History Of Military Uniforms

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We've all seen pictures of The Libertines, Jimi Hendrix and plenty of fashion icons rocking a Grenadier's coat. Mod style incorporated ex-military fishtail parkas and many other fashion trends have taken their cues from the armed forces. It's clear to see the influence of army surplus on the world of fashion. But, before they were repurposed for more stylish use, where did military uniforms originate?

Where Did Military Uniforms Come From?

We all have images of armies marching together in matching uniforms, step by step, rank by rank, looking sharp and pristine. But this often wasn't the case before the modern era. It was nearly impossible for any type of cohesion amongst ancient armies, and it wasn't until roughly the mid 18th century did uniforms as we know them begin to appear.

Modern military dress, which forms the basis of our collection of army surplus clothing, has evolved radically over the years from the distinctive bright garments worn by English soldiers during the 17th and 18th centuries and the blue coats of the Union Army during the American Civil War. Bright colours were ideal before the onset of modern technology, as they provided easy visibility for generals who needed to know the position of their troops in the thick of the fighting.
By the late 19th and early 20th centuries, armies began to recognise not only the impact of standardizing uniforms on camaraderie and group discipline, but also to bear in mind practicalities such as comfort and reliability as well as the significance of colour and a garment's relationship with its surroundings. Khaki and a particular shade of drab olive green became staple colours adopted by the US Army from 1902 onwards.

Military clothing from WW1 and WW2 is almost exclusively designed in drab olive wool, with the longer tunics and breeches of the trenches giving way during the 40s to the iconic Eisenhower or Ike jacket - a shorter blouson style based on British Army battle dress jackets and designed to be layered with the new M-43 field jacket. Rokit has a wide range of this WW2 era collectible military clothing, including deck jackets, parkas and specialist uniform such as flight pants.

From Monocolour to Camouflage

The 1950s, and in particular the Korean War, saw continued use of WW2 era uniform until the manufacture and supply of new items caught up with demand. Practical improvements were made with new fabrics such as cotton sateen being used; and by the time soldiers were deployed in Vietnam a huge technological leap had been made with the advent of camouflage.

Camouflage was developed during WW1 for use on battle ships - its purpose to inhibit enemies' depth perception and obscure outlines, rendering the object less visible. Gradually adopted by military personnel, the pattern underwent numerous changes during the latter decades of the 20th century; from the tiger stripe camo jungle jackets used in Vietnam, through to standard woodland camouflage Battle Dress Uniform (BDU), the now-rare 'chocolate chip' design of the first Gulf War, and the controversial current digital Universal Camouflage Pattern (also known as UCP or ARPAT) as used in the recent Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts, all of which you will find in Rokit's vast range of military surplus.

The latest incarnation of digital camouflage print, called Multicam or Scorpion W2, is set to be fully recommissioned by the US Army in 2015, replacing UCP - perhaps making this controversial and unsuccessful design a future collectible!

Hand Picked Army Surplus Clothing From Rokit

At Rokit, we love army surplus! Not only does it look fantastic at festivals, or incorporated into any number of high fashion looks, but can also be used by those who enjoy more outdoor pursuits.

After all, military gear was designed to be worn in the harshest of conditions (yes, even harsher than Reading Festival on a wet Sunday night) so if you're a fan of hiking, fishing, camping or bushcraft, make sure you check out our collection of military surplus items today.