By Col. Jon C. Schreyach, U.S. Army (Ret.)
Best Defense military fashion columnist
Last summer I saw a Washington Post article about the House's approval of a measure to have all the military
services use the same camouflage pattern on their battle dress.
I applaud that
decision, and it got me thinking about uniforms and uniform changes in general
and, in particular, those of my service, the Army, which seems to be 1) always
changing its uniforms and 2) getting a uniform that is worse than its
predecessor. In this regard, I have to
admit a certain jealousy of my colleagues in the Marine Corps. I'm no expert, but I believe that the "jarheads"
have, basically, had the same uniforms since WWII.
Contrast the changes
(or non-changes) in uniforms that the Marines have made over time with what has
gone on in the Army. The leadership of
the senior service, it seems, is always looking to change its uniforms to
something "better" (witness the infamous black beret debacle). And in so doing, they
disregard the old adage that "perfect is the enemy of good." What follows is based on my imperfect memory
of a few of these really dumb changes.
In WWII, for
service dress, the Army had "Pinks and Greens" with a Sam Browne belt. They
also had khakis (shirt and trousers). Both were great looking and serviceable, but then, toward the end of the
war, the "Ike" jacket was introduced. I'm not sure why this was done, but soldiers
of that era have told me that the major characteristic of that garment was that
it assured that your shirt was always sticking out of the gap between
the waistband of the jacket and the top of the trousers and looked really
In the late ‘50s,
when I had my first contact with the Army, it still had khakis and was just introducing
a new Class A uniform -- the Army Green (AG-44). (What was wrong with Pinks and Greens?) At that time, we also had, for summer wear, a
khaki tropical worsted uniform which, of course, since it was so good looking,
was being phased out just as I was commissioned. The AG-44, however, stayed around for quite a
while, as the Class A duty uniform until the recent decision to replace it as
the uniform for everyday garrison wear with the "Army Blue" uniform which, in
my day, was the to be worn at formal and semi-formal (depending upon the tie
worn) social events. When used for
everyday wear with its dark blue jacket, shoulder boards (reminiscent of the
Civil War), and contrasting, light blue trousers with gold stripe, it looks
ridiculous. Almost as silly as those
Gilbert and Sullivan outfits that were introduced for the Army Band's Herald
Trumpeters during, I believe, the Nixon administration.
Of course, the
AG-44 was not immune to some tweaking even before they did away with it
entirely. Army Green had originally been
worn with a tan shirt, but the uniform trolls decided it would be better with a
light green shirt and that the new shirt would have epaulets so that badges of
rank could be worn on the shoulders and one would still be in uniform when the
blouse was removed. (Not removing the
blouse was, apparently, never considered as an option.) At that time, khakis were still around, and
they (khakis) came in both long and short sleeved versions. But somebody bucking for an Army Commendation
Medal decided that only the short sleeved version was needed, so soldiers were
directed to have the sleeves cut off of their long sleeved shirts. This was
fine until the next autumn when everyone in short sleeves got cold and there
was, then, a mad scramble to develop and issue a windbreaker to protect the
soldiers who would have been just fine in long sleeves. Talk about unintended consequences!
The point here is,
as my old sergeant major used to say, "If it ain't broke -- don't fix it."
Jon C. Schreyach, COL(R); FA; OS tours: ROK,
RVN (2), FRG; BnCO-155MM Bn-1st AD; Author: FMs6-20&6-1; Concepts/Rqmts-Corps
Deep Opns; Copperhead, MLRS, ATACMS; Ret.'90; LMMFC-Mktg; Ret. '08. He blogs at