How Military Uniforms Has Evolved Over Time - CHK-SHIELD | Outdoor Army - Tactical Gear Shop

How Military Uniforms Has Evolved Over Time

How Military Uniforms Has Evolved Over Time

Over the past year we’ve reviewed some incredible pieces of gear and equipment that the United States Military uses in their day to day lives. While this gear and equipment is incredibly useful and has helped the combat teams complete a plethora of missions, their gear of course wasn’t always this advanced or tactical. And neither was their uniforms.

In fact, if you remember from our previous blog a few weeks back, in the beginning of combat, helmets were initially used and created to prevent dust and debris from floating up into soldier’s eyes, rather than a safety tool to keep individuals safe.

For today’s blog we wanted to take a moment to go back and evaluate how much the United States Military Uniform has changed over the past years. It’s always fun to see the new technology and gear that is being used by sometimes it’s worthwhile to understand where everything initially came from.

Military man in a full uniform with his tactical gear and helmet on


British Roots: The Initial Look

To start off, let’s take a look at the evolution of the uniform at a high level view. The United States Military Uniform has become rather iconic, as it is a set standard for many military branches and uniforms that are on sale today. However, as we can all imagine, what we see today, in 2022, was definitely not how things started back in the 18th century when the US Military was heavily influenced by its British Roots.

Men standing around in their 18th century British military uniform

The First Uniform: 1779 – 1782

It may be interesting to know that in the beginning, all of the United States did not have the same colour uniform. In fact, there were three separate colours to differentiate where exactly the team, or branch was from. White was to highlight and represent New England, Red was for the Mid-Atlantic and Blue was for the south. However, by 1782 blue coats faced with red details became the standard for all of those within the Military, unless you were a General or Staff Officer.

In terms of material, it’s important to note that the initial clothing items were tight fitting and were either linen, for Summer and warmer months, or made out of wool to keep soldiers warm during the Winter season.

Sketch drawing of a man in an 18th century military uniform in white and blue

The Blue Cloth Shortage: Introducing Earth Tones

In 1812, there was a blue cloth shortage that occurred, causing those who created the military uniforms to change gear and find alternative sources of fabrics and colours to create the clothes. This led soldiers to wearing earth tones, drab black, brown or grey colours.

Though there was a blue cloth shortage, the rest of the uniform, including the regulations remained the same. So, while the colours ranged in terms of earth tones, the uniform was not complete without red cuffs, collars and white binding.

Military man in an older uniform thats red blue and white

In 1813, a new cap was also introduced into the mix. This new cap was called the “shako” and was based off the Belgic type of cap that was worn by the British infantry.

Welcome to the Mid-19th Century

The uniform was briefly changed again in 1833, however, to keep things moving along we’re focusing on the change in uniform that occurred in 1851. Especially since the iteration beforehand was so short-lived.

A new frock coat was provided for the soldiers, eliminating the use of the coatee entirely. A new colour system was also created for the teams. Prussian blue was used for infantry, scarlet was created for artillery, orange was for the dragoons and green was for the mounted rifles. Black was also used, and this colour became the uniform for those who were staff.

This colour and uniform creation were used as the Military moved into the Civil War. During this time, the complete uniform included a black felt hat, the frock coat which we had mentioned earlier, uniform jackets with the branch-coloured lace and sky-blue trousers.

Making Changes Based Off Experiences

It wasn’t until the late 19th century that changes for uniforms started being made based off of experiences that troops and branches were facing in the field. At this time, the Army decided to move forward with their own uniform ideas and creations. Assistant Surgeon Woodhull recommended that the Army now wear the Swiss Blouse. This blouse had a unique pleating design that became revolutionary and also opened the troops up to layering, helping them to stay warmer in the winter months.

The clothing was also easier to wear and move around in, allowing soldiers better movement during all season to move around and of course, fight.

Late 20th Century: Tropical Combat Needs

As the military continued to revolutionize the uniforms, it wasn’t until 1963 that production shifted to including items and clothing that was fit for tropical needs. This was due to the Vietnam war in effect and soldiers needing something lighter and more comfortable to wear and fight in, during their time overseas.

Military men standing together in newer Vietnam uniforms

While certain features and items were added to the uniform to make it easier for soldiers to withstand the heat, one of the biggest changes was the movement from wool blends to cotton and nylon, both of which were in a woodland pattern camouflage.

Today’s Uniform

Throughout previous years, the production team highly focused on creating changes that allowed the soldiers to move more freely or stay warm or cool, depending on the climate that they were in.

After the big changes for clothing pieces were created for the Vietnam war, the uniform changes moved from a clothing and material focus, more to a camouflage improvement. This is something you may be aware of due to our previous blogs about various types of camouflage improvements. If you’re interested, click here to learn more about some of the camouflage options that have become available.


As we mentioned in the beginning of the blog, one of the biggest changes and evolutions in terms of gear was the helmet. Moving from something that was used to shield one’s eyes to a piece of equipment that provides safety and has been used for communication among team members while in combat. This is something we have previously gone into more detail about, and if you’re interested in learning about the evolution of the helmet, feel free to click here to read our blog.

Turning our attention back to the uniform, we want to highlight two important changes and improvements over time that helped soldiers.

The Use of Pockets

While it’s no surprise that soldiers have to carry a great deal of gear, it may be interesting to know that once upon a time, pockets were not available on uniforms. Once the production team started making changes that were designed to help the soldiers during their time in combat, pockets were added.

This feature came about in the 1980’s in which 6 pockets were added to the uniform. These pockets were added in the cargo jackets and pants, as well as slanted chest pockets. Then, after 9/11 pockets ankle pockets were added to combat pants and wrist pockets were added to the combat blouse.

This has allowed soldiers to reach gear and equipment at a great speed as well as keep certain items safe and close to them for easy access. It also helps as a way to carry all of the necessary gear that is needed while in combat.

The Gun Holster

Another big change that occurred that was revolutionary for the uniforms was the placement of the gun holster. If you remember, back in the beginning, uniforms allowed the gun holster to be carried on their back, allowing for easy access for when it was time for a soldier to fight. However, this also allowed the enemies to easily grab the soldier’s guns and take them.

Nowadays, the gun holster is secured to an inner holster which holds everything in place while the soldier is moving. It has a very low-visibility feature, allowing the soldier to easily access his or her gun, while also having it hidden from the enemy.

In addition, this holster also provides capacity for the soldier to carry ammunition, water, and first aid supplies.

The Evolution of the Uniform

It’s quite easy to get caught up in the high-tech gear that soldiers have and are able to use nowadays. However, as we uncovered in this blog, it wasn’t always like that. Years ago, uniforms were basic pieces of clothing used to keep the soldier either warm or cool. It wasn’t until the late 19th century that big changes started to occur and that uniforms were fully adapted to the type of work and combat that the branch was in. Which is pretty crazy to think about!

Military men in newer uniforms walking through Afghanistan

If you liked this blog, be sure to check out our other evolutionary blogs here and check out our online store for all of your gear and equipment needs. Luckily, it’s from this century so you can rest assured knowing it’s the high-end gear that we all now know and love.

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