. All the services (Army, Navy, and Marine Corps; the Air Corps would be part of the Army until 1947) adopted a roll-collar jacket with a shirt and tie. This was of course modeled on the lounge suit which had become so common by that time, and many sources comment on how much more comfortable that uniform was. That uniform was the predecessor of the modern service and dress uniforms and still would be obviously recognizable to most people today. Just as with the WWI-era high-collar uniforms, in fall and winter, darker, heavier wools were used, in spring and summer, lighter cotton khaki were used. Although they were not used during World War II, every service had a white dress uniform, too.

Let's look at the Army first:

Here's General Eisenhower in the winter service uniform. Notice that he's wearing a khaki tie with the chocolate brown shirt. The dark shirt/light tie combination was very common with the Army during WWII, especially in the European Theater.

Here's General Doolittle in the same uniform, but with a lighter colored shirt, minimizing the shirt and tie contrast.

And here's General Eisenhower in the beautiful summer tan uniform receiving a medal from President Truman (notice his suit, too!) The summer tan uniform used a khaki shirt and tie and minimized contrast.

This is a close-up of Army Air Corps General Quesada in the same summer uniform.

By the 1950's, the Army had adopted a summer service uniform of lightweight tropical worsted wool or "Palm Beach" fabric. This gave a more refined appearance, and was a different color from the cotton khaki. The light colored tie changed to black, and the dark green cap used with the current Army green uniform was used. Here is a picture of General Gavin:

Here's a better picture, of General Westmoreland arriving in Saigon in 1965:

Summer tans were replaced by a lighter-weight dark green uniform in the mid-1970s.
The Army's Dress White uniform is shown here, worn by General Hugh Shelton at the Naval Academy graduation in 2000.

The Army still has this uniform, though it will go away when the new Service Blue takes effect.

The Navy, too, had a rainbow of service uniforms. Officers at mid-century could count on having blue, white, and khaki uniforms, plus green if they were aviators and gray during WWII. Here's the beautiful service khaki, originally intended as a working uniform for aviators and submariners but adopted fleet-wide in 1941. Modeled by Admiral Halsey:

Note that this uniform has hard shoulder boards for rank, and a black tie unlike the Army and Marine uniforms. Service Dress Khaki is coming back, and is in wear-testing right now. Here's current Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen arriving to give a presentation in Germany on June 25, 2008:

Notice the Navy captain in whites and the female Marine officer in greens in the background. Could that be Harm and Mac from JAG?
Admiral King, Chief of Naval Operations during WWII, certainly understood the need for a pocket square. This is the only picture of a pocket square worn with a Navy uniform that I have ever seen:

Admiral King, for whatever reason, hated khaki and thought that a gray version of the khaki uniform would be a better color for officers serving on "haze gray" ships. The gray uniform wasn't very popular and was discontinued in 1949, but here's a picture of Captain McCann wearing it:

Aviators continued to be eligible to wear a green wool winter uniform of Marine Corps "forestry green," but with Navy details like the black tie and black rank braid on the sleeves.

Even though it was primarily a working uniform and not usually worn off base, some officers wore the Aviation Green like a service uniform. No one was going to tell Admiral Halsey (right) what to wear!

Although the Army has gone back and forth between black ties and khaki, the Navy has always used black ties on all uniforms and the Marine Corps has always used khaki, matching the khaki shirt.

Speaking of the Marine Corps, here is a great picture from 1942 showing the green winter and khaki summer service uniforms, as well as the Marines' dress choker whites.

Marine service tunics have three buttons (instead of the Army and Air Force's four) and a self-belt, unlike the Navy's three-button service dress khaki. The khaki summer service uniform was replaced in the 1970s by either a lightweight version of the green uniform or the khaki shirt worn with either a tie or open collar. I really like these Marine summer uniforms, so here are a few more pictures.


The choker white was the summer alternative to the well known Marine dress blues, but was discontinued in the 1980s. This last uniform plate also shows the summer mess dress uniforms, which had similar counterparts as "white dinner jacket" style formal uniforms for all the services until their abolishment in recent years.
For a short time in the 1950s, Marines had a short cotton "Eisenhower" style jacket for summer use.

Since seersucker is such a popular topic, I'll mention that Women Marines had a green and white seersucker uniform and WAVES had a gray and white seersucker uniform for summer wear. Sorry, but I can't find any really good pictures.

Off we go into the wild blue yonder. The Air Force became a separate branch of service in 1947 and quickly created its own distinctive uniforms. The blue service dress was augmented by a "khaki" summer variant called "silver tan," worn with a blue cap and blue tie. Silver tans were discontinued in 1965.

Here's a portrait of General Vandenberg in silver tan:

Here's another great picture, from an AFROTC uniform display:


From left to right, the uniforms are: WWI Army Air Corps, WWII Army "pinks and greens" (so called because of the contrast between the jacket and pants), Cold War-era working dark blues, silver tans, Ceremonial Blue, and Ceremonial White. The Ceremonial uniforms, discontinued in the 1990s, were used for dressy occasions where the service uniform was not formal enough and the mess dress uniforms were too formal. Sort of like the Army Blue and White uniforms, or the Navy or Marine dress blues and whites. Here's another picture of the Air Force version of summer mess dress.

Well, that's about all the pictures I have. Most modern military work takes place in BDUs or fatigues, or in short-sleeve variants of these uniforms. I hope you have enjoyed this look back at the whites and summer tans of the last century.

A couple more really good sites with pictures of uniforms:


Air Force:

Navy: (Japanese site, under construction)

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