In his ‘Is Adopting Military Wear In Fashion Disrespectful or Legitimate Cultural Expression?’, on Junkee on 22 September, 2015, Matthias Mcgregor quoted a news item about Norway’s police moving to set right a misunderstanding after photographs of the police officers in their new uniforms which were unfavourably compared to those apparel worn by “science fiction bad guys or street sweepers”.
I’m sure neither the reporter of that news item nor Matthias Mcgregor meant to demean street sweepers; however, the point I want to highlight here is the dress code (uniform) every professional need to have for identification.
An army soldier must look like an army soldier, a police officer must look like a police officer and a nurse at a hospital must look like a nurse. The purpose of uniforms is to show one’s identity and to look apart from others.
We see uniforms everywhere: the most obvious is the police uniform and hospital uniforms, and then comes the uniforms of security guards at business establishments and the personnel at different factories and service companies. We find uniformity even in nature.
People have been wearing clothes that represent their status, position, occupation and profession for centuries.
You go to a restaurant and you see different livery, whose quality and quantity represents the standards of that restaurant, starting from the parking lot where you see the parking attendant/valet in a particular clothes; you get to the main entrance where you see the doorman in a bright-colored costume, depending on the restaurant’s theme, bowing while opening the door for you; you enter the main banquet hall where you are met by the chief waiter ( maître d’hôtel ) who leads you to your table and then the steward hands over the menu; and it continues until you finished your dinner.
The restaurant makes sure that there is no chance of any customer making any mistake in identifying each of the several employees, and the pecking order is kept intact and you leave their premises, often admiring the different dress code, totally satisfied with the service.
These uniforms and people in uniforms have become so common place in our daily life that we take them for granted.
There is an interesting story behind the origin of every uniform, the main point being the fact that the wearer must look different, showing their status and position.
There are several items of Army Uniform that made their way into the civilian clothing. Here are a few items that are most popular: trench coat, cravat, cumerbund/cumberbund and epaulettes.
Liza Corsillo in her ‘Want to Look Longer and Leaner? Just Buy One of These’, 13 April, 2016, on GQ, wrote about a trench coat being the spring wardrobe’s best friend, come rain or shine and added that a trench coat was as iconic as a denim jacket and as indispensable as a gray suit. I couldn’t agree more. In another article I read the author talked of news reporters and secret service agents being shown in trench coats, and the lead character in our movies wearing a trench coat when on a secret mission.
Lina Psaila in her ‘Style Tips – The Rise Of The Cravat’ on Men Style Fashion way back in March, 2014 talked of cravat making ‘massive’ comeback as was seen in the Paris Fashion Week for Autumn/Winter 2014. She went further saying that cravat added extra points of flair and a cultivated sense of style on casual and formal wear alike. She emphasized that cravats are great alternative to the bow tie.
According to Lina Psaila, this manly accessory was once worn by Croatian soldiers (known as the Croats) during World War I, and became popular among younger dapper men which were later embraced by the British aristocrats.
Michael Armstrong in his ‘The Cummerbund: 5 Facts Every Gent Should Know’ on MYTUXEDOCATALOG gave us the cummerbunds origin, and the crux of it is as follows:
An Indian item of clothing during British Raj (originating from the Indian word ‘karmar’ meaning waist, and were called kamarbands) which was taken over by the British officers who wore them at dinners to cover their waist.
The cummerbund began in India around 1850, not as formal wear necessarily, but as dining wear for British military personnel stationed there. The folks from India often wore sashes around their waist called kamarbands, kamar meaning ‘waist.’ For formal dinners, the British army customarily wore waistcoats (vests) under their jackets. But in no small part due to the heat in India, the British were very keen to find a cooler dining uniform and quickly adopted the sash for their dining wear waist covering.
The cummerbund remained an item in the men’s formal wear.
Though epaulettes are not often seen in a common person’s clothing, we do see it on our singers and show person’s shoulders, and on some fashion-loving people.
Ann Treneman in her ‘Why the epaulettes must go’ in June 1998, on Independent, predicted that the epaulettes would go out of fashion, saying ‘From the Salvation Army to Her Majesty’s Forces, the uniform is under fire.’; however, the lovely photos of the models and some of the celebs in the illustrated article: New Fashion Trend: Epaulettes! on Huney’z World, show us that the epaulettes are here to stay.
A quick Google search reveals how men’s and women’s epaulettes shirts and blouses will assure us that epaulettes are not going anywhere. In fact, they here to stay put, getting stronger every season!
Some more items of clothing in our next article…
In Tim Layden’s “We are what we wear: How sports jerseys became uniquitous in the US” on SportsIllustrated in Febrauary, 2016, we come to realize the fact that sports jerseys and colors have been found in our casual wear – especially in the young people’s fashion.
So, it’s obvious that we respect the uniforms and we respect those wearing those uniforms. We question those airport officer in plain clothes if they hold us up for one thing or the other The first question we ask is: “Who the hell are you?”. And even if the person in uniform is not an officer but an imposter, we don’t ask any questions because we respect the uniform and take it for granted that the one in the uniform is authorized to check on us!
More coming in our next article on Fashion and Uniforms!