The History of Air Force Uniforms

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    First Uniform

    • The first Air Force uniforms were distributed for wear in 1950. They were blue with shoulder loops, large lapels and no belts, according to Kevin Rieders, an Air Force historian. A limited number of badges were authorized to adorn the uniform.

    Clean Uniform Policy

    • Beginning with the formation of a uniform board in 1959, the Air Force emphasized a clean uniform style for its branch for several decades. It kept to a minimum the number of badges and other embellishments that could be added to the uniform.

    Medals and Ribbons

    • Although the Air Force has kept badges and many other accessories, such as insignia and stripes, to a minimum, medals and ribbons are the exceptions. More than 100 possible medals and ribbons can be earned for the uniform.

    McPeak Uniform

    • The most dramatic change in the uniform's appearance occurred in the early 1990s when Gen. Merrill A. McPeak got rid of fourrageres and lanyards and put ranks on the sleeves. The uniform was discontinued in 1999 and was the shortest uniform series in the history of the U.S. armed forces, according to Rieders' history.

    Contemporary Uniform

    • The contemporary Air Force uniform includes pants and a coat that are blue and a shirt that is a bit lighter blue. There are silver pins on the lapels, a hat that is the same color blue as the pants and coat and a herringbone necktie. Enlisted men and officers wear different insignia.

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