I have been fascinated by uniforms ever since I can remember. Even as a kid, we used to get into the old sea bag Dad had downstairs and try on his old uniforms from World War 2. I really liked the old cotton whites although I have to confess I developed a severe dislike for blue wool. This proved to be a severe disadvantage in later years when I was in MM/A school in Great Lakes and they had steam heat.
Fortunately, my first real assignment would be in Hawaii and I would never again wear the old woolies that had been issued in boot camp. Funny thing though, in one of my sealed boxes in the attic, I have three sets of Dress Blues. Grandpa Mac, Dad’s and mine. Wait till my nephew Theo (EMI/SS) finds out what he is getting someday. Maybe he will be the one that breaks the chain and finally pitches them. Another funny thing too is how much wool apparently shrinks over the years. I am not sure I could fit my thigh in the combined material of both legs.
The modern uniforms military people wear have evolved over the years
I have a book that I picked up Scotland years ago called “Uniforms of the World” (published by Exeter Books 1980) This is a great source book that has pictures and descriptions of most of the European army uniforms from the 1700’s through 1937 and talk about how the uniforms have evolved over the years and in many cases why.
In the earliest days of warfare, people mainly wore what they had available. There were few distinctions of rank. According to the intro in the book, you primarily knew who was in charge by the fancy clothes they wore. It didn’t take long for the enemy to develop weapons specifically to lance or cut down the guys with the frilly frocks. Since most armies needed some guidance (a result of not keeping a standing army in most countries) this activity tended to end the organized battle rather quickly.
But like all human endeavors, uniforms evolved with the technology. The soldiers once wore iron hats and heavy armor to protect them from the weapons of the day. This made being a soldier a cumbersome affair at best. Last week you may have been tilling his Lordship’s fields and this week you are standing in a long line with other peasants waiting for a flag to be raised. This flag would tell you to walk, run, or trot towards a similar line facing you across the field. Thank goodness we have made so much progress.
It became a strategy for the various warring opponents to develop color schemes and materials for their armies. I can imagine that slogging around on a battlefield with smoke and cannon fire might make it easy to get confused as to whom friend or foe was. So the development of machines and technology to mass produce large quantities of colored woolen/cotton materials was a vast improvement in marshaling your troops.
I collect a lot of Scottish and English militaria and one of my favorite pictures is of the Scottish Regiments that were in play during the height of the British Empire.
Just a couple of interesting points. Did the British lose the toss on the color of their uniforms? Seriously? Bright Reds and gleaming metal all about? Plus the Scots had the added advantage of natural ventilation on a really warm day. Legend has it that the proper way to wear a kilt was for a purpose: no self respecting Scot would crawl away from the battle for fear of exposing himself.
Technology did indeed make changes to the way armies were dressed. The smaller wars leading up to World War 1 had shown that a new kind of uniform was needed in order to adapt to changes in the battlefield technology. I can think of no better way to describe the needs for a new type of uniform than what was shown during the battle scenes in the move War Horse. By the way, it is very high on my must see list of movies and I believe addresses the futility of war in a way few other movies have done in my lifetime.
Grey and brown became the uniform of the day for the warring parties. These blended easily with the mud and at least provided some cover for the charges across no man’s land. Grey and brown would remain for both sides in the ensuing war with some adaptation for in theater combat. Camouflage has steadily replaced the old ways in combat and new styles seem to pop up like heartier and sturdier plants. They adapt and modify to the occasion. It is interesting that we have evolved all the way back to the actual combatants wearing heavy helmets and heavier armor to protect themselves against the weapons which have improved the way we kill each other.
Two things puzzle me about Navy uniforms today. The first of course is the new bluish camouflage uniforms. This was covered in depth by my friend over at Bubblehead’s blog
As has been discussed before, I am still a bit puzzled about the need to evolve from a perfectly good poopy suit to something along this line. I must be getting old.
The second one that really puzzles me is the decision in some Military Training units (JROTC’s) to allow female cadets to wear their their hijab while in “uniform”. Really? Yep. We are entering a whole new era of inclusion folks. http://www.theblaze.com/stories/defense-dept-okays-process-to-allow-cadets-to-wear-hijabs-for-jrotc-program/
My favorite comment from the article was: “I was like, you’ve got to be kidding me. I wanted to just break down crying right there,” Zawity told Nashville’s WTVF-TV at the time. “They‘re telling me I’m not allowed to march in the parade just because of a piece of cloth wrapped around my head. And to me it‘s not like it’s just a piece of cloth, to me, it’s like my symbol.”
Wait, could this be a new weapon on the war on terror? Just tell the jihadists they can’t march in our victory parade…
wait, what? No victory parade? That kind of sucks… did anybody else hear that?
Again this has been blogged to death, but I was thinking about several seemingly non-related inclusion areas. Now that we are allowing women to be on submarines, how long will it be until someday the hijab will come down the brow? I would think that the headwear might interfere with an EAB and certainly would interfere with an OBA. Maybe we’ll have to exclude them from fire drills and we certainly will have a lot to consider in the galley (including inclusive food).
“Hey, Cookie, what happened to slider nights?’”
“It was replaced by falafel and coos coos night shipmate. But of course there are no meals for the next week while we celebrate Ramadan. Orders from the Pentagon”
“ Oh, I see. Is that why we keep steering 090 every four hours?”
Well, think of the bright side. Maybe the new issue Hijab will be in that lovely blue digital camo. I also wonder were they will pin their complimentary submarine warfare insignia.
See you at the parade, nothing but the finest for our returning troops!!!