Uniforms Of Military Of Every Country

Suffragists Uniform40s Military UniformsEurope Soldier Uniforms 1900s Compare


Every day we go to our closets with the same question in mind: what shall I wear today? Clothing can convey status, wealth, occupation, religion, sexual orientation, and social, political, and moral values. The clothes we wear affect how we are perceived and also reflect what image we want to project.

Fashion has always been influenced by the events, people, and places that shape society. The 20th century was a period of radical change, encompassing two world wars, suffrage, a worldwide Depression, the invention of "talkies" and the rise of Hollywood, the birth of the teenager, the global spread of television, and, later, the World Wide Web, to name just a few important developments. Politically, economically, technologically, and socially, the world was changing at a fast and furious pace. Fashion, directly influenced by all these factors, changed with them, leaving each period with its fashion icon.

The 1920s saw the flapper reign supreme, with her short dress and cropped, boyish hair. The '30s and '40s brought a wartime mindset: women entered the workforce en masse and traded their silk stockings for nylon. During the conservative 1950s—typified by twin sets and capri pants—a young Elvis Presley took the world by storm. The 60s gave us PVC, miniskirts, and mods, and in 1967, the Summer of Love spawned a new language of fashion in which bell-bottoms and tie-dyed shirts became political expressions of peace and love. In the 1980s, power and affluence became the hallmarks of a new social group, the yuppies. Designer branding led the way, and the slogan "Nothing comes between me and my Calvins" started an era of status dressing. The 1990s will be best remembered for a new fashion word introduced by the underground street and music movement of Seattle, grunge.

Twentieth-Century Developments in Fashion and Culture is a 12-volume, illustrated series that looks at changing fashions throughout this eventful century, and encourages readers to question what the clothes they wear reveal about themselves and the world they live in.

Special introduction and consultation: JONES NEW YORK

Military Uniforms The World



Military Uniform Drawing

The early part of the 20th century saw fundamental changes in the colors and styles of uniforms, brought about by the need for better safety, comfort, and practicality. Out went bright, eye-catching uniforms and in came dull colors that helped hide fighting men from increasingly more effective weapons.

The last quarter of the 19th century and the opening of the 20th witnessed a great change in military uniforms that affected almost every country in the world. Before then, armies had gone to war gaudily dressed in brightly colored suits: the blues and the grays of the American Civil War, the British scarlet, French

Left, the cavalryman of the British Indian Army wears a distinctive turban. The lungi, or cloth that forms the turban, has stripes to denote his unit. The blue shirt and cowboy hat on this U.S. Army private from 1902 (right) are like those worn by "bluecoats" in the Indian wars.

blue, and a whole rainbow of oranges, purples, yellows, and greens, which made battlefields look like parades of toy soldiers. Today, this may seem silly, but at the time, it was a sensible solution to the problem of soldiers needing to quickly distinguish friend from foe.

In many cases, soldiers were not issued a full uniform, and those uniforms that did exist were usually tailor-made and thus, subject to a vast range of variations according to the whims of the tailor, the soldier, or his commanding officer. It was, therefore, necessary for each country to have some easily distinguishable mark—and what better than a coat, scarf, sash, or other item of clothing in a bright, easily recognizable color? Of course, the disadvantage was that soldiers were easily seen from a distance and were, therefore, easy targets for their enemies. In fact, the scarlet uniforms of the British in the American Revolution were so distinguishable that it led to their nickname: the Redcoats.

The growth of mass-produc-tion in factories meant that

From left to right are Belgian, French, and British soldiers of WWI. The French soldier wears a blue tunic with red trousers and collar patches. The buckle on the Englishman's belt was soon to be replaced.

"Hnqleterre. .France Detousles peuples □

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"Hnqleterre. .France Detousles peuples □

jique aussi, oit aii merci

Capes Military Uniforms


On a purely visual basis, the new uniforms were far less exciting than the ones that used bright colors, so the old uniforms were kept for use in parades and other ceremonial functions in which soldiers wanted to stand out. Soldiers always, if possible, kept a special uniform for this purpose, called a dress uniform, but it was usually just a newer, cleaner version of the uniform they fought in, with perhaps a little bit of extra gold braid on the shoulders or cuffs. Now, with the introduction of the new drab colors, the differences between combat dress and ceremonial uniforms were quite obvious.

Even today, many dress uniforms are descended from those worn by their 19th-century predecessors, such as the blue and

This German Uhlan officer of 1915 is notable for his distinctive helmet, here worn with a cloth cover, and the yellow (denoting cavalry) piping on his tunic, which is in the style called "lancer fronted."

soldiers in the same army could all be armed, equipped, and clothed in exactly the same manner, thus creating a uniform in the true sense of the word. As a result, soldiers no longer had to wear bright colors to recognize each other, and their uniforms could now be made in colors that blended into the background, usually browns, greens, and grays.

As with any change, there was resistance at first to these changes, especially among the more distinguished, older regiments. During the first two years of World War I, it was not uncommon to come across cavalrymen, especially in the German army, going into battle in bright regimental tunics and plumed helmets. However, by 1916, this practice had almost completely died out.

white of the U.S. Marines, or the red coats and bearskin hats of Britain's Coldstream Guards.

However, another factor affected the way uniforms were changing: the new weapons that were being designed. In the first quarter of the 20th century, the biggest leaps forward in this respect were brought about by the massive conflict of World War I. Beginning as a war between Austria and Serbia in 1914, it soon spread to include most of Europe. By its end in 1918, forces from all around the globe were involved.


The fighting in France, or the Western Front as it was called, soon became bogged down in a trench war, with both sides launching bombardments of shelling against each other. This included the use of shrapnel shells; these burst in the air, spraying a lethal hail of bullets onto the troops below. Before this war, soldiers in most armies wore some form of cloth headgear, such as the British peaked cap, the German peakless pork-pie cap, the U.S. cowboy-style campaign hat, and various ski caps and side caps.

The few helmets that were in use at this time were almost entirely worn for show rather than for protection. Good examples of this were the German pickelhauben, or spiked helmets. These were usually made mostly of leather or felt instead of metal, with a large brass badge on the front representing the wearer's unit, and different spikes showing the arm of service—a long spike for cavalry, a short spike for infantry, and a ball for artillery. In most cases, a cover made from the same cloth as the uniform was worn over the helmet for combat, and for ceremonial wear, a plume was added.

Cavalry units, such as the German Uhlans or the French lancers, wore many such ceremonial helmets, but beginning in 1916, soldiers on both sides tried to give themselves some sort of protection from shrapnel. At first, this was often in the form of a steel skullcap that was worn under the normal cap, especially by French troops. Later that year, soldiers on both sides were issued official steel or tin helmets, in a partial return to the armor worn during medieval times. These helmets could not deflect a bullet, but there were attempts to produce extra protection, such as a heavy steel shield that could be attached to the front of the German "coal scuttle helmet" for use by snipers. The heaviest helmets— and the most similar to their medieval predecessors—were those worn by some German storm troopers, who also wore breastplates and chain mail around their necks.

The use of chain mail was not exclusive to the Germans. Some British troops were issued with a chain mail curtain attached to the front of their helmets to make a face shield, but they were uncomfortable. Worse, their view was so restricted that many soldiers threw them away, so their issue was discontinued.

The use of poison gas against enemy troops was another development of World War I, first used by the Germans in Poland in January 1915. By the end of that year, both sides were using it, and this produced another piece of equipment to be added to the long list of items carried by the foot soldier: the gas mask. The first masks were primitive, like a surgical mask, and often worn with separate goggles, but these were soon improved. Gas masks limited the

The strange-looking helmet worn by this World War II German infantryman is, in fact, a standard spiked helmet with a field-gray cloth cover used in combat.

World War German Uniforms

The strange-looking helmet worn by this World War II German infantryman is, in fact, a standard spiked helmet with a field-gray cloth cover used in combat.

Kaiser Helmet Costume

The German kaiser, or emperor (second from right), is shown with members of his high command. They wear a range of uniforms and headgear, and some carry ceremonial swords and daggers.

ability to see, and they made talking to other people difficult and impaired breathing—even when just sitting down—however, the protection they offered to soldiers from the deadly effects of gas was worth the discomfort.

It took time for the troops to get used to wearing gas masks, but soon, new recruits practiced fighting in them as part of their training. Troops in most armies continued to carry gas masks for the rest of the century, as the use of poison gas and other chemical weapons continued to pose a threat.


Officers' uniforms were often tailor-made using good-quality cloth, which meant that they were extremely well fitting. They were often worn with long leather boots and belts. Other ranks' uniforms, produced in the hundreds of

French Uniforms 1918 Africa

Th is corporal from German East Africa clearly shows the sand-colored German tropical uniform. There is a cockade badge on the side of his broad-brimmed sun hat, and there are corporal's stripes on his left arm.

thousands, had to be both cheap and durable. They were usually made of woolen material, which was warm, but scratchy, especially when new. Unlike the officers' uniforms, they were generally a poor fit, although for many of the poorer conscripts, their uniform was the best suit they had ever owned.

The officers jacket, or tunic, was usually worn open-necked with a shirt and tie, while those of other ranks were usually buttoned up to the neck. Tunics had to be capable of carrying a great many items, so it was common for them to have four large pouch pockets, with flaps and buttons to hold their contents securely. Loose trousers would quickly become caught and torn as troops moved over rough ground, so many armies at this time used puttees, strips of cloth that were wound around the leg from ankle to knee. Alternatives were the long spats used by some U.S. troops, or long leather boots, such as the dice shakers, worn by some units in the German army. Over all this was worn a large, heavy overcoat called a greatcoat. The coat, like the tunic, was fitted with shoulder straps or epaulets, which held the straps holding the equipment. In the winter, the greatcoat was augmented by nonofficially produced knitted items—a scarf, balaclava helmet, gloves, or mittens—often made by wives or sweethearts, although most countries organized collections of "comforts" for the troops.


The machine gun had been in use for some time before World War I, but its use was perfected during this time. Machine guns were particularly effective against cavalry, wiping out the mounted troops before they could come to grips with their sabers and lances. Also, the trench warfare on the Western Front—bogged down with its barbed wire and mud-filled shell holes—made it almost impossible for horses to move freely across the battlefield.

Thus, World War I saw the end of the cavalry as a weapon of war in the West, and with them went their particular uniforms and equipment: riding breeches or jodhpurs, long riding boots, and, in the West, the sword. All these items, as well as the horse, largely disappeared from the battlefield to take their place in the dress parade.

The cavalry units themselves were converted to use the new "battle steed," the armored vehicle—in particular, the tank—another new development introduced by the British in 1916 in an unsuccessful attempt to break the deadlock of trench warfare.

Other additions included sleeveless leather jerkins, capes, and cloaks. Among Allied officers, a heavy, military-style, belted raincoat with epaulets was popular, and it became universally known as the trench coat.


In a large army, it is necessary for a soldier's rank, and often his unit, to be easily seen. This was accomplished by the use of badges worn on the sleeves, epaulets, or collar, or by markings on the helmet. A system of stripes on the sleeve was common to many armies for noncommissioned ranks; the advantage of having stripes on the sleeve was that they were visible from almost any angle.

Ww1 British Officer Hairstyle

Officers were immediately recognizable by their superior uniforms, and often by their hats, which were almost always different from those of the lower ranks. However their actual rank was signified by systems of bars, pips, crowns, crossed swords, and so on, often worn on the epaulets. Variations included, for example, the British use of markings on the cuff, which was used at the beginning of the war, although by 1917, it was rapidly being replaced by epaulet markings. The main reason for this was the rapidly increasing accuracy and range of the rifle. With this came the sniper, who was trained to target first the officers, then the noncommissioned officers.

The answer to this was a rank system that could be seen easily at close range, but not at a distance. For this reason, badges in browns and greens, which, from a distance, would blend in with the uniform, replaced the intricate, brightly colored, braid rank badges. The same applied to specialist badges—such as those for medics, electricians, carpenters, farriers, artillery, and so on—and unit badges, usually worn on the sleeve or the epaulets.


The "modern" soldier was to be self-sufficient, which meant that as well

A British second lieutenant (left) is shown with a corporal (right). The officer wears an open collar and tie, peaked cap, and Sam Browne belt.

British Army Sharpened Shovel

as carrying his gun, he had to carry enough ammunition for a fairly long skirmish; a bayonet; an entrenching tool (a shovel or pick); food; water; a blanket; some spare clothing, including a greatcoat; and other items, such as field dressings, personal gear, grenades, and a gas mask. Nonofficial items included trench knives, coshes, clubs, and homemade, sharpened shovels for hand-to-hand fighting. Altogether, this could weigh up to 80 pounds (36 kg).

This posed several problems. Part of the answer was a good kit bag, or knapsack, but some of the gear had to be easily accessible, such as the ammunition and the gas mask. Some items, such as the ammunition, the bayonet, pistol, and the entrenching tool, were hung from the soldiers belt, but these weighed a lot—the British ammunition pouches, for instance, carried 100 bullets. All this extra weight often dragged the belt down.

The answer was found in suspenders: a leather arrangement was used to hold up the belt, and, by passing through the epaulets, it kept everything neatly in place while transferring the load to the shoulders. Separate bags were used to carry such items as a water bottle, gas mask, or grenades, and these, too, were passed through the epaulets.


By 1916, shortages of able-bodied men were creating problems for the British army, which began to use women to release men for active service. In July 1917, the Army High Command authorized the formation of the Women's Auxiliary Army Corps (WAAC).

This British second lieutenant wears a tank uniform, with puttees on his legs, rank pips on his cuffs, short pants, and a chain mail face protector—an idea that proved impractical.


Some specialist units developed special items of clothing. The rapidly expanding flying units, for instance, wore tunics with no visible buttons, as well as leather coats and hats to protect against the bitter cold they experienced in their open cockpits. Tank crews, too, were often issued with leather clothing and special helmets.

In what was truly a worldwide war, battlefield conditions varied, from the bitter cold of the Russian front to the oppressive heat of Gallipoli in Turkey, and uniforms reflected these widely varying temperatures. In many cases, soldiers serving in extremes of cold were issued with special fur-lined coats, boots, and hats, while for those serving in hotter countries, a tropical kit was issued. This was usually made from a far thinner material than the normal uniform, and it often included a wide-brimmed hat to give some protection from the beating sun. French troops of the famous Foreign Legion wore a hat called a kepi, which had a loose piece of material hanging down at the back to protect the wearer from sunstroke.

Their main duties were administrative, clerical, domestic, and as drivers. Over 57,000 "Tommettes" were enrolled (men were called "Tommies"), including 1,000 who worked with the American Expeditionary Force.

Members wore a long, one-piece, single-breasted coatdress of khaki gabardine with a beech-brown collar, fastened by a belt of similar material. The coatdress, a kind of overall, had two flapped and buttoned pockets at hip level. The hemline was 12 inches (30 cm), an almost scandalously short length in 1917. This was worn with a broad-brimmed hat in khaki, with a brown hatband, and the WAAC badge on the front. In bad weather, the women also wore a single-breasted, belted khaki raincoat.

Military Raincoats

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  • Hannele
    Who wore chain mail on their uniforms in the 20th century?
    6 years ago
  • quirino
    What other countries military uniforms look like?
    6 years ago
  • Leah
    What countries military carries ankle knives with their uniform?
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  • Herman
    What does a french army uniform look like?
    6 years ago
  • verdiana
    What did german cavalry uniforms look like?
    5 years ago
  • melanie
    What is clothes from the past in 1900's?
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    What did german helmets look like early 1900s?
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    What country has pink military uniforms?
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    What did each countries uniforms look like for their soldiers?
    4 years ago
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    What does us cavalry uniforms look like today?
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    What did west german army uniforms looks like?
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    What military uniform has the biggest epaulets?
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    What UK uniform from early 1900s has stripes near the cuff?
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    What do army specia forces uniforms look like?
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    What is the military uniforms look like in Poland?
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    What did world armies look like in 1900?
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