Uniforms have been worn since thousands of years, be it the old days of traditional army on chariots and horses or the modern day army on tanks be it the Egyptians, Chinese, Greeks, Romans, etc. The main purpose of the uniform is to signify well organized military forces equipped by a central authority. Troops not under government control are less likely to wear uniforms. With modern technology and globalization different factors affect the design and making of the military uniform. This article is intended to cover basic aspects and information related to army uniform beginning from brief history, to its basic purpose, current technology, and different fabrics being used for the uniform. Finally the article also throws light on the latest technology being used for the army uniform to provide enhanced protection against environment, enemy at the same time preserving the mandatory aspects of the uniform.



The exact details of the first military uniform being made are still unknown. The soldiers of the roman republic wore army uniforms; German landsknechts of the 16th century wore distinctive military uniform. The style and decoration of military uniforms varied immensely with the status, image and resources of the military throughout the ages. Uniform dress became the norm with the adoption of regimental systems, initially begun by the French army in the mid seventeenth century.

Eighteenth Century

During the eighteenth century the normal military uniform in Europe comprised of a standardized form of civilian dress tricom hat, long skirted coat, waist coat and breeches. Uniforms displayed colored facings on the collar, cuffs and lapels of the blue coat, by group of states, not regiment, as in Europe. The color that emerged as the uniform color during the 18th century was Army Blue wherein battle formations required soldiers to stand elbow to elbow with smoothbore muskets. Colorful uniforms provided unit cohesion amidst the clouds of black-powder smoke.



Nineteenth Century

The military uniform reached its ornamental peak in the 19th Century in Europe.British soldiers were known for their striking red clothing redcoats. This was actually a fairly dull shade of madder red until the general adoption of scarlet for tunics in the 1870s. It is believed that the ornate crest of the military uniform was reached in the early 19th century in Western Europe. Napoleonic wars are being identified with the splash of colors and ornate uniforms. By 1810 Napoleonic fashion had changed the cut of the uniform worn since the Revolutionary War. The coat now fastened in front and no longer exposed the waistcoat. That garment had become the roundabout fatigue jacket with sleeves, in winter gray or summer white. The skirts of the coat were cut in, straight across, without color facings. However, with undress and fatigue uniforms being worn in the Seminole and Mexican Wars and the costs of the old-style elaborate uniforms becoming a concern for officers, a radical new uniform concept appeared in 1851. A French-pattern, full-skirt tunic or frock coat with black-leather waist belt accoutrements began to replace the old body coat and the white shoulder belts worn since 1810.

In 1902 foreign duty and the advent of smokeless powder made it mandatory to use one uniform for both in garrison and field with seasonal fabrics of summer khaki or winter olive drab. At the end of the 19th Century, the Army Blue uniform had battered the ends of frontier duty and tropical fights. The uniform traveled from garrison to the field by merely exchanging the natty blue forage cap for the wide-brim slouch campaign hat and by securing the sky-blue trousers cuffs with a pair of cavalry boots or infantry canvas leggings.

World War I

The First World War finally put an end to the expensive practice of furnishing colorful uniforms to all ranks of the various armies

World War II

Uniforms of varying shades of khaki and grey were universal in the World War II. Several experiments were made in the look of the military uniform with the advent of reinventing the dress. The olive drab became the new Modern Army Green in 1954. Emphasis on black shoes increased. The uniform rediscovered after the Second World War laid the foundation of the uniform used today.

Also apart from the dresses and uniforms in the old era, beards and moustaches worn by the officers at that time were equally ornamental complementing their rank and age. Some of the styles still bear names paying homage to this age.

Purpose of Army uniform

Distinguished clothing

Army uniforms are used to cater many different purposes and one of the chief purposes is to set the distinction apart from civilians and other people carrying weapons that do not enjoy protection. In ancient times another purpose to use the army uniforms was to locate the soldiers in the deserts with distinctive army uniforms. Also army men being one of most important professionals the soldiers are made to dress to impress the population. The soldiers are also made to dress to impress the superiors. It is believed that attractive or distinctive uniforms can make a military career desirable to young men. During 1914 the British Army found that regiments with attractive uniforms found it easier to attract recruits. We can take an example of the four Rifle regiments in their sombre dark green had a higher public profile than the great mass of line infantry in scarlet.


Another purpose of the army uniform was to improve visibility of troops during the war time. During the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, bright contrasting colors were used which made it easier for the troops to recognize their men amidst of gun power and other dust. But the bright colors brought with them another issues of being easily recognizable by the enemy as well, from about 1880s enemies were able to shoot at distance spotting men in contrasting colors. Taking this issue up the British Army changed the color of their forces to mix with the surroundings, khaki and olive green symbolized the new army power to camouflage. The idea was further explored to come up with different uniforms for different weather white for snowy regions, khaki for deserts and greens for forests. This pattern is being adopted by different armies worldwide.


In current times a universal camouflage pattern is used which blends the green, tan and gray to work effectively in desert and urban environments. Black colors are usually omitted form the uniform as it is not found in the nature. It was found that when night vision goggles are used pure black color appears excessively dark creating an undesirable high contrast image whereas on the other hand gray tends to match the environment, dust could cover up the gray. Also gray is a neutral color and does not catch the eye as more saturated colors do.


Standardization is another purpose of the military uniform. Mass production of army uniforms results in specific cut and color; also it becomes easier to replace uniforms if mass production is done.

Psychological Purpose

Wartime instead of being the game of the battle is also a game of mindset and human psychology and appearance plays a big part in intimating the enemy. For instance the tall, mitre-shaped caps worn by grenadiers in the 18th Century made the soldiers wearing them, larger and impressive. From 1740 to 1918 Prussian hussars wore the skull and crossbones on their hats. The clothing and the uniform also tells about the financial power of that army, in ancient Sparta warriors wore expensive red cloaks to depict their luxuries lifestyle. There is a belief that the red color was being adopted by the British soldiers as it would not show off the blood stains of their enemy.

Different Army uniform Fabrics

Several fabrics are used for the Army uniform, they are as listed below:

  • Visa; Polyester fabric. It is generally used for ladies white (summer) jackets.
  • Bradman 11: It is a mix of 45% merino wool/55% polyester. This fabric has lighter & finer finish than the Poly/wool fabric.
  • Poly/Wool; a mix of 45% wool/55% polyester for heavy wearing.
  • 80/20; a mix of 80% wool/20% polyester for long wearing.
  • Wool fabric: 100%wool, wool & cotton blended wool & polyester blended, wool & cashmere blended. Wool & tencel & modal blended.
  • Cotton fabric, Cotton/Polyester, Linen fabric for hot weathers
  • Chemical fiber fabric: Polyester & viscose blended, polyester & madel.
  • Lining: 100%polyester
  • Recent research and technology has enabled development of fibers that automatically remain waterproof. The particles absorb water and then use its electrical force to reject what it absorbed.

Different types of Uniforms



It is beyond the scope of this article to list each and every type of uniforms used by all different armies of the world but some of the most common types of military uniforms are as listed below:

  • Dress Uniform
  • White Spring/Autumn Service Uniform
  • Spring/Autumn Service Uniform
  • Summer Service Uniform
  • Winter Service Uniform
  • Combat Navy Uniform
  • Combat Desert Uniform
  • Combat Snow Uniform
  • Fight deck
  • Air force uniform

Female personnel generally have female versions of their respective uniforms, including a skirt to be worn instead of trousers. Also at times their cap and helmet gears are different compared to their male counter parts.

Parts of Military Uniform


Basic accessories of the military uniform remain somewhat similar for all the armies. The area of focus here is not the navy or the air force but the defense soldiers uniform. Below listed are most of the accessories that comprise a military uniform.

  • Sweater
  • Shoes
  • Coats
  • Rank insignia
  • Collar tab
  • Cap badge
  • Name tag
  • Ribbon bars


  • Service branch shoulder patch (for Service Uniform)
  • Army flag shoulder patch (for Dress Uniform)
  • Service badge
  • Boots desert operational
  • DPM (disruptive pattern material) camouflage uniform
  • Boots barrack light operational
  • T-shirts
  • Summer, winter, tropical issues socks
  • Short and long sleeve tops
  • Short and long sleeve leggings
  • DPM shirt
  • DPM smock
  • DPM rain suit with breathable material
  • Helmet
  • Fleece liner
  • Shemag
  • Beret
  • Water proof cap
  • Bush hat
  • Battle vest
  • Large backpack
  • Combat body armor
  • Hydration systems
  • Field gear
  • Sleeping gear
  • Special-operations gear

Current Technology

Advance technologies are being used to provide better protection to the military. Some of the technologies include double-layer infrared neutral fabric lined with Gore-Tex. The uniform made with this technology is reversible, thereby incorporating day and night use and woodland and desert capability in a single garment.

Companies have also come up with lightweight bulletproof vest to be used continuously under clothing, the vest is designed in such a way that it allows for easy mobility. Also a steel plate can be inserted in the front pocket to give added protection to the heart area against steel-core bullets and pointed weapons; there is also a provision wherein stab resistant panels can also be incorporated in the structure.

Military glove are being made from hydrophobic NATO leather, Kevlar and Gore-Tex and acts as a reliable 'all-rounder' which is adaptable and usable in almost any situation. Special Forces gloves are developed using Nomex, Kevlar, waterproofed leather and Gore-Tex, with special processing to guarantee optimum protection and sensitivity.

Companies are coming up with warrior wear system with built in eight tourniquets, two in each sleeve and each pant leg correctly positioned and oriented to the upper and lower extremities are immediately accessible under existing gear and can be operated by the wearer, their buddy or a medic.

Apart from that waterproof fibers are being used in the making of the army uniforms to be used in the humid conditions and in water.

Research into the field

Government is giving grants worth billions of dollars to the universities and research centers all around the globe to come up with technology and design for uniforms which would help enhance the efficiency of their military compared to their competitors. Some of the problem with current material and design of the army uniforms are as follows:


  • Soldiers wear a system of Kevlar and ceramicplated body armor in the form of a vest that weighs more than 100 pounds, limiting the armor to only their arms and legs.
  • The soldiers have different uniforms for different environments such as their uniforms are different while fighting in the deserts, different when in grasslands and similarly others.
  • The uniforms are heavy
  • The fabric does not entail the soldiers any kind of protection from deadly micro organisms or chemicals
  • Large objects to carry

Scientists are doing research to come up with intelligent technology to help soldiers in many different ways. Some of the examples of the smart technology are as follows:

  • The smart technology will come to soldiers rescue in changing environment wherein the fabric will change colors on command as per the environment
  • To be able to manipulate light to make soldiers invisible in the field 
  • Technology which would enable the soldiers to change a shirtsleeve into a splint or a pant leg into a rigid cast in the field if a soldier is injured
  • Possess built-in sensors of each soldier's physical condition and location in the battlefield so command posts can monitor soldiers from a distance
  • The new technology would also weave radio communications materials inside the uniform's fabric which would in return provide soldiers flexibility and lighter loads
  • It may be look to be aiming high in the beginning but scientists are actually working to come up with technology which would administer medicines and transmit vital signs to distant medicswho could then potentially perform medical triage on soldiers in the field
  • Provide impact protection materials and systems including ballistic and shrapnel 



To turn the above mentioned aims into reality scientists are relying on the nano-technology. The most important feature of nanotechnology is its microscopic size; to explain it further size of one nanometer is when you divide single strand of human hair into 50,000. The value of nanotechnology is that miniaturized mechanisms that are able to modify molecular structures to gain new abilities.

Use of nanotechnology will help design chemical protective over garments which shield soldiers against hazardous chemicals and deadly micro-organisms. Uniforms equipped with nanotechnology will also make the fabric lighter and breathable by around 20%. Soldiers and military bases make use of large objects such as the radiosized chemical sensors which are large in size, use of nanotechnology will help to reduce the size, thereby increase its portability. ISN scientists are hoping to able to reduce sensors to the size of a dime so they can incorporate them into uniforms that would enable soldiers to know what potentially harmful particles are floating in their environment.


Tom Tassinari a scientist with the Soldier System Center in Natick, Massachusetts says "We are in the early stages of anticipating how nanotechnology will revolutionize army equipment."

Uniform made out of nanotechnology will have properties similar to that of a chameleon which would help change the properties according to the environment. The fabric will have absorbing materials to counter ballistic penetration, for this there would be a need for a lightweight and flexible substance that could instantly turn rigid upon impact. To investigate further for such a substance, scientists are in the process of studying the behaviors of magnetic polarization of a fluid to a solid. ISNs team hopes to infuse magnetized fluid current into the suits fiber, for instance if there is a glove and it is send opposite a large magnet then it instantly becomes stiff. Magnetization would modify the atomic composition of the fiber so the solidification would increase the strength of the Kevlar while the remaining suit will become flexible good enough for mobility, this would help in reducing the weight that soldiers can carry on combat.

Scientists are trying to find cues among the nano structure in nature. Different materials such as composition of marine conch shells, turtles carapaces, insect exoskeletons and spider silk are being examined to find break through in the research. Scientist have found that spider silk is one of the strongest materials in the world because it stretches before it breaks, scientist to utilize the unique property of silk have already built a silk producing machine in order to test ways to make suits stiff, stretchy, light and durable.

Scientists are focusing on sensor studies that could help equip the suit with physiological functions. This would help to regulate health of the soldier, to give an example to be able to detect chemical and biological weapons in the atmosphere. The suit would also assist in stabilizing optimum temperature, blood pressure and bring remedies to open wounds. Scientists also claim to equip the suit with an automatic treatment kit with an antidote system injected into the body once a toxin is detected. The suit would also have in-built systems which would help monitor physiological state of each soldier at a central head quarter which in turn would send data back to the suit.

Military uniform is a wide area of research and different aspects, thought process goes into the making of one. Today each country is putting up research efforts and huge amount of money to come up with uniforms which ensures more protection and efficiency for its warriors.














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