Want to buy or sell something? Check the classifieds

Rank and Patches on Military Jackets - Might I Offend a Veteran?

Atticus Finch

Call Me a Cab
Messages
2,717
Location
Coastal North Carolina, USA
Scott...I've been wearing military jackets since I was in high school. Over four decades. Years ago, I went through a phase when I applied vintage patches to vintage jackets, being careful to match the patches to the year the jacket was made...and to each other. My father flew fighters in WWII, and was in the reserves until the Korean Conflict began, so I rationalized this by beliving my newly patched jacket "could have" been his. Weak logic, I know.

So then I stopped decorating jackets but wore them exactly as they arrived on my doorstep...patched or not. When people glanced at my 64th FIS patched L-2b and asked when I was stationed at Da Nang, I simply told them the truth, "I've never been to Vietnam. I bought this jacket on eBay". Of course, this ended a few conversations rather abruptly.

So now, I don't decorate jackets or wear patched ones. If the jacket comes to me with original patches, it just remains in my collection, unworn. And, when an old vet sees my vintage...but unpatched...MA-1 and asks when I "was in", I can comfortably tell him the truth. I never served. I just like MA-1s because they're warm, comfortable jackets.

AF
 

MisterCairo

I'll Lock Up
Messages
6,972
Location
Gads Hill, Ontario
I should have thought anyone who would seriously accuse you of attempting to impersonate a veteran of a conflict that was done over a century ago is not in possession of an opinion with which you need concern yourself. ;)

Phew, that means my Royal Canadian Regiment Boer War jacket is back in the closet!

5fd8fef25a98fd6c32b3652281dd8f17.jpg
 

Stand By

One Too Many
Messages
1,740
Location
Canada
My own personal feeling on this issue is that I like patches on some of my jackets, as sometimes, I find that a jacket looks better with a little added flavour/interest whereas some simply don't need it. Floungers regularly post photos of their military repro jackets in the Outerwear section and it's strange how, to me, some look simply great and "finished" just as-is ... but others (and I'm thinking A2s here) look oddly "unfinished" and like they could use just a little something ... extra. It's hard for me to pin down what it is, and it's purely subjective of course, but I've added my comment to the various proud owners that, IMO, they should leave the jacket be as it looks just wonderful as it is -- or suggest they perhaps consider adding patches/nametag/jacket art to gain a certain style/flavour that adds to the jacket they have. It depends and it's an intangible thing, but there it is.
I especially like the "unofficial" incised and painted leather patches that were made by local artisans for the 9th and 15th air force personnel that were made and sold at bazaars in Italy and around the Mediterranean theatre as they weren't official. No problems there whatsoever and they are each individually unique and have a lot of character! And a leather patch on a leather jacket looks great.
As for my take on rank, I wouldn't put on something I hadn't earned myself - but had we all been born into the time of WW2, we'd all have been swept up arbitrarily and found ourselves serving in an AAF group or similar and been able to wear the group/squadron patches because we'd passed a few weeks of basic fitness. So for me, wearing those is a lesser issue and it becomes something of remembrance, which is important today - as it's becoming less important to those coming up behind us as it's less tangible to them. When I grew up in Sheffield in England, the effects of the war were still evident around me into the 1980s - areas of wasteland that had been bombed out and levelled and had never been rebuilt and were just cleared and left flat and were just weeds and a few bricks and they had always been that way since the war - just left. There was a veteran on every street and they weren't old men - just retired and out and about in the neighbourhood. Now they are all in their 90s and fading away in care homes, and the wastelands have been reclaimed with condos and trendy lofts for a new generation of people who scarcely think about WW2 as it seems so distant to them from their perspective (hell, my nephew is 20 and doesn't even remember 9/11 as he was too young! How weird is that?! Very sobering - but understandable).

I also have a personal rule that I won't wear any patch that is a) younger than me (I'm 50 this year) and b) doesn't resemble the current design of the active unit/group/whatever (if it remains active). it must be clear that it's out of date. So I have a preference for inactive units as they hold more appeal somehow - somehow more exclusive as it's long gone.

I think that if I was an elderly veteran today and I saw some young lad wearing a good, well-fitting A2 with fine old squadron and group patches and/or well done jacket art and, when asked, he knew what they represented, I'd be heartily gratified that all I'd gone through hadn't been blithely forgotten and would seem like a salve of sorts, for the way the world has gone since then.
 

Big J

Call Me a Cab
Messages
2,966
Location
Japan
Good post from Stand By, and I pretty much agree with all of it.

I wear A-2s, and I think that they look so much better if they have a group or squadron patch for the WWII era. Especially since so many of those patches were thrown together on the spot by guys who were not trained artists, for units that were de-activated as soon as the war ended. Many of these patches are every era-specific and look it! They add greatly to the vintage feeling of a modern repro, and really, how else are the men of these hundreds of bomber and fighter groups and squadrons really being remembered these days? Clearly, at 45, I am not a veteran of WWII, nor could anyone but an imbecile confuse me for one.

I wear a lot of Vietnam era USN G-1s patched with carrier, squadron, cruise patches that all correlate with each other (example; a VF-96, CVA-64, 1971 Far East Cruise patched jacket). All of these patches are original, many produced 'in-theater', and are legitimate works of art in their own right. Sure, I could frame them and admire them, but together on a jacket they tell a true story. A story that I am remembering, and am happy to share with those who ask. After all, unlike WWII, 60's era bomber sqns get no love at all- my A-4 sqn patched Vietnam G-1 is a favorite- but everyone wants to look like a Mig Killer. But Vietnam era is my limit; I'm way too young to have been in Vietnam either, so I'm clearly not trying to fake that I'm a real vet (and this is one reason why my interest in USAF jackets stops at the MA-1 and doesn't go into the nomex era).

Yes, flight jackets are cool; that's why we love them. They are cool because cool guys wore them. They are what they are and should be celebrated in their glory, not striped as far as possible of identifying marks and pretending to look 'civilian', IMHO.

It comes down to INTENT, in my opinion. Do you know who these men were, and what they did? Or are you wearing these jackets to deceive anyone into thinking that you really are a fighter pilot? If the answer is 'Yes', then you are a sad fake.

But, if you are wearing these jackets just because they are cool, and you can admit that, then that's fine. They ARE cool, and remembering the real heroes is pretty cool too.
 

Edward

Bartender
Messages
23,743
Location
London, UK
Another issue again is wearing original jackets with their patches intact - as distinct from adding patches to a repro. I cringe at the idea of people removing patches from a jacket that has real history, in order to appease the views of those who would object (the latter being almost invariably people who were never military themselves, but enjoy taking offence on behalf of those who were....).
 
Messages
11,564
Location
Southern California
I bought my first M-65 field jacket at a swap meet when I was in my late teens in the late 1970s. I haven't worn it in decades, but as best I can remember it had the original owner's name above the left chest pocket, and rank insignia (Corporal, I think) on at least one sleeve. On the left sleeve there was a patched round hole at the elbow, and what appeared to be a faded blood stain between the elbow and cuff. I was clearly too young to have been in the military during the Vietnam war, so I wore it as-is and no one ever questioned me about it.

I have bought two more M-65s over the years, one black and one olive drab. I wear them as I bought them, i.e. no patches, because I believe it would be disrespectful to our troops to adorn any item of clothing with military patches I had not earned; those are the only people I would be concerned about offending.
 

Big J

Call Me a Cab
Messages
2,966
Location
Japan
So, Zombie, I appreciate your point of view, but please tell me (and I don't mean to be rude at all), but what should we do with all the surplus jackets with patches and insignia on them?
Should we donate them to museums until they have more jackets than they can display?
Should we keep them at home and only admire them in private?
In your opinion, what is the difference in me owning (for example) a patched Vietnam era flight jacket, pictures of which I share all over the internet, and my wearing the same jacket on the street?
Is the act of wearing it in some way the problem? If I'm wearing it just because it's cool, and I can admit that to people who ask, where does this sense that I'm somehow cheating someone somehow come in?
My feeling is that maybe it's not my problem, but a problem of other people's perceptions, and how that makes them feel. Don't you agree?
I've never met a vet, or serving member of the military who told me anything along the lines of 'You shouldn't be wearing that' when I explained to them that 'these guys were the first to mine Haiphong harbor in 1972' or such like. Maybe they thought I was kinda geeky, but they always say my jackets are cool, and part ways with a smile.
I'm also interested in why you'd want to wear an M65, but without patches? After all, it's still a military jacket. Why wouldn't you choose workwear or hiking gear or something?
Sorry to ask so many questions.
 
Messages
11,564
Location
Southern California
You're not being rude at all Big J. To the contrary, I think your questions address the main topic of this thread very well; I only hope my responses do the same.

To me the distinction is reality versus pretense. I see nothing wrong with anyone wearing an authentic "era correct" jacket with military patches or other insignia that were earned by it's original owner, or even a replica of, say, a jacket that might have been worn by someone who was in service during World War II. Where I draw the line is when someone like me who has never been in the military but is of the appropriate age goes out and buys, as an example, a Gulf War-era jacket and a bunch of Gulf War-era patches and insignia, attaches them to the jacket, and wears it and behaves as if he was in the Gulf War when the reality is that he's never even been in the military. And, yes, I've seen it happen; not often, but more than once.

I would agree this is a matter of perception, and admit I have some degree of difficulty dealing with people who pretend to be something they're not. But this is my perception and these are my opinions, and I don't expect anyone to agree with them.

Why would I want to wear an M-65? Why wouldn't I? I think it's a very practical jacket. It's warm enough for most colder southern California weather even without the liner (and definitely so with the liner), it keeps me dry when it rains, the pockets are large enough for whatever small items I might need to carry on me, and it's comfortable. It might not be the "height of fashion", but I couldn't care less about that because I'm a casual "jeans and tee shirts" kind of guy. And I do have other jackets and coats, but when it's cold and rainy the M-65 is usually my go-to jacket.
 

Big J

Call Me a Cab
Messages
2,966
Location
Japan
Zombie, thank you for your kind reply.
I think we are pretty much coming at this the same way, and I understand and agree with your reply.
There's a world of difference between wearing an original jacket that has patches, and making a 'costume'. And again, there's a huge difference between remembering (say) your father's or grandfather's service by making a replica of a jacket that they had in WWII or Korea.
I think we agree that it comes down to intent to deceive (or lack of) by the wearer.
It would be great to get the input of more vets, but in my (limited) experience, vets never paid their own jackets much mind at all, seeing them just as uniforms or equipment, with very little regard for makers, spec differences, or contracts.

Yeah, the Gulf War point is a good one, it's too close to now, and likewise, the reason why I can't find an interest in Nomex jackets. I have a First Gulf of Sidra Incident (1981) patched G-1, but I can't wear it; the Tomcat era is way too close to my real age despite the fact I was 9 years old at the time.
 
Messages
11,564
Location
Southern California
Zombie, thank you for your kind reply.
I think we are pretty much coming at this the same way, and I understand and agree with your reply.
There's a world of difference between wearing an original jacket that has patches, and making a 'costume'. And again, there's a huge difference between remembering (say) your father's or grandfather's service by making a replica of a jacket that they had in WWII or Korea.
I think we agree that it comes down to intent to deceive (or lack of) by the wearer...
That's an excellent way to describe it; I wish I'd been as eloquent. "Intent" is definitely the key word.
 

Drewdog2323

Familiar Face
Messages
69
I am jumping in a bit late to the discussion, but the way I approach it is pretty much what has been repeated here. And that is the intent of the wearer. In my opinion, as long as you are not trying to pass yourself as something you are not then it is fine to wear patches and insignia on a flight jacket.

Personally, I like wearing one or two patches that represent my favorite Navy aircraft like the F-14 Tomcat to start. The G-1 jacket looks very handsome with the American Flag patch and a couple other aircraft patches on it. I refrain from overdoing it or wearing anything that signifies rank or gold wings as I did not earn them and do not want to mislead people that I am or was former active duty.

Of course I get questions if I am a Naval Aviator/pilot from time to time, but I always clarify that I am not and that I just admire my friends in the service, the aircraft, and various squadrons on my patched jackets. And of course that I like the jacket for its functionality and looks. I have actually met a number of former and active Naval Aviators over my G-1s as a conversation piece. They were all very kind about it and shared their cockpit stories. And some of them I ended up befriending and staying in touch with.
 

Big J

Call Me a Cab
Messages
2,966
Location
Japan
I had a pretty odd experience the weekend before last. I was wearing my BR L-2b whilst I was sitting outside Starbucks waiting for my wife and her mother to finish shopping. This jacket isn't patched, but has the USAF roundal stencil on the left sleeve. A small gaggle of tourists walked past, and one guy (about my age, I guess) picked me out and asked if I was in the Air Force. I said no, and he asked my why I was wearing the jacket. I smiled and said 'Because it's a cool jacket'.
He looked like he was going to pop and told me I was trying to fool people I was serving my country. I just laughed and told him that I just told him I wasn't in the Air Force, so that wasn't true.
He started throwing the F-word at me and scurried off to catch up with his tour group.
Seems to me that only the mentally deficient are offended.
 

Drewdog2323

Familiar Face
Messages
69
I had a pretty odd experience the weekend before last. I was wearing my BR L-2b whilst I was sitting outside Starbucks waiting for my wife and her mother to finish shopping. This jacket isn't patched, but has the USAF roundal stencil on the left sleeve. A small gaggle of tourists walked past, and one guy (about my age, I guess) picked me out and asked if I was in the Air Force. I said no, and he asked my why I was wearing the jacket. I smiled and said 'Because it's a cool jacket'.
He looked like he was going to pop and told me I was trying to fool people I was serving my country. I just laughed and told him that I just told him I wasn't in the Air Force, so that wasn't true.
He started throwing the F-word at me and scurried off to catch up with his tour group.
Seems to me that only the mentally deficient are offended.
Yeah, I have run into the occasional crazy person like you described too. Typically it’s some drunk and/or ignorant person at a bar, probably overcompensating for something.
 

GregGale

One of the Regulars
Messages
177
@Big J, had you been wearing your Rolling Stones T-shirt, he would have asked you "Are you trying to fool people pretending you're in the Rolling Stones?!" :D

Because at the end of the day we're wearing these for the same reason: because we admire the men who wore these jackets "for real". OK, and because they look unbelievably cool :)
 

p51

One Too Many
Messages
1,098
Location
Well behind the front lines!
I started reading this thread from the start and after a few pages, my eyes started glazing over.
I have a Space Camp jacket (yes, I've been there 4 times, in the adult programs) and while I haven't been accused of making people think I'm an astronaut, I have twice been asked to sign autographs because the person thought I was and wouldn't accept me telling them I really wasn't. I asked a similar question to the first one when pointing out someone walking past with a Seattle Seahawks jersey on, "Look, you don't assume that guy is in the NFL just because he has that jersey on, do you?"

This comes up every now and then and I always ask the same question:
If the WW2 vets don't have a problem with it, why should anyone else?
I've been into this stuff since the 1980s, for WW2 re-enacting and display stuff, and am also a former US Army Captain in real life. I've talked with countless WW2 vets in that time and I've never once encountered a single WW2 vet who had a problem with anything like this. the closest I ever saw was Dick Winters (yes, that Dick Winters, before he was famous from the book and TV series) mocking the 300-pound 'paratrooper' re-enactors at the Ike Farm events in the 90s but was for guys who didn't look the part.
You know who does get their panties in a bunch over it? The Cold War vets and people who never served. I have no idea why that is, but anyone who gets their knickers in a twist will likely be in their early 60s or younger.
Now, modern uniforms? Yeah, I wouldn't like seeing that (I cringe whenever I see a 300-pound woman walking around with a Army PT shirt, for some reason). But any uniform that has been phased out is no longer a uniform. If someone has a problem with it, they can call 1-800-WAA-WAAH
heck, you're gonna offend someone, somewhere, with almost anything you do if you look hard enough. Life's too short to worry about silly stuff like this.
Got a cool A-2 that looks like a B-24 pilot just handed it to you after his 25th mission? Wear the thing. I'll give you a thumbs up for the authenticity if it looks right and will probably ask you where you got it!
 

Doctor Jones

Familiar Face
Messages
96
Location
Orange County California
I have mixed feelings about the re-enacting thing.

I'm a piper, and civilian pipers have, for well over 100 years, regularly worn military-style uniforms. Civilian pipe bands have the same ranks and positions as military pipe bands, and both military and civilian pipe bands have long worn the same insignia, the stripes and sash of the Pipe Sergeant, Drum Sergeant, and Pipe Major.
One interesting things is that the four stripes worn by the Pipe Major and Drum Major don't designate a rank, rather they are a badge of office. The person functioning as a military pipe band's Pipe Major wears the same four stripes regardless of his rank; some Pipe Majors are senior NCOs, some are officers.
For my military piper's costume I wear the badges of Pipe Major for the reason that my age and appearance (with a beard) are only suited to Pipe Major. (Many military Pipe Majors wear beards; in at least one regiment it is "required by tradition" for the Pipe Major to be bearded.)

Here's my WWII Black Watch Pipe Major's kit. I am wearing no badges of rank, or awards. And the Black Watch per se no longer exists in the British army, so I'm not wearing the uniform of a modern unit.

p22HiQI.jpg
 

MissMittens

One Too Many
Messages
1,627
Location
Philadelphia USA
My father was a WW2 vet, and I grew up around a lot of WW2, Korea and early 'Nam vets. The rule of thumb has always been that the wearing of CONTEMPORARY military uniform and insignia is stolen valor, even before laws existed.

Where it comes to historical uniforms, the general consensus is that reenacting is "keeping our memory alive" as I've heard from many WW2 vets in the past. That being said, they expect you to have done your homework, and your impression better be spot on or you're going to receive comments on the shine of your boots, the positioning of insignia, and breaking of any general regulations pertaining to the rank you are trying to portray, lol!
 

Edward

Bartender
Messages
23,743
Location
London, UK
I have mixed feelings about the re-enacting thing.

I'm a piper, and civilian pipers have, for well over 100 years, regularly worn military-style uniforms. Civilian pipe bands have the same ranks and positions as military pipe bands, and both military and civilian pipe bands have long worn the same insignia, the stripes and sash of the Pipe Sergeant, Drum Sergeant, and Pipe Major.
One interesting things is that the four stripes worn by the Pipe Major and Drum Major don't designate a rank, rather they are a badge of office. The person functioning as a military pipe band's Pipe Major wears the same four stripes regardless of his rank; some Pipe Majors are senior NCOs, some are officers.
For my military piper's costume I wear the badges of Pipe Major for the reason that my age and appearance (with a beard) are only suited to Pipe Major. (Many military Pipe Majors wear beards; in at least one regiment it is "required by tradition" for the Pipe Major to be bearded.)

Here's my WWII Black Watch Pipe Major's kit. I am wearing no badges of rank, or awards. And the Black Watch per se no longer exists in the British army, so I'm not wearing the uniform of a modern unit.

p22HiQI.jpg

I've always liked the combination of BD with the kilt. Didn't the Black Watch wear Government Tartan, or did it vary with units?
 

Doctor Jones

Familiar Face
Messages
96
Location
Orange County California
The pipers of the Black Watch AFAIK have never worn the Black Watch tartan.

In the 18th century and early years of the 19th century they wore the Black Watch Music Tartan, worn by regimental bandsmen. There was a thing back then about musicians wearing "reversed colours" and even today some musicians of the US Marine Corps wear red tunics. The Black Watch did this with tartan, switching portions of the Black Watch tartan to red, for the bandsmen.
At some point in the 19th century the old Black Watch Music Tartan was abolished and the bandsmen were put into the ordinary regimental tartan and the pipers were put into Royal Stewart tartan, which they wear to this day. So when you see the Pipes & Drums of the Black Watch the pipers are in Royal Stewart but the drummers are in Black Watch. The bagpipes themselves have Black Watch tartan covers.

7tMBjMv.jpg


Here's a Black Watch piper in North Africa in WWII where his Royal Stewart kilt can plainly be seen

W31Nooz.jpg


Here's my version of that kit

xSaWTYo.jpg
 
Last edited:

Forum statistics

Threads
103,005
Messages
2,923,577
Members
49,901
Latest member
Yitaro
Top