Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Military uniforms, or military dress, and military styles have gone through great changes over the centuries. Initially, warriors and soldiers wore clothing suited for combat, such as armour, but as the centuries progressed, military uniforms became ornate, due to the elite status that the military had held in society.
The ornamental peak of the military uniform was reached in the early 19th century in Western Europe, particularly in France under Napoleon, but also in Prussia and Russia. The officers of the American Civil War, too, could boast of superbly decorated uniforms.
Equally ornate were the beards and moustaches worn by the officers of the day, which complemented their rank and age. Some of the styles still bear names paying homage to this age (e.g. imperial, royale, musketeer).
One purpose of military uniforms is to clearly distinguish combatants who are protected by the laws of war from other persons carrying weapons, who enjoy no such protection. Another purpose in historical times was to make it difficult for deserters to avoid detection; military uniforms were so distinctive with many metal buttons and unique colors that they could not be modified into unrecognizable clothing.
Originally, the typical colour scheme included bright and high contrast colour arrangements which made the uniforms visible in battles with much smoke from gunpowder. However, with the growing prevalence of accurate rifles and other ranged firearms as standard weapons for infantry, it was found in the Crimean War that these colours made soldiers easy targets for enemies to shoot at a distance. In reaction, the various militaries, beginning with the British, changed the colours, predominantly to such ones that blended in more with the terrain (like khaki) for the purposes of camouflage. In addition, this idea was followed with uniforms suitable for particular climates and seasons such as white for snowy regions and tan for sandy ones.
The traditional coloured uniform gave way to one more suited for actual combat in modern conditions. The glory days of the military uniform and the pomp and ceremony of the military had yielded to the utilitarian necessities of war and economic frugality. Most military organizations, however, have developed several different uniform types, including combat dress or Battle dress uniform, working dress, walking out dress, and ceremonial full dress. For instance, the US Marine Corps has a distinct blue dress uniform, but their regular duty uniform is in khaki, with green trousers. In other services where camoflague is normally a non-issue like navies, distinctively colored uniforms are still issued like the US Navy's white officer uniform for warm weather. The British Army mainly retains its traditional full dress uniform only for bands and ceremonial units, with other soldiers wearing a plainer navy blue full dress uniform; walking out dress is khaki, working dress green and combat kit camouflaged, although there are many other variations. The military of some countries have also further dressed up the combat uniforms, wearing medals with the combat terrain coloured uniforms, including in shirt sleeve dress style.
- Components of military uniform: stable belt
- Mess Dress Mess dress
- Medals Medals
- Military antiquities and collectibles: Militaria
- Military styles: Costumes, Facial hair; depicted in art: Military art
- Other military clothing: Armour
- Related list: List of uniforms and clothing of WWII
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