What is Battledress?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 28 December 2019
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Battledress is a term used to describe military uniforms which are designed to be worn in combat. These uniforms must be practical while also allowing for the creation of unit cohesion through consistent and identifiable uniforms. Many militaries around the world have official battledress uniforms, which vary by branch, and civilians are often familiar with these uniforms since they appear in news images sent from the front lines. As with other military uniforms, battledress is issued by the military to ensure that it is standardized.

Most militaries have strict regulations about uniforms. These regulations specify not only what is included in the uniform, but where the uniform may be worn. In the case of battledress, the uniform is designed primarily for wear on the field of battle, and it cannot be worn in transit or at formal functions except by special arrangement. Soldiers are also expected to keep their combat uniforms in good order, both for safety and for discipline.

Elite forces sometimes wear specialized battledress which reflects their military status. Their uniforms can include signifiers which make them stand out as elites, along with features which are specifically designed to enable their activities, such as extra loops for equipment. Wearing an elite uniform when one is not a member of such a unit is not permitted and many elite forces are very protective of unique badges, headgear, and other markers they use to distinguish themselves.


Many militaries use camouflage battledress, with different standard patterns for environments like the desert, the jungle, and urban areas. Others may use plain khaki or other colors for their uniforms. Decisions about fabrics and patterns are made by military higher ups who consider where members of the military are likely to be deployed, and under what conditions. The uniform is generally made from durable fabrics which are easy to care for, for reasons of convenience, and it may be treated with insecticides and other chemicals, depending on where it is going to be used.

Civilians can sometimes access pieces of the battledress uniform through military surplus stores. These stores sell off excess materials which the military does not have a use for. Hunters sometimes wear battledress because it is well suited to working in the woods, and other people wear it for comfort, utility, or fashion reasons. Civilians cannot wear battledress in a way which implies that they are a veteran or member of the military.


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