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"Do members of the military have to buy their own uniforms?" Topic


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13 Sep 2021 10:06 a.m. PST
by Editor in Chief Bill

  • Changed title from "Do memebers of the military have to buy their own uniforms?" to "Do members of the military have to buy their own uniforms?"

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Skarper12 Sep 2021 11:59 p.m. PST

I'm curious what if any items of clothing serving personnel have to pay for.

I'd like to know specifically about UK forces but information about US and other armed forces will also be welcome.

I have heard conflicting reports and would like to clear this up.

Also, it may have changed over time so include the rough dates if you have any input.

Thanks in advance.

machinehead13 Sep 2021 3:35 a.m. PST

When I enlisted I was issued 4 sets of fatigues, 2 sets of khakis, 1 set of dress greens, 2 pairs of boots and 1 pair of dress shoes. Every month a clothing allowance was included in my pay but it wasn't a whole lot. Mind you this was almost 50 years ago so my memory might be a little fuzzy.

Irish Marine Supporting Member of TMP13 Sep 2021 3:39 a.m. PST

In the Marine Corps you get your boot camp issue, then you get a clothing allowance once each year, but it's only a couple of hundred dollars. The allowance is enough to purchase a set or two of cammies or some dress items but that's it, so yes basically we bought most of our clothes. But it could have changed since I've been out.

nickinsomerset13 Sep 2021 5:18 a.m. PST

85-2011, just Mess Kit, brown shoes and Regimental Jumper. Officers pay a bit more for extra stuff,

Tally Ho!

Stryderg13 Sep 2021 5:50 a.m. PST

86-92, US Army. Issued 4 sets of camo work uniforms (BDUs at the time), 2 pair boots, 1 dress uniform with dress shoes, I think 4 sets each of socks, undies, t-shirts and handkerchiefs. I don't recall getting a clothing allowance, but I was national guard (probably referred to as reserves elsewhere).

Personal logo Murphy Sponsoring Member of TMP13 Sep 2021 6:02 a.m. PST

Strydberg was right.
You were initially issues 1-2 sets of class A's (depending), with short and long sleeve shirts.
4 sets of BDUS with 2 Caps.
2 pairs of boots.
Appropriate underwear, socks, tshirts.
Field Jacket.
(This was 1980's)…

After that, you did get a clothing allowance but it was once a year, and barely covered anything. The first thing you did when you got to your first perm duty station, was to go to clothing sales and buy new (and better) socks than what was issues, and extra underwear and t-shirts. Later on you bought, 1-2 (or 3-4) extra uniforms, and had the embroidered name tags put on them and the cheap roll on name tags removed.
Later on at clothing sales, if you hated polishing shoes, you got a set of chloroframs, which you used windex to wipe off (they stayed high shiny), and you got the brass that you didn't have to use brasso on, and if you were wanting to look more professional, you got a new and more professional looking set of class A's. And as an NCO that was a must, as well as a set of "Dress Blues", which you had to pay for…sigh…
Clothing sales stores were a racket. You'd go in to buy a new BDU cap, or an extra pair of socks and end up coming out with 200-300 bucks worth of "Stuff"….
Kinda like game stores….

Eumelus Supporting Member of TMP13 Sep 2021 6:58 a.m. PST

Also, everyone above the rank of E-4 had at least one set of starched BDUs when you needed to look extra sharp. There were occasional edicts from on high prohibiting the practice, but they were always ignored, including by the generals and their staffs who issued them. These dry-cleaning bills were definitely not picked up by Uncle Sam.

Legion 4 In the TMP Dawghouse13 Sep 2021 8:12 a.m. PST

Yes, Enlisted get issued their basic uniform sets, etc., as some posted here. IIRC Officers got a uniform allowance. We generally had to buy our own. But in the 101 we'd all get a field jacket. Which we had to turn in. And IIRC the old Field Trousers, with cargo pockets on the thighs. Could wear over your standard fatigues. Or just alone.

When the 101 deployed to Central America, Panama, the CZ. We deployed 3 times. We'd get issued Jungle Fatigues including "flop" hat. Which we had to turn in when we got back. I "lost" my flop hat and had to pay for it. To one of the Supply Sgts., about $2.50 USD. A lot of this was left over from Vietnam. I think but in brand new condition.

I was on active duty, '79-'90. We started to get the BDUs in about '81-'82.old fart The first batch of BDUs were "low bidder". So the arms & legs shrunk, the black turn into lavender. So my troops would use black shoe polish to color in the light lavender. 🤯

There was a point in the 101 because of the BDU shortage and the Gov't had get new ones that didn't shrink & turn lavender. We could wear the OD fatigues[I hated those !], or BDUs, or green or camo jungle fatigues[I had sets of both].

In the ROK we'd wore the BDUs and some times wore the Field trousers over our BDU trou …

Then back at Benning we could wear the BDUs, or Green Jungle fatigues. I preferred the Green Jungles. With Jungle boots in you had them. I did … 2 pairs …

The younger troops kind of looked at you as an "old soldier" if you wore the Jungles. I got back to Benning assigned to a Mech Hvy Bde/18th Abn Corps, in about '86. So compared to most of the new guys … I was ! old fart Regardless the Green Jungles with jungle boots were the most comfortable IMO …

Tgerritsen Supporting Member of TMP13 Sep 2021 9:26 a.m. PST

Back in the 80s, enlisted got a set amount of stuff, but after that we were 100% responsible ourselves for uniforms including our boots and shoes. As I recall, we even had to purchase our own medals once awarded (though it's been 35 years, so don't sue me if I misremember that point).

Personal logo javelin98 Supporting Member of TMP13 Sep 2021 10:57 a.m. PST

Chiming in on the above, for the US Army, if we were in the field and our BDUs were destroyed, we could turn them in for a replacement set, but it had to meet certain criteria. In my case, being a combat engineer, I regularly shredded entire sets of BDUs on concertina wire, so it was rarely denied!

BattlerBritain13 Sep 2021 12:00 p.m. PST

For UK 82-ish enlisted were issued with most stuff, although a lot of it was really sh1t.

Marines and Paras would often have their own boots and back then Goretex had just been invented so high-tech walking boots were often seen.

The issued black boots had to be used for parades even though they were very poor for field use.

Those that could afford it and could get them would get their own bergens and DPM Goretex coats etc.

Officers generally had to buy more of their stuff and had to buy mess uniforms and dining in kit.

Dragon Gunner13 Sep 2021 12:15 p.m. PST

Yes we get a clothing allowance to pay for our uniforms. The problem is some jobs are hell on uniforms and don't come close to covering the cost of repair and replacing (i.e. infantry). I had to replace boots every six months and the occasional write off BDUs from damage in the field. If you have a nice cushy desk job your uniforms and boots will last forever and you get to pocket the clothing allowance as extra pay.

Griefbringer13 Sep 2021 12:56 p.m. PST

When I entered the Finnish military service (which ended before I started my TMP membership), one of the first activities upon arrival at your unit was a trip to the regimental clothing depot where you would be issued with a sack that would be then filled with every imaginable clothing item you would ever need, from socks to winter overcoat. Next exercise then involved somehow staggering uphill back to the barracks with this massively heavy sack, sorting out its contents again and organising them into your locker. As there was a huge number of new soldiers entering service on the same day, the depot staff did not bother asking for your size, but issued whatever they thought would fit based on your looks alone (or whatever they had at hand), so you would also need to test the clothes that you had been issued and if something was too small/large you would need to look for another guy who had opposite problem and then swap the items.

All the clothing and equipment was governmental property, which would need to be returned when you got out of the service (with the exception of a plastic water canteen, that you got to keep when you left – mine survived for twelve years after being issued, until meeting an unfortunate accident). You were not expected to buy anything, nor was there any real opportunity to do so, though if you managed to lose an item you would be liable to pay compensation. As far as I know, this has been peacetime practice in Finnish military for the past century. During times of war, same principles applied, though during Winter War shortage of uniforms meant that many men fought in civilian clothing (usually hidden by snow camo worn on top), while at the end of Continuation War the uniform issue had improved so that men getting out of service got to keep a uniform when getting out of service (these were then kept in civilian use, perhaps with some tailoring, as clothes were in limited supply in the civilian market).

Back to my days in the military service, every week there was an opportunity to re-visit the regimental depot and have any dirty, worn etc. items replaced by freshly cleaned ones. On these visits, the staff were more service-orientated and tried to supply items of the size that you asked for. While in principle you were issued with every kind of clothing item you would need, it was allowed to wear your own "civilian" underwear beneath other clothes, as long as it was not visible; most preferred to do this for comfort.

At the time I entered service, actual dress uniforms were no longer in common use. Instead, we were issued two sets of "old style" camo uniforms for everyday use, and one brand new set of much improved "new style" uniform for parade use. The old style uniform items tended to be moderately worn, varied in shades and were not exactly "smart" looking, though they had the advantage that they were white on one side, and could simply be turned around for wintertime use. The new style uniforms on the other hand were rather smart looking in comparison, but also more comfortable and generally well-liked. They were also supposed to be used only on parades, weekend and evening leaves, Sundays and some special occasions.

Also for the everyday wear, there were various regulations about what items where supposed to worn when and how and with each other; especially "new style" uniform items were not supposed to be worn with the "old style" uniform items. These rules were not taken particularly seriously by most, though the senior leadership would at least try to enforce them while at the garrison; on field exercises they were generally not observed. General understanding was that in case of an actual war any such regulations would be immediately ignored.

Many of the clothing items had nicknames, often inspired by their appearance. For example the cap worn during summer months with the old style camo uniform was known as "Donald Duck cap" since the curved shaped slightly reminded one of a duck's bill. Some other nicknames were less family friendly. There were also a few items that for some obscure reason had old-fashioned official names that nobody used in civilian life, causing some confusion on the first days – I think woolen socks were one of those items. And while in general everybody was issued same kit, there were some odd exceptions – for example the truck drivers were issued with special jackets at some point of their service.

That was quite a lengthy description, and answered much more than one originally asked, but I hope somebody finds it interesting.

___________________________________________________________


As for the UK military, I cannot comment on modern usage. However, from what I have read, during the WWII and years leading to it, enlisted men were issued standard clothing and equipment by the government, while officers upon commission were provided with an allowance and a shopping list of items (clothing and other kit) that they were expected to buy. However, they had freedom as to where to shop, as during the time UK had a small industry of private companies producing "officer quality" clothing items based on the official uniform patterns.

For added complication, there were also various regimental clothing items that were supposed to be worn only be members of specific regiments; some of these may have been nominally optional to purchase, though in practice social pressure to do so would have been heavy.

Griefbringer13 Sep 2021 1:41 p.m. PST

Thinking more about the joys of Finnish military service, during my time we were provided by the government with quite a variety of footwear, including one set of each of the following:

- ordinary boots (default footwear)
- parade boots (better quality boots, actually designed for field use but only used by us on parades, leave etc.)
- rubber boots (were useful during autumn months)
- winter rubber boots (with warm, removable felt lining)
- sneakers (for physical education, though you were also allowed to use your own civilian shoes)
- shower sandals (also popular indoor wear during evening off-duty hours)

Speaking of the evening off-duty hours, during that time the dress regulations at the barracks were rather relaxed, so you could see quite a motley assortment of clothing styles present. But if you wanted to go outside the garrison on evening leave, you naturally needed to dress up smartly.

__________________________________________________________

As for not needing to pay for the clothing items, I will need to also mention that the allowance that we conscripts got (it was not even called a salary) was around 100 euros per month (it has gone up since then), plus a limited number of bus or train tickets for weekend leaves.

Unlike many of my fellow conscripts, I managed to be quite sparing with my allowance while at the garrison. Thus, when going on a weekend leave I would still have a fair bit of it left, though this would often end up being spent in certain local second-hand bookstores or at the FLGS (which at the time had at 50 % discount some very nice figures that had recently gone OOP).

Gorgrat Supporting Member of TMP13 Sep 2021 2:39 p.m. PST

When I was in, you had to pay for dress blues, but that was it.

Skarper13 Sep 2021 2:57 p.m. PST

Thanks. That's about what I was thinking. I appreciate everyone taking time to answer.

doc mcb13 Sep 2021 2:59 p.m. PST

Don't know now, but 50 years ago enlisted were issued and officers paid. Same with rations.

14Bore13 Sep 2021 4:19 p.m. PST

Besides like everyone getting uniform items free did also get gas mask and steel helmet which if you didn't have a best friend as equipment manager you had to turn in.
Just compensation for the first Sgt confiscating my cavalry sword I bought.

Old Glory Sponsoring Member of TMP13 Sep 2021 10:07 p.m. PST

USMC, 1967-1973. Never recall paying for any uniforms of any kind.
Did not own Dress Blues until embassy duty after tours of Vietnam and had two sets issued.

Russ Dunaway

KevinV14 Sep 2021 2:59 p.m. PST

My son in the Canadian Military does not pay for his uniform.

USAFpilot Supporting Member of TMP In the TMP Dawghouse14 Sep 2021 4:22 p.m. PST

As an officer I paid for all uniforms except flight suits.

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