10 Surprising Things You Never Knew About US Military Uniforms

by Jess Catcher
Jess grew up in Oklahoma before moving to New York to become a writer. She has a cat named Agnes.

Military uniforms speak volumes if you know what to look for. Obviously, each branch has their own unique look, but you might not have noticed the extra info hiding in the camo.

Well, more than just their cammies, to be precise. Whether they’re dressing for a fancy occasion or hitting the deck for duty, you might be surprised by how much their uniforms are really showing off.

Or perhaps you’ve heard one of the many myths surrounding the clothing and accessories our servicemen and women wear on the job. I remember my Marine family members telling me the legend about their hats (or “covers” as they call them) in #8 — but apparently it’s totally untrue!

And as someone who’s always admired the Navy’s iconic bell-bottom pants, I was happy to learn they were used for more than just helping the sailors look good.

Check out all the facts below, and be sure to SHARE all the info on military uniforms with your friends on Facebook!

1. The Flag Isn't Backwards

military flag patch

You might think the patch looks funny with the stars on the right and stripes on the left, but the official website for the Flag of the United States explains this is because it “gives the effect of the flag flying in the breeze as the wearer moves forward.”

2. Their Boots Used To Be Interchangeable

military boots

Back in the 1800s, soldiers’ combat boots were identical in shape so that they could quickly be placed on either foot at a moment’s notice.

Because this was also pretty uncomfortable, they changed to a more traditional style by the time World War II rolled around.

3. The Marine Corps Didn't Want To Share Their Design

marine cammies

The digital camouflage pattern now found on most branches of the military started with the Marines — and they wanted to keep it that way.

According to, they even included the letters “USMC” in their design in order to keep others from copying them, but the Army just went ahead and made their own anyway.

4. Sailors Don't Wear Bell Bottoms As A Fashion Choice

navy bell bottoms

Members of the Navy have been donning the flared pant legs even before they became trendy during the disco era of the 1970s, but it isn’t just because they make them look so good.

The wider bottoms make it easier for them to fold up if they’re wading in shallow water or performing any duties that require them to get their feet wet.

5. The Army Isn't Green Anymore

army green

After 61 years of wearing the classic dark green shade used for Army Service Uniforms (ASU), starting in 1954, the color was phased out back in 2015.

Today’s troops wear Army Blue uniforms instead. This shade pays homage to the “Virginia Blues” worn by George Washington and the men on his first command.

6. The Stripes On Navy Jumpers Don't Have Historical Significance

navy stripes

There’s a common myth that the three stripes on the collars of sailors’ uniforms dates back to the three victories of British Admiral Horatio Lord Nelson.

However, according to the official Naval History and Heritage Command website, the stripes actually pre-date Lord Nelson. Although still tied to British sailors before the American Revolution, it was simply the design that the men liked best when they first issued the uniforms.

7. The Eagle On An Officer's Crest Used To Face Left

eagle crest

After World War II, the original eagle design was fixed to the right-facing bird we see today in order to comply with the rules of International Heraldry.

According to heraldic tradition, the right side signifies honor while the left signifies dishonor.

8. The Marine's Quatrefoil Wasn't Used To Fend Off Friendly Fire


Another popular military myth claims the braided design found on the top of a Marine’s hat (or “cover” as they call it) dates back to the War of 1812. According to the lore, the braid was added to help sharpshooters identify fellow officers during battle and avoid hitting them.

On Patrol, the official magazine for the United Service Organizations, debunked this theory when they pointed out how impossible it would have been for the gunmen to see that far onto the enemy ships to make the distinction. The truth is that it was simply a popular design inspired by French uniforms.

9. The Navy Was Notorious For Its Impractical Uniform

navy blue

No, not the bell bottoms. The Navy Times reported in 2016 that the blue and grey Navy Work Uniform (NWU) would be phased out over the next three years, after sailors continued to complain about dangerous factors like lack of flame protection.

According to sailors they spoke to for the article, “the only camouflage they offered was when someone fell overboard.”

10. Some Members Of The Air Force Occasionally Wear Kilts

celtic aire

You can spot Airmen who perform with Celtic Aire, a subset of the Singing Sergeants ensemble, dressed in traditional tartan kilts for their fancier performances.

Did any of these facts about U.S. military uniforms surprise you?

Be sure to SHARE all the info with your friends on Facebook!