The Atlantic: From Powdered Wigs to Camouflage: The Ever-Changing Style of the U.S. Army
Truman Security Fellow Chris Miller in the Atlantic on how changing Army uniforms reflect the evolution of military tactics:
Those who have never served in the military would find it hard to believe the attention placed on a soldier’s appearance. Army Regulation 670-1 governs the wear and appearance of the Army uniform and is constantly revised. But it goes far beyond just uniforms. It covers shaving, haircuts, and hairstyles; fingernail polish, length, and cleanliness; tattoos, piercings, and dental work; and even extends to off-duty appearance. AR 670-1 is the reason you won’t find soldiers with their hands in their pockets.
This degree of micromanagement is one of many reasons many, including myself, decide not to make the Army a career. During my nine years in the service, I followed regulations like a professional soldier, but after I came back from combat each time I found it increasingly difficult to care about what color gym bag I could or couldn’t carry.
And yet, when I joined the U.S. Army in 1999, I starched and pressed my uniform every day with creases so sharp you could cut bread with them. I polished my boots to a shine so high you could see your soul in it. Some soldiers used to soak their uniforms in buckets of starch and iron them until they could stand up on their own. Others used hair dryers to melt and re-melt their boot polish. A few used floor wax. Many would turn their uniforms in to the cleaners every week to be pressed. Some even bought their own industry-grade machines. Every Monday morning at 9:00 a.m. there was a showdown to see which platoon had the sharpest looking troopers. . . .
The views expressed in this opinion piece are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Truman National Security Project or Educational Institute.