Aiming High For Style
A Look at Air Force Dress Uniforms Through the Years
September 16, 2016 by Mark Dye
The Air Force had a unique opportunity when it was created after World War II: the chance to create its own uniform, free of decades of tradition and design, in such a way that captured the newest military branch.
But it didn’t exactly all go according to plan.
Even though it didn’t officially exist until 1947, the Air Force had designs for a new dress uniform in 1945—one design was even approved by then-President Harry Truman in 1948. Congress, however, balked at spending money on the new cloth it would take to create the uniforms, and so it wasn’t until 1950 that the design was approved by Congress, and 1952 when the change became mandatory.
The big issues were the color (blue, rather than a color from another service) and whether or not it should be similar to other branches—including all of the medals, ribbons, and other adornments they feature. Maj. Gen. Hugh J. Knerr, who had been an advocate for a separate air corps for years, is quoted as asking, "Does the Air Force want a uniform . . . decorated with devices and gadgets . . . traditional to the military service or . . . a more subdued uniform . . . adapted to a technical future?" That mindset has guided the Air Force's dress uniforms ever since. And while it has changed through the years, the basic clean, sleek look of the Air Force’s Service Dress uniforms has remained.