Common Threads
Army

Since the U.S. Army's founding on June 14, 1775, its uniforms have evolved to match military tactics and technology – with warfighters constantly equipped with gear that increases survivability, mobility and lethality.

Scroll the interactive display below to see how the uniform has changed over time.

Disclaimer: Over the years, styles, environments, technology and missions changed. In an attempt to simplify those complex details, we are featuring only enlisted combat uniforms and their regulation equipment.

Uniform Evolution

Click through the timeline to see how the Army's uniform has evolved. Use the scroll bar to rotate the model or click to learn more.

1775-1783

1812-1815

1861-1865

1917-1918

1941-1945

1950-1953

1965-1975

1990-1991

2000-2005

2019-Now

 

Revolutionary War

Continental Army uniforms varied throughout the war because of material shortages and difficulty transporting goods, but American soldiers generally wore uniforms similar to the British and French armies – then the elite forces of the world.

The Army established uniform regulations in 1779 and made efforts to standardize small arms and equipment, with some success by the end of the war.

 

War of 1812

Army regiments were all outfitted differently during the War of 1812, except for militia uniforms. Designs continued to follow European military trends and by 1813, lace bindings were no longer featured so regulation uniforms could be mass produced and quickly distributed to troops.

 
 

Civil War

By the middle of the Civil War, military uniforms were mostly standardized for U.S. troops, known as "regulars," and the state-raised volunteer regiments. While there was still some variety, a regulation uniform for the enlisted foot soldier had emerged.

Wool in summer? An Army historian explains
 
 

World War I

The turn of the century marked a uniform change for the Army. The M1910 service uniform, issued for work and field use, was the service's first uniform that was solely one color. It was olive drab green wool in winter and khaki cotton in summer – and for the first time, it didn't include a blue coat or trousers. By the time the U.S. entered World War I, the winter service uniform had become the standard field/combat choice for the American Expeditionary Forces, or AEF, in Europe.

Trench Warfare Made Pistols, Knives Important
How African Americans Served In WWI
 
 
 

World War II

World War II was truly global and required multi-environment clothing.

In 1943, for the first time, a new uniform was developed specifically for combat. Until then, three basic uniforms: a winter wool service uniform, a khaki cotton summer service uniform and a fatigue (work) uniform, were modified and improved. As the war progressed, fatigue uniforms made of herringbone twill, or HBT, also became more prominent in the combat zone.

Variations

 

Korean War

Soldiers in Korea used much clothing and equipment consisting of original and revised patterns from World War II. Given Korea’s rugged, mountainous terrain and frigid climates, however, it quickly became evident that troops fighting there needed additional winter clothing.

Why Uniform "Name Tape" IDs Came About
 

Vietnam War

In the decade following the Korean War, from 1954 to 1964, the Army's uniforms, small arms and equipment changed dramatically.

Due to Vietnam's tropical climate, the field uniforms (jungle fatigues) would be a new lightweight design. The change of small arms from the M-1 rifle to the M-14 rifle and later to the M-16A1 rifle resulted in a radical change to the Army’s field equipment.

 

Desert Storm (Gulf War)

The push to standardize uniforms for the U.S. armed forces continued in the years leading up to the Gulf War. The Desert Battle Dress Uniform (DBDU) was introduced on a large-scale in 1982 as part of a major uniform change. This was famously known as the "Chocolate Chip" pattern. Technological advances in materials and body armor added to the safety of troops in war and improved comfort.

 
 

Operation Enduring Freedom, Operation Iraqi Freedom

At the beginning of the 21st century, the military services began developing their own warfighting clothing, boots, body armor and equipment. The slight differences in uniform direction were meant to meet the specific mission of each service branch.

The Army continued to improve uniform technology throughout the global war on terror. The Army Combat Uniform, specifically developed for use with body armor, replaced the Battle Dress Uniform after the ACU's introduction in 2004.

Variations

 

Modern

Since operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom, advancements continue in garment material, body armor and equipment. With newer technology, such as flame-retardant and permethrin-infused clothing, soldiers are further protected from burns and insect-borne diseases.

  • Emerson, William K., Encyclopedia of the United States Army Insignia and Uniforms, 1996
  • Cole, David, Survey of U.S. Army, Uniforms, Weapons and Accoutrements, 2007
  • Stanton, Shelby, U.S. Army Uniforms of the Korean War, 1992
  • Morel, Aurelien, The Uniforms and Gear of the U.S. Army Soldier, 2012
  • Cox, Michael, www.military.com & www.kitup.military.com [Numerous articles from both websites]
  • Brayley, Martin J., Modern Body Armour, 2011
  • Halberstadt, Hans, Battle Rattle: The Stuff a Soldier Carries, 2006
  • Born, Kevin M, & Barnes, Alexander F., Desert Uniforms, Patches, and Insignia of the US Armed Forces, 2016
  • Arques, Antonio, Grunt: A Pictorial Report on the US Infantry’s Gear and Life During the Vietnam War 1965-1975, 2014
  • Tobey, John E., ed, The Columbia Rifles Research Compendium, 2nd Ed., 2006
  • Brown, Patrick, “For Fatigue Purposes…”: The Army Sack Coat of 1857-1872, 2003
  • Kochan, James L, & Rickman, David, The United States Army 1812-1815, 2000
  • Chartrand, René, A Most Warlike Appearance: Uniforms, Flags and Equipment of the United States in the War of 1812, 2011
  • Chartrand, René, Uniforms and Equipment of the United States Forces in the War of 1812, 1992
  • Lemons, Charles, Uniforms of the US Army Ground Forces 1939-1945, Volumes 1-3, 2011
  • Stanton, Shelby, U.S. Army Uniforms of the Vietnam War, 1989
  • Stanton, Shelby, U.S. Army Uniforms of World War II, 1991
  • Werner, Brett, Uniforms, Equipment and Weapons of the American Expeditionary Forces in World War I, 2006
  • Schmidt, Peter A., U.S. Military Flintlock Muskets and Their Bayonets: The Early Years, 1790-1815, 2006
  • Schmidt, Peter A., U.S. Military Flintlock Muskets and Their Bayonets: The Later Years, 1816 Through the Civil War, 2006
  • Katcher, Philip R.N., Uniforms of the Continental Army, 1981
  • Reilly, Robert M., United States Martial Flintlocks, 1986
  • Neuman, George C., Battle Weapons of the American Revolution, 1998
  • Bartocci, Christopher, Black Rifle II: The M16 Into the 21st Century, 2004
  • U.S. Army Regulation 670-1, 2005
  • www.olive-drab.com
  • “Program Executive Office Soldier Portfolio FY 2017: Ensuring Soldier Dominance,” 2017

Historic Research & Review

  • Kaleb Dissinger, Curator of Uniforms, Textiles, & Personal Equipage, U.S. Army Heritage and Education Center
  • Rodney Foytik, Reference Historian, Research and Instruction, U.S. Army Heritage and Education Center
  • David Accetta, Chief Public Affairs, U.S. Army Natick Soldier Research
  • David Cole, former director, U.S. Army Center for Military History
  • Fort McHenry Guard, National Park Service

Concept Creation, Research & Development

  • Regina Ali, Senior Graphic Designer
  • Katie Lange, Social Media/Public Affairs Specialist

Multimedia

  • Marvin Lynchard, Photojournalist
  • Jon Poindexter, Senior Editor/Videographer

  • Revolutionary War: Frederick, Jared
  • War of 1812: Johnston, Nathaniel (Fort McHenry)
  • Civil War (Fatigue): SPC Spence, Javon
  • Civil War (Dress): McConnell, Aaron
  • WWI (AEF Infantryman): McConnell, Aaron
  • WWI (Assigned to the French): PFC Guillory, Jensen
  • WWII (1941-1943): Frederick, Jared
  • WWII (1943-1945): Woodring, Joshua
  • WWII (HBT): Howard, Austin
  • Korean War: SGT Rodriguez, Nelson
  • Vietnam: PFC Guillory, Jensen
  • Desert Storm: Musselman, Aaron
  • OEF/OIF (Early 2000s): Schneider, Garrett
  • OEF/OIF (2005-2019): McConnell, Sarah
  • Modern: SGT Rodriguez, Nelson