Military Uniforms

Also found in: Dictionary, Thesaurus.
The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Military Uniforms


articles of dress for military servicemen.

In the Soviet armed forces the main articles of the military uniform (of prescribed pattern) are the outer clothing (including greatcoat, pea jacket, topcoat, raincoat, full-dress coat, tunic, jacket, double-breasted jacket, trousers); headgear (sheepskin cap, winter cap, garrison cap, beret, service cap, and peakless cap); outer shirts, neckties, scarves, and gloves; footwear (high boots, high shoes, and low shoes); and belt, utility belt, and equipment.

Service insignia must be worn with the uniform at all times. The form of dress is established by the Council of Ministers of the USSR for the combat arms (services) and military ranks, and the insignia to be worn with it by the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR. Military uniforms may be worn by all servicemen in active military service and students of the Suvorov and Nakhimov schools, as well as by generals, admirals, officers, and warrant officers in the reserves or by those who have been retired, provided both have a special right to wear military service dress. There are parade, parade-off-duty, everyday, field, and working uniforms, with summer and winter versions of each. The navy, in addition, has uniforms numbered from one to six.

The wearing of the military uniform, along with other requirements, makes servicemen responsible for upholding the honor and combat glory of the armed forces and the honor of the military rank. Standardized military uniforms are very important for the maintenance of military discipline and for the economical and quick mass production of military uniforms at industrial enterprises.

Rudiments of military uniforms first appeared in the armies of the ancient world (Egypt, Assyria, Persia, and Greece). They appeared because of the need for strengthening military discipline and for distinguishing one’s own troops from those of the enemy. Military uniforms were most developed in the Roman Army, which introduced uniform articles of clothing (primarily white), armor, and armament. Helmet feathers of different colors were used to distinguish various legions. In the Middle Ages there were no standard military uniforms. Warriors sometimes wore their suzerain’s coat of arms on their clothing. With the introduction of standing armies in the 15th through 17th centuries, relatively uniform clothing with distinctive color appeared. In each Flemish city the soldiers wore clothing of a different color. English detachments of foot soldiers wore green clothing. In many countries soldiers of the guards had clothing of the same color as their sovereign’s coat of arms or that carried his monogram. In the 15th century the French Army adopted more or less uniform clothing but with nonstandard colors. The Turkish janissaries wore white or green clothing. In the Thirty Years’ War, the Swedish Army had “green,” “white,” and “red” brigades and “azure” and “green” regiments, as well as a “black” cavalry regiment (from the color of the cuirass), which could be identified from afar by the color of their uniform. In the army of the Holy Roman Empire, dragoons wore red coats and jaegers green.

Standard military uniforms for combat arms and branches were introduced for the first time in France under Louis XIV. From 1670 to 1672, Minister of War Louvois established special colors for articles of the military uniform. For the guards he chose blue coats with red lining, red cuffs, and red lapels with white tabs; for the dragoons, red coats; for the light cavalry, gray with red; and for the infantry, gray. The Brandenburg elector Frederick William adopted three colors for the uniforms in his army: red, blue, and gray.

In Russia in the early 17th century, strel’tsy (semiprofessional musketeers) wore red caftans (coats) with a white sash. In the second half of the 17th century, they wore fur-trimmed caftans of various colors, cloth caps, and colored high boots. Regiments were distinguished by the color of the caftan, collar, cap, and high boots. When Peter I created a standing army in the early 18th century, he also introduced standard uniforms. The infantry wore green caftans, and the cavalry blue caftans. In addition, soldiers wore red camisoles and short trousers, stockings (red in the guards and green in the army), low shoes, and a short cloth cloak (tabard). The soldiers’ uniform also included a three-cornered hat of thick or thin felt with a rounded crown and rims folded into a triangle. It was ornamented with galloons, feathers, ribbons, bows, and plumes. A leather cap was worn by the grenadier and bombardier companies. It was conical or hemispheric with a coat of arms in front. In the guards, it was ornamented with plumes, feathers, tassels, and metal plates. Uniforms of officers and noncommissioned officers were ornamented with gold galloons. Officers had to wear a white necktie, a scarf, and gilded buttons and a metal insignia hanging from the neck when in formation.

A standard sailor’s uniform was adopted in 1711. It included a gray (later green) cloth caftan, short trousers, blue stockings, shoes with metal buckles, and a black felt hat with brim. Working and summer uniforms were introduced in 1718. Naval officers had at first no special form of dress. In 1732 they were given cornflower-blue caftans (dark green from 1735) with red lining and cuffs and red camisoles. From 1763 infantry regiments were distinguished by shoulder straps worn on the left shoulder, and aiguillettes were adopted for musketeer and grenadier battalions (gilt and silver plate for officers, cotton for soldiers).

In the 19th century and early 20th, aiguillettes were worn in the Russian Army by generals and officers of the general staff, gendarmes, and adjutants. The cuirassier and hussar regiments that appeared in the Russian cavalry in the 1730’s through the 1750’s received special uniforms. The cuirassiers wore white suede collets, tight short jackets, cuirasses, buckskin breeches, and jackboots. The hussars wore short single-breasted jackets (dolmans) with braiding, short fur-trimmed tunics, riding breeches, and short boots. In 1786, G. A. Potemkin introduced a new, more comfortable uniform. It consisted of a short caftan (jacket), a sleeveless camisole, wide trousers, boots with short tops, and leather helmets with wool plumes.

Under Paul I (1796–1801) a Prussian-style uniform was adopted. It included tight long-skirted caftans, tight trousers, lacquered shoes with stockings, and three-cornered hats. Officers wore powdered wigs, and soldiers a complicated hairstyle with braids. After the death of Paul I, the uniforms were simplified (from 1801 to 1806). The cloak was replaced by a greatcoat with a high, stiff, colored collar (1802), wigs and braids were eliminated, and the skirted jackets with high collars had different colors (dark green for the infantry and the dragoons, white for the cuirassiers, blue for the uhlans). Shoulder straps of various colors to distinguish units were introduced in all combat arms during the years 1801–09. They were worn on both shoulders. In 1807 officers’ shoulder straps were replaced by epaulets.

The three-cornered hat was replaced by the shako, which was a rigid headpiece of lacquered leather widening toward the top, with a visor, a chin strap, and ornamentation, including a coat of arms, a cockade, a cord with tassels, and a plume.

Also introduced as a replacement for the three-cornered hat was a helmet of lacquered leather or metal with two peaks and with ornamentation in the form of a spike and a metal or hair crest. In 1811 the forage caps (furazhnye shapki) of 1797 were replaced by new caps (peakless for soldiers) to be worn off duty. In 1844 they were transformed into service caps (furazhki). Generals continued to wear high three-cornered hats with feathers until 1855 and officers until 1844. In 1844 the shako was replaced by a helmet for the infantry. In 1802–03 the Russian Navy adopted skirted jackets with a high collar (also frock coats for officers), long trousers, and three-cornered hats for officers and round wide-brimmed hats for sailors. The first service caps appeared in 1811. Single-breasted jackets and shakos were adopted for all ranks of the navy in 1826, and service caps in 1844.

In the armies and navies of other countries the uniforms of the 18th and 19th centuries were similar to the Russian uniforms and differed only in the color of the articles and certain special features of the cut, decoration, and ornamentation. Each state had its own traditional main color of uniform. In Russia the main color was dark green, except in the cavalry, where the uhlans and cossacks wore blue, the cuirassiers white, and the hussars a number of colors. Poland’s color was gray-blue, France’s blue, Sweden’s green, Austria’s white, Prussia’s blue, the Netherlands’ azure, and Great Britain’s and Denmark’s red. In the first half of the 19th century the uniforms were slightly simplified in most Western European countries. The three-cornered hats were replaced by shakos and helmets and later by service caps and winter caps (kepis), the gold embroidery on campaign uniforms was simplified, and shoes with gaiters were replaced by high boots. In the 19th century the uniforms of different armies began displaying specific articles typical only of the particular army. The Prussian, and later German, Army wore pointed helmets with a metal peak. The French Army wore kepis. The Russian Army’s uniform included service caps, peak-less caps, and shirts.

After the Crimean War of 1853–56, the Russian Army replaced the tailcoat with a coat whose lower part was stitched at the waist and adopted the kepi, which was worn from 1862 to 1881. In 1854 officers were given gray campaign greatcoats similar to those worn by soldiers. Shoulder straps were introduced for officers and generals in 1855. (Epaulets remained only on parade dress.) In 1856 the color of the cloth of the service-cap bands and of the shoulder straps was strictly regulated according to the numeration of the infantry regiments in a particular division. (Red was adopted for the first regiment, blue for the second, white for the third, and dark green for the fourth.) In 1869 in the Turkestan line battalions, shoulder straps were placed on the white linen shirt worn at gymnastic exercises. The shirt, known as a gimnasterka, was used in the army until 1969.

Great changes also took place in the navy uniform. In 1854 sailors received pea jackets, in 1855 dark-green parade double-breasted jackets and service caps, and in 1858 white caftans. A new navy uniform was introduced in 1874, which became traditional. It included a peakless cap with a black ribbon bearing the name of the ship (service caps and parade-dress three-cornered hats for officers), a double-breasted coat, white linen and blue flannel shirts with blue turndown collars that had white stripes (from 1888, three stripes), a knitted body shirt with blue stripes, and black trousers to be worn outside or inside the high boots.

A new Russian Army uniform was introduced in 1882. The whole army received dark green, almost black, jackets with hooks and without buttons and colored lapels, and uniform headgear, including service caps (peakless caps for soldiers) and round lambskin winter hats with a cloth top. The entire army cavalry received infantry-type coats but with collars, shoulder straps, and service caps of varying colors (according to regiment). Only the guards cavalry retained lavishly ornamented parade uniforms. However, the reform did not justify itself. The dark coats exposed the soldiers on the battlefield, and the officers were dissatisfied with the elimination of the traditional parade uniform.

The development of rifled weapons and especially the increase in sighting range made it necessary to create field uniforms with camouflaging properties. In 1904, Great Britain introduced uniforms of a protective color, light olive (khaki), which had appeared in the British colonial troops as early as 1895. Soon after, protective field uniforms appeared in other armies: in 1906 in Russia, in 1907 in Japan, in 1908 in the USA, in 1909 in Austria-Hungary, in 1910 in Germany and Italy, and in 1914 in France.

In Russia bright parade uniforms were reissued in 1907–08. Shakos were introduced as parade headgear in the guards infantry regiments, in the cavalry, in educational institutions, and for generals. Foreign armies also retained a smart, bright parade uniform. In Italy it consisted of blue coats, light-gray trousers worn outside the boots, shakos, and helmets, and for the bersa-glieri, hats with feathers. In Germany the parade uniform was gray-blue coats, white trousers for the jaegers and grenadiers, and helmets with a sharp point. Great Britain’s parade dress included red coats with black trousers in the infantry and blue trousers in the cavalry, fur caps in the guards infantry, and plaid kilts in Scottish units. Spain’s parade uniform consisted of azure coats and red trousers for the infantry and the dragoons. In France it was blue coats and red breeches, and in the cavalry, helmets, shakos, and bright-colored coats. In World War I (1914–18) the French, British, German, and other armies began using steel helmets, which were later adopted by all armies, including the Soviet Army (from the 1930’s).

In the period of the preparation for the Great October Socialist Revolution and after its victory, the Red Guards wore civilian clothing with a red armband with the inscription “Red Guard.” The revolutionary soldiers and sailors (from 1918, members of the Red Army and Red Navy) wore the old uniform without shoulder straps. Red ribbons were attached to the headgear.

In 1919 the Revolutionary Military Council of the Republic approved the first patterns for a standard military uniform. It consisted of a cloth helmet with a star (bogatyrka, later budenovka), greatcoat, summer shirt of a protective color, tabs according to the combat arm, and leather sandals (lapti). The standard uniform was first introduced into the Red Army in 1922. It included a dark-gray greatcoat, shirt, wide trousers, helmet (light-gray cotton for the summer, dark-gray cloth for the winter), and breast flaps (razgovory) and colored sleeve flaps on the greatcoats and shirts In 1924 the flaps were eliminated, and the identification insignia were placed on the tabs. A protective color replaced gray for the shirts and trousers, and the service cap became the summer headgear. In 1925 air force commanders were given open field jackets, khaki breeches (breeches became dark blue from 1927), and a khaki shirt with a necktie (from 1927, a white shirt with a black necktie); dark blue trousers were adopted for commanders in the army in 1926.

Uniforms for naval personnel were approved in 1921. The commanders were given a service cap and winter hat, topcoat (greatcoat from 1925) that was black with gray flecks, black double-breasted jacket and trousers, and dark-blue and white tunics. Red sailors received a peakless service cap, topcoat (greatcoat from 1925) that was black with gray flecks, black pea jacket, dark-blue flannel and white shirts with a blue collar, striped body shirt, black trousers, and blue work clothing. There were great changes in the commanders’ uniforms when personal military ranks were established in 1935 and 1940. In 1935 the garrison cap was introduced in the Red Army in addition to the service cap, as well as the open field jacket, gimnasterka, and double-breasted greatcoat. In 1940 a winter cap with earflaps replaced the winter helmet.

Before World War II (1939–45) most foreign armies had field uniforms of a protective color—greenish gray in the fascist German Army and khaki in the other armies, including the Red Army. Some armies (such as the British and French) used sand-colored uniforms in desert and sandy localities. The parade uniforms of foreign armies had rich ornamentation and a great variety of colors. In the armies of the USA, France, and other countries there were also evening uniforms with a tailcoat and white vest.

In 1943 during the Great Patriotic War (1941–45), the Soviet armed forces adopted shoulder straps and the parade single-breasted jacket with a stiff collar, and the turndown collar on the gimnasterka and tunic was replaced with a stiff collar. Generals and officers of the air force and the armored troops received new khaki parade and everyday uniforms in 1949. In 1954–55 officers and generals were given open jackets and tunics. Special uniforms for cold and severely cold regions were adopted from 1955 to 1959; light uniforms for hot regions from 1955 to 1961; special parade uniforms for honor guards in 1955, 1960, and 1971; and special work clothing for tank drivers, paratroopers, and sailors in 1959. In 1956 soldiers and sergeants received closed single-breasted jackets, and in 1958 officers were given an open tunic with a shirt and a necktie. Special black clothing was adopted for the naval infantry in 1963.

In January 1972 the Soviet armed forces adopted a new form of clothing. It consisted of a closed field tunic instead of the gimnasterka and a newly approved parade-off-duty uniform for soldiers and sergeants, consisting of an open jacket with a shirt and a necktie, trousers worn over the shoes, and low shoes. The standard traditional Russian color of sea waves was approved for the parade and parade-off-duty uniforms of marshals, generals, officers, and warrant officers of the ground forces. Blue was approved for the corresponding uniforms of the same categories of servicemen in aviation and the airborne forces. The standard protective color was established for all field and everyday uniforms (except for the greatcoat and the winter headgear) for all servicemen, the coloring of the shoulder straps, tabs, and service caps of the different combat arms was changed, and sleeve insignia with the emblems of the combat arms were introduced. For officers, warrant officers, and ensigns of the navy, the closed white and dark-blue tunics were replaced by a white double-breasted jacket to be worn with a white shirt and a black necktie and by a blue sport jacket. In 1972 aiguillettes were introduced for servicemen who participate in the military parade in Moscow in honor of the anniversary of the Great October Socialist Revolution, as well as for honor guards and the combined orchestra of the Moscow garrison.


Viskovatov, A. V. Istoricheskoe opisanie odezhdy i vooruzheniia rossiiskikh voisk, 2nd ed., vols. 1–34. St. Petersburg-Leningrad, 1899–1948.
Sovazh, S. Rossiiskaia imperatorskaia armiia. St. Petersburg, 1894.
Nevskii, N. G., comp. Reforma obmundirovaniia 1907g., issues 1–4. St. Petersburg, 1908–11.
Shenk, V. K. Tablitsy form obmundirovaniia russkoi armii. St. Petersburg, 1911.
Kharitonov, O. V. Illiustrirovannoe opisanie obmundirovaniia i znakov razlichiia Sovetskoi Armii (1918–1958). Leningrad, 1960.
Pravila nosheniia veonnoi formy odezhdy. Leningrad, 1972.
Blakeslee, F. G. Uniforms of the World. New York, 1929.
Les Uniformes de l’Armée française. Paris, 1935.
Racinet, A. Les Costumes historiques, vols. 1–6. Paris, 1888.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
References in periodicals archive ?
"He sometimes leaves the house or comes very late at night, and sometimes he is in military uniform," one of them said in confidence.
class="MsoNormalThis has led legal experts to conclude that the execution of the IG's order would be based on the assumption of what police and military uniforms look like.
The video duo face charges of undermining National Service and abuse of UAE military uniforms.
"Residents said a group of people with military uniforms carried out this operation," he said, adding that 10 houses were also damaged by the explosion.
SIDON, Lebanon: The Bazarkan souk in Sidon's ancient market is in high spirits for Independence Day as shop owners began displaying military uniforms in honor of the occasion which falls on Sunday.
The border directorate services managed to bring back a large number of military uniforms and accessories through the Ras Jedir border crossing, the same source added.
He added that the force arrested the gang consists of nine people traveling in three 4WD vehicles and dressed in military uniforms. / End
The deployment of Houthis in military uniforms and the visibility of the group's infamous "death to America" slogan throughout the city has convinced many citizens the government is controlled by the Houthis, Sana'ani resident Asharf Abdulwahed said.
RESERVISTS from across Wales swapped their civilian work clothes for military uniforms yesterday.
Another eyewitness told Sudan Tribune said Tuesday's incident took place in a "very organised manner" He said that they were beaten, harassed and had their properties stolen by people in "military uniforms nwho appeared to be members of South Sudan's army (SPLA)".
According to Gulf News, the Armed Forces announced that the third field army, in cooperation with port security, managed to seize a huge shipment of military uniforms and military tools inside two tankers at the Ain Sukhna Port.
Summary: Gunmen dressed in military uniforms kidnapped eight former anti-Qaeda fighters from their homes north of ...

Full browser ?