Influence of War Uniforms on Civilian Clothing

Military fashions heavily influenced civilian clothing. The common domestic silhouette, which included a powerful shoulder pad, a natural waist, and a straight skirt, was strikingly similar to that of military uniforms. Compared to earlier times, World War II saw a harsher, utilitarian, and straightforward style of clothing for both men and women. Men’s clothing was more manly, and both the Chesterfield and the officer’s coat were worn by civilian men who had borrowed them from the uniform. Soldiers’ uniforms evolved toward a more relaxed look, whereas men’s clothing in the civilian world became more formal and serious. Bomber coats were introduced, and dress uniforms were less prevalent. The fact that these jackets featured more pockets than conventional coats allowed soldiers to carry more gear. The reefer coat, also referred to as the Eisenhower, was another important fashion. The tales of the Atlantic escort ships known as corvettes helped popularise these short wool overcoats worn by General Eisenhower. After the war, civilians flocked to Army surplus shops to purchase them in large numbers because they were viewed as courageous. Wartime clothing limitations also gave rise to rebellious fashions.

War and Civilian Fashion

Beginning in the Middle Ages, war garb had an impact on civilian fashion. At that time, more intricate and complex tailoring became necessary for the production of warfare apparel, including lined jackets and form-fitting protective clothing to be worn underneath the armor. This had an impact on general fashion as well. Particularly in the 16th century, tailoring techniques advanced further as combat protective coats and jackets took on new designs and entered civilian wear, becoming much more widely known and visible. When war fashion was obviously influencing civil dress throughout the Baroque period in the 17th century, the connection between war and civilian fashion became particularly apparent. Justacorps and jerkins were decorated with a tonne of lace at the wrists and other hems, and they were worn with breeches and chic heeled buckskin boots with spurs.

The demand for uniformity pervaded the 18th century, not just in terms of clothes but also in terms of building and other professions. At the time, there were many similarities between military and civilian clothing, which led to little variance in shapes and colors. The shapes, colours, and embellishments of the military uniform, such as epaulettes and other marks to differentiate the stations in the military hierarchy, were then set forth in laws and regulations. Uniforms were then starting to resemble men’s everyday clothing more and more in terms of both shapes and patterns. Military uniforms popularised not only specific clothing items to be worn outside of the army in everyday life or on special occasions but also general embellishments in the form of braids or twines to be used, for example, on men’s jackets and collars, as well as on women’s clothing. Women’s fashion in the 19th century was also influenced by the war.

Influence in Men’s Fashion

Men’s clothing was generally the aspect of war costume that had the greatest influence. This was caused by the war's social influence outside of uniforms as well as the fact that men are disproportionately drawn to war. Differences were continuously rebuilt and reinvented throughout the 18th and 19th centuries when important changes happened in the economy and society as a whole, i.e., when the lines between social classes started to blur. Thus, it became a crucial tool for recruiting, highlighting the distinctions between the military and civilians. The war organisation has developed a tangible, material image to entice men.

The combination of tangible components—the uniform—and physical strength evident in posture and presence created a desirable product that drew in and attracted recruits from everyone desiring to embody heroic masculinity. Soldiers who were intended to invite prospective recruits and volunteers were dressed in their glitziest uniforms, the attractive uniform acting as a seductive hook. This strategy was frequently employed in the 18th and 19th centuries. Military recruiters frequently sought fresh recruits at fairs and on squares frequented by unemployed people looking for work, dressed in their finest ceremonial uniforms and accompanied by military brass bands. To such unassuming men, the uniform can signify the possibility of a life filled with much more excitement and power than is possible in the civilian world. The extravagant, eye-catching, and consistently clean appearance of troops had been designed and maintained immaculately in order to fascinate and enthral.


There is little doubt that the way people dress and wear their uniforms during wartime has a significant impact on civilian fashion. Whether they evolved as a result of temperature changes, etiquette, or military life, some have entered people's closets through fashion over the past century and have thus become essential items. Military ornamental features, as well as certain patterns and colours, have been influencing people’s attire even before fashion designers introduced the khaki colour, cargo pants, bomber jackets, and the like on runways. Men were especially sensitive to these influences in their daily attire, to which they would add items like red fabric waistcoats, various coats, boots, and underwear. As early as the 18th century, one could see the effects of war in the clothes of the civilian population—or, to be more exact, the peasant population. By 1918, when the war came to a conclusion, a broader range of clothing options had been offered to the general public. During the war, many men continued to dress dapperly and wear more utilitarian clothing, while ladies continued to wear more practical clothing.

Updated on: 16-Dec-2022


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