Thursday, July 23, 2009
Clothes Make the Man [Fred Schwarz]
An article at Strategy Page details the Air Force’s ongoing search for a satisfactory work uniform. The new Airman Battle Uniform, introduced a couple of years ago, is much more convenient than the old one:
The ABU is permanent press, wash-and-wear and more comfortable. No ironing needed, and you cannot use starch on them. The new boots that go with the ABU are suede green, and cannot be polished. That's another big draw.
Unfortunately for those serving in the Middle East, the new fabric is also hotter, especially where the large map pocket creates a double layer (some airmen have been getting the pocket removed). It also is harder to keep clean, and an airman notes in the article’s comment section that the boots are good at retaining stains and bad at keeping water out. So the search continues.
It’s tempting to draw a contrast between the U.S. military’s impressive success with high-tech weaponry and its continuing struggles to find a good uniform, but the difference there is the difference between building a few hundred or thousand precision devices at high cost and mass-producing something cheap and rugged in quantities a hundred times greater.
In any case, the situation can’t help being better than it was during the Civil War, when each regiment arrived at training camp wearing a uniform of its own design. The elite French troops known as Zouaves, who had distinguished themselves in the Crimean War of the 1850s, were widely admired in America at the time. So a number of regiments, such as the 5th New York, wore flashy Zouave-type uniforms:
They quickly discovered that bright red pants attracted bullets at an alarming rate — though their plight was not as bad as that of the 2nd New Hampshire and 2nd Wisconsin regiments, which wore grey uniforms at the battle of Bull Run and got fired on by Union troops who thought they were Confederates. These and other fancy-dress regiments soon learned to wear standard Union blue on business and save the finery for the parade ground.
07/23 03:14 PMShare