October 16, 2021

Air Force Uniforms: Regulations, History, And More

The US Air Force only became a separate branch of the military in 1947. The first Air Force uniforms were given out in 1950. These were predominantly blue, and featured shoulder hoops and large lapels. It was authorized that recruits could adorn their outfits with a small number of badges.

Fast forward to today and we see that correct attire is still essential. The guidelines for the personal appearance of military personnel is frequently updated, all members of the service are expected to follow the rulebook to the letter when dressing in uniform. The actual regulations are spelt out clearly in instruction 36-2903. Which dress should be worn and when depends upon the occasion.

The service dress uniform is the outfit that many of us imagine in our minds when we think of USAF personnel. This outfit features a metallic name tag which is worn between the seam of the right sleeve and the lapel. Center ribbons are affixed on the pocket edge, but not overlapping. Occupational badges that are held can be worn, though there is a stipulation that each must be the same size and no more than four can be adorned to the uniform at one time. Commanders wear their insignias half an inch above the name badge. Neckties are also a mandatory component of the service dress uniform.

Battle dress uniforms (BDUs) and Airman Battle Uniforms (ABUs) are the outfits that are worn by service personnel when on active duty, be it in an office or in a field of operation. It is expected that all uniforms are kept crease free, and have no visible signs of damage or wear. BDU ranks are displayed in a subdued blue color on the shoulder, whereas ABU ranks use brown shading.

The Air Force started to issue physical training gear in the year 2004. It is stipulated that personnel must wear their PT gear when carrying out official training functions. The shirts can be worn tucked in or left out. Hats are allowed, as long as they have a conservative design and do not feature offensive or insulting language. Physical training gear can also be worn when off duty.

Service members should wear decorations and awards in full accordance with the latest rules. Small or regular size decorations can be affixed on the uniform, except for a Medal of Honor which is worn around the neck. Foreign decorations can only be used at certain times in accordance with the information set out in instruction 36-2803. Medals of the highest stature should be worn closet to the lapel.

The latest uniform has evolved considerably from its first incarnation. There is a clear system in place that regulates changes to the dress regulations. Commanders can authorize specific adaptations during exercises or training.

The dress worn by service men and women today embodies the prestige and importance of the Air Force to our nation. Maintaining a professional appearance is important across all branches of the military, and no more so than in the US Air Force.

For more information, visit http://www.airforce.gov.au/adg/uniforms.aspx