It was 1778. The colonists living in America had just entered a war against Great Britain and were amassing an army to battle their sovereign nation. At first, the ragtag group of soldiers did not resemble an army in the slightest. They were not only untrained and unorganized, but each was wearing a medley of clothes from his previous occupation as a farmer, preacher, or tradesman. George Washington, general of the Continental Army, was asked by Congress to create a uniform for the soldiers. A year later, after consulting Thomas Webb’s A Military Treatise on the Appointments of the Army for ideas, Washington directed his soldiers to wear blue coats with various coverings for the different state troops. The blue Continental Army uniform became the first Army Service Uniform. Find out how it formed the basis for the “Class A” Dress Uniform used by the army today.
Origins of the Dress Uniform’s Style and Appearance
The early uniforms were heavily influenced by the British and French militaries. They consisted of a simple dark blue coat with cuffs. However, a shortage in blue cloth in 1812 forced the army to start experimenting with white, tan, and green uniforms as well as the traditional blue. Trousers were also added to the uniform in the 1820s. They were made of a wool cloth called kersey, which was coarser and cheaper than the cloth used in the uniform coats. Therefore, when the uniforms were dyed, the trousers were always a lighter shade than the jacket.
From Combat to Ceremony
During Washington’s lifetime, the Army Service Uniform was used as both a dress uniform and a combat uniform. However, as new specialized field uniforms were created that were better suited for combat, the uniform became more ornate. Various patches and badges acquired during service were added to the uniform jacket, and other accessories like gold cuff links and white dress gloves were used. Eventually, the Army Dress Uniform was restricted to formal use and nowadays is worn primarily at public and official functions.
Back to Blue
In 1950, the military wore green service uniforms in order to differentiate themselves from the civilians using surplus Army uniforms from World War I. These dress uniforms were criticized as looking un-military and suit-like in appearance. The army responded to the input and in 2015, brought back the blue dress uniform, reminiscent of Washington’s original design. For men, the modern dress uniform consists of a blue coat, trousers, a long-sleeved white shirt, and a black tie. Women in the military wear a blue coat, a long- or short-sleeved shirt, a neck tab, and a skirt or slacks. Like the original blue uniforms used by the Continental Army, the new uniform jacket is a deeper blue than the trousers, or slacks.
The Army Dress Uniform’s Legacy
The Army Dress Uniform is not an inconsequential set of embellished clothing; it is a symbol of the determination, bravery, and sacrifice of the active military members and veterans who have served our country. It is a reminder of the cause great enough to prompt impoverished colonists to join together and fight against a seemingly insurmountable force. Furthermore, it is a call for citizens and military alike to return to our national roots and band together despite differences in race, religion, or political opinion. The next time you see a soldier wearing the Army Dress Uniform, remember the uniform’s legacy and make an increased effort to exemplify the qualities it represents.
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