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"Why Did The West Stop Using Cool Uniforms?" Topic


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1,674 hits since 6 Apr 2018
©1994-2018 Bill Armintrout
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Personal logo Cacique Caribe Supporting Member of TMP06 Apr 2018 3:19 a.m. PST

I was watching an old Twilight Zone episode, The Last Flight (the one with the WW1 British biplane that lands at a US airbase in Germany in the 60s), and I really liked that officer's uniform! It looked ahead of its time, and as if someone in the West actually put a little thought into how to make a military person look sharp.

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It was very similar to the one attached below.

QUESTION
So when was it decided that Allied uniforms would stop looking cool? In the period between the World Wars? During World War Two? Why didn't this style catch on?

Inquiring minds want to know. :)

The Germans later developed awesome ones, but the Allied ones looked frumpy or as if they weren't even trying to produce something that would impress and convey a sense of authority (a ton of medals doesn't do that). :)

Dan

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Personal logo Cacique Caribe Supporting Member of TMP06 Apr 2018 4:05 a.m. PST

Today people think this is some sort of Nazi/fascist design. It clearly isn't, as the World War One example above shows.

Dan
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ScottWashburn Sponsoring Member of TMP06 Apr 2018 4:13 a.m. PST

How did I miss that episode?????

FusilierDan Supporting Member of TMP06 Apr 2018 4:14 a.m. PST

The Navy always led the way in fashion.

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Personal logo Cacique Caribe Supporting Member of TMP06 Apr 2018 4:15 a.m. PST

Lol.

Dan

zoneofcontrol06 Apr 2018 5:19 a.m. PST

The "cool" uniforms came with the "cool" early aeroplanes. I imagine both the uniforms and the planes evolved into more utilitarian and more useful versions. Dress uniforms for official and ceremonial functions and flight suits for "work".

Personal logo Cacique Caribe Supporting Member of TMP06 Apr 2018 5:44 a.m. PST

ZOC: "Dress uniforms for official and ceremonial functions and flight suits for "work"."

Except that Allied dress uniforms never again reached that level on the awesome-o-meter! :)

Dan

Andy ONeill06 Apr 2018 5:50 a.m. PST

One factor was financial. Certainly for gb. They went cheap interwar.
Are japanese school uniforms still based on c19th european naval uniforms?

Frederick Supporting Member of TMP06 Apr 2018 5:58 a.m. PST

Money, money, money and the desire to appear less – well, militaristic

The early Bundwehr uniforms were the worst – going to war in a bad cheap suit

willthepiper06 Apr 2018 6:07 a.m. PST

Except that Allied dress uniforms never again reached that level on the awesome-o-meter! :)

I dunno, Dan, you don't think these are awesome?

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79thPA Supporting Member of TMP06 Apr 2018 6:19 a.m. PST

Probably to save money and, perhaps, to speed up the manufacturing process.

Grelber06 Apr 2018 7:31 a.m. PST

Always thought the 1914 British uniform was quite handsome. As you say, things went downhill from there. In one of his books, Pat Reid complained that all the other nationalities at Colditz looked sharper than the British. Impossible to look smart in the WWII outfit.

Looking at how straight those trouser stripes are in willthepiper's photo, I'm reminded of Red Skelton's comment that he never sat down in his tux trousers--they went on at the last moment, and up until then he was running around bare legged.

Grelber

Legion 406 Apr 2018 8:04 a.m. PST

Oh … I thought you meant the American West ! Like Cowboys ! LOL ! But those are not really "uniforms" pre se ! Some out there still dress like that though ! Even here in Ohio !! evil grin

But when it comes to military uniforms, I strongly prefer functional over "pretty". Functional is "cool" to me !

donlowry Supporting Member of TMP06 Apr 2018 8:09 a.m. PST

I thought the American officer in the first picture looked better-dressed than the WWI pilot. Though I wonder how he got to be a major or lt. col. without winning a single medal or ribbon. And his uniform would have been blue, not khaki.

But I always thought the WW2 US officers' "pink & green" dress uniforms were very nice.

surdu2005 Sponsoring Member of TMP06 Apr 2018 9:40 a.m. PST

I don't know what the regulations were in those days, but in the past 30 or so years, Army regulations do not require you to wear any medals or ribbons except when directed by the commander for specific formations or functions. I have served with some very highly decorated soldiers who wore a small subset or perhaps none of the awards to which they were entitled.

Marc33594 Supporting Member of TMP06 Apr 2018 11:13 a.m. PST

The pictures may be a bit washed out in 2 and 3 but in 1 it is clear the officer is in blue Don. Further click on the some of the links and you will clearly see the uniform is at least a dark color, not khaki.

As far as Air Force medals, they are worn on mess dress, not the class As (unless one is being pinned on during a ceremony).

As to no ribbons:
"The so-called "clean uniform" aesthetic wavered little even into the 1960s. Debates continued and different movements to allow for more distinctions and honors were formed, but little changed. During a graduation ceremony in 1962, then General LeMay awarded ribbons to NCO graduates, but warned that the move "should not be interpreted as a departure from a clean uniform policy."
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All in all they did a pretty darn good job for a TV episode set in the 60s.

Edited. Actually one of the summaries states this took place in 1959 so very accurate uniform for period.

Personal logo Florida Tory Supporting Member of TMP06 Apr 2018 11:55 a.m. PST

Exactly what is not cool about the USMC blues in any version? For that matter, their green and khaki service uniform is pretty cool too.

My navy son's white choker looks pretty cool, too.

Rick

Cerdic Supporting Member of TMP06 Apr 2018 12:24 p.m. PST

The British WW2 battledress was pretty awful.

Spike Milligan served in the artillery and in his memoirs he says the Americans all looked like officers while "we looked like sacks of s**t tied up in the middle"!

forrester06 Apr 2018 2:03 p.m. PST

Wars are not won with the prettiest uniforms.

There's a fairly obvious point one can make about those other armies represented in Colditz…

Personal logo Cacique Caribe Supporting Member of TMP06 Apr 2018 2:36 p.m. PST

Forester: "Wars are not won with the prettiest uniforms."

I couldn't agree more. Functionality supersedes all other factors. However, once that criteria is met, it would hurt to also give some thought to the effect appearance can have on your citizens or those of the enemy. Specially the dress uniforms that the military personnel of other nations and your own citizens will get to see.

Some countries have had laughable or even shabby-looking dress uniforms. The visual effect on others can be palpable.

Dan

dBerczerk06 Apr 2018 5:25 p.m. PST

I always thought Charles Bronson's uniform as an American soldier in the Twilight Zone episode "Two" -- opposite Elizabeth Montgomery as a Soviet Red Army officer; was pretty cool.

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Personal logo optional field Supporting Member of TMP06 Apr 2018 5:39 p.m. PST

With all due respect what is functional about a neck tie?

Lion in the Stars06 Apr 2018 6:48 p.m. PST

Are japanese school uniforms still based on c19th european naval uniforms?

Some of them. Male "gakuran" has a choker collar like Marine Dress Blues, and the female top is similar to a Sailor's jumper top (but has buttons down the front instead of being a pull-over). Other school use a more modern sport coat and/or sweater for both men and women.

I don't know what the regulations were in those days, but in the past 30 or so years, Army regulations do not require you to wear any medals or ribbons except when directed by the commander for specific formations or functions. I have served with some very highly decorated soldiers who wore a small subset or perhaps none of the awards to which they were entitled.

I only ever wore my "top three" ribbons, since I still hate the CNN Medals (National Defense Service Medal and Global War on Terror Service Medal). I suppose I should get off my butt and get the full set mounted at some point.

With all due respect what is functional about a neck tie?

Makes a convenient handle for someone to choke you to death…

Coelacanth06 Apr 2018 8:21 p.m. PST

Cacique,

The jacket you have chosen to illustrate your point was informally known as the "maternity" tunic: link.

Ron

Personal logo Cacique Caribe Supporting Member of TMP06 Apr 2018 11:02 p.m. PST

Ron
Wow, I didn't know the made a long version of it. The coat extends far below the sleeves.
Without anything to break up the look, like a belt or pistol strap, that long one definitely looks like a maternity suit.

dBerczerk
That's exactly the look I mean, except with less conspicuous insignia.

Thanks!

Dan

Legion 407 Apr 2018 6:33 a.m. PST

I know in the US military, in modern times, i.e. WWI & II. No one wore a tie at the front. IMO the best uniform that the US Army had in WWII was the Paratrooper uniform. With cargo pockets on the trousers and tunic/jacket. Grunts always need places to put stuff.

After WWII they went to the idiotic OD fatigues ! No cargo pockets anywhere ! Save for on the field trousers which were only worn in the field.

The Vietnam Jungle fatigues were very good. We were issued the green version when we deployed to Panama in the '80s. There was also the camo types as well. We were issued those as cadets when in the Recon Commando unit.

Then finally someone saw the light. And on active duty we got the camo BDUs, again based on the WWII Para uniform/jungle fatigues.

There was a time when the BDUs were "low bidder". And they shrunk, with the sleeves and legs at different lengths, etc. And the black faded to light purple. The troops would use shoe polish to blacken them again.

So with the overall shortage created by that. We were authorized to wear the Green or Camo Jungle fatigues, even the old OD "horribly worthless" fatigues. Or the BDUs if they were "serviceable".

I very much preferred the "Jungles" green or camo, or even BDUs[once the "bugs" were worked out]. We were even allowed to wear Jungle boots not only in Panama, but the ROK on the DMZ. And at Ft. Benning, GA as well.

And long after I was gone they figured that polishing boots was a waste of troops' time. So they went to the "rough" "suede" boots. Which as far as I can see are superior !

"The US ARMY … 200 Years of Tradition … Untouched by progress … " We used to say … evil grin

Greylegion07 Apr 2018 7:34 a.m. PST

Legion is spot on. I remember all of that as well (with the exception of the suede boots.

Legion 407 Apr 2018 8:04 a.m. PST

Yes, I was gone[ETS '90] by the time the "rough/suede" looking boots were issued. I think I've heard them called "rough out boots" ? Or desert boots ? I've see them in the media and the local recruiters wear them. Looks like you couldn't polish them if to wanted to. They have a very rough look like suede(?) … Is the best way I can describe them … Some of the younger soldiers here may be able to shed more light on these boots … old fart

donlowry Supporting Member of TMP07 Apr 2018 9:31 a.m. PST

I was IN the USAF (1962-8), and IIRC everyone wore their ribbons (and ribbons to medals)*. It's was rather embarrassing as a new 2nd Lt to have only 1 (National Defense Service Medal) when my NCOs had chests full of them. By the time I got out, I had 6 medals and 1 ribbon (none of them anything very special).

* Some awards consist of just a ribbon, but most are medals, for which there is also a ribbon as a simpler version. The medals themselves were hardly ever worn. Officers had miniature medals to wear on the Mess Dress uniform (which, fortunately, I never had to wear).

When I entered the USAF, in '62, the blue class A uniform was a medium greyish blue, rather similar to the RAF blue of WW2 (which we used to complain made us look like bus drivers or mail men), and they were just phasing out the old "silver-tan" (light khaki) summer class A uniform. (I bought one anyway cause I thought it looked good.) Around '67 or so the older blue uniform was being replaced by a darker blue, which looked better. (I bought 1 of those when I got back from SE Asia.)

Marc33594 Supporting Member of TMP07 Apr 2018 12:03 p.m. PST

I was in 74-99 Don. Remember this episode, according to the information, took place in 59 so the "clean uniform" was still in play.

I never understood when they awarded you a medal they gave you the full size one. In the presentation box was also a ribbon and a miniature of the ribbon as a lapel pin. But other than clipping a specially prepared regular size on your uniform during the presentation you never used the full size one (OK, some did have them in their retirement shadow boxes). As you said you used miniature medals on the mess dress.

And yes some awards were just ribbons, no accompanying medal but all medals had an accompanying ribbon.

By the way when I entered they still had the tan pant/shirt combination and was about a year or so until they started phasing in the Dark blue pants and lighter blue shirt with epaulets. The khaki uniform was the worst ever. Light cotton you were not supposed to starch it (though most of us had at least a light starch) and after just a few hours you look like you slept in it! It was similar to what the Army had but their's was a heavier fabric which held its shape much better.

I too echo those who welcomed the BDUs, especially the cargo pockets. When out and about in the Balkans they were head and shoulders above their predecessors. I could slip an MRE in each cargo pocket and was ready to go (although, with MREs "go" was one of the last things you did).

Legion 407 Apr 2018 1:25 p.m. PST

I never remember ribbons optional in the US Army, '79-'90. But we very rarely wore Class As, TWs[these were gone in @ 82(?)], or Bs … And even less did we don our Dress/Mess Blues …

In '79-'82 we could have pin on awards/devices, etc. on those horrible OD Green Fatigues. I didn't put my wings and EIB on one day, guess I was in a hurry or something ? And got my butt chewed by the O-3 that I worked for in the S3 as the Bn S3Air. I was only a 1LT. And he ordered me to find some, go back to my quarters, whatever … and pin them on ASAP ! frown. I guess that would be the opposite of optional ! evil grin

By the time I got out, I had 6 medals and 1 ribbon (none of them anything very special).

Same here … I did get another in the Army Res, for serving in the Res. in '91(?). And a few of years ago @ 2015(?) I got a Korean Service Defense Metal, after leaving the ROK in '85 … Better late than never I guess ! evil grin It's collecting dusk like the rest on my book shelf …

Old Glory Sponsoring Member of TMP07 Apr 2018 1:27 p.m. PST

When I joined the USMC IN 1967 I just wore what they gave me -- no questions asked.

Regards
Russ Dunaway

dBerczerk07 Apr 2018 5:41 p.m. PST

You Sir, are a military genius!

Personal logo ColCampbell Supporting Member of TMP07 Apr 2018 5:41 p.m. PST

But I always thought the WW2 US officers' "pink & green" dress uniforms were very nice.

You know that the Army is bringing back the pinks and greens uniform.

As far as ribbons, I always wore my ribbons when I was in the old Army Class A green uniform. I never encountered a "clean chest" mantra in any unit in which I served. Of course except for three years at European Command headquarters I always wore the "combat" uniform (first OD fatigues then European battledress) with the sewn on rank, branch, and airborne patches.

Jim

Personal logo Cacique Caribe Supporting Member of TMP07 Apr 2018 11:22 p.m. PST

Pink and green?

Well, if we ever invade Planet Pepto (wasn't there a planet like than on Farscape), I'm sure pink could end up being a lifesaver.

Dan

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Legion 408 Apr 2018 7:53 a.m. PST


You know that the Army is bringing back the pinks and greens uniform.
I've heard that as well … So I guess the Blue uniform with go back to being Dress Blues ?

I never encountered a "clean chest" mantra in any unit in which I served.
Same here … as I said …

C/C that would be the camo uniform issued if you were on islands of the Caribbean that have a predilection for calypso, reggae, etc. evil grin

notes DAAAOo ! DAAOoo !! Daylight come and me want a go home !notes evil grin rum

donlowry Supporting Member of TMP08 Apr 2018 9:22 a.m. PST

The silver-tan uniform I referred to was a Class A uniform, worn with a khaki shirt, dark blue tie, belt and cap.

The short-sleeve summer uniform when I came in was the 505, cotton, and had to be starched. It was soon replaced by the 1505, which was some kind of wash-and-wear and didn't need starch -- much better. We were not supposed to wear ribbons on either of those nor be seen in them off the base. Some time while I was overseas (Thailand) '66-7, they changed the rules on that, so that we could wear them off base and with ribbons. When I was flown to Thailand (in chartered 707) had to wear my class A blues, but coming home I could wear my 1505s. In Thailand, of course, wore the olive-green fatigues and bush hat (being in an Air Commando wing), without ribbons.

Mark, as for the full-sized medal, I think enlisted men wore them on their class A uniform when that was worn as the full dres uni. But you're right, officers had no use for them except for a minute or two after they first pinned it on you.

Looking at the first picture above again, the officer must be a major, 'cause if he was a lt. col. he'd have scrambled eggs on his cap visor.

zoneofcontrol08 Apr 2018 3:24 p.m. PST

"Well, if we ever invade Planet Pepto (wasn't there a planet like than on Farscape), I'm sure pink could end up being a lifesaver."

Dan-
I have a bonnet and man-purse that I could wear with that. Now if I could just choose the correct accessories to bring the outfit all together.
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Legion 408 Apr 2018 3:24 p.m. PST

and had to be starched.
When I first joined ROTC in '75. We had to starch those ugly OD Green Fatigues. Then a few years later we got permanent press … Which smelled like old fish … frown

Lee49408 Apr 2018 7:51 p.m. PST

My memory may be bad but I seem to recall that at sea during the 70's for officers things were quite loose. Many wore pinched flight jackets. Beards were not unknown. In fact I sported one. Those were the days of Zumwalt as CNO. Anyone else remember those days? Am I dreaming lol? Cheers!

Personal logo COL Scott ret Supporting Member of TMP08 Apr 2018 9:16 p.m. PST

Zone
I met my wife because my buddy "Brutus" was wearing a bonnet.

donlowry Supporting Member of TMP09 Apr 2018 8:49 a.m. PST

Many wore pinched flight jackets.

I wore one of those in Thailand during the cool season. One of my hooch-mates was a supply officer.

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