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Public Affairs : West Point Cadet Uniforms

West Point Cadet Uniforms
Since the first cadets at USMA belonged to the artillery and engineers, they wore their uniform--a dark blue cutaway coat with scarlet facings, brass buttons, white or blue waistcoat and tight pantaloons, black leather boots, a large cocked hat with a black cockade and a scarlet feather.

In the summer of 1814, a small American Army, led by General Winfield Scott wearing gray, decisively defeated the British in upper Canada . Gray uniforms at once became badges of honor and the Academy decided to utilize the color gray in memory of Scott's victory. In 1816, the Secretary of War formally approved the use of gray uniforms for the Military Academy in recognition of General Scott and his gallant troops. There are few uniforms the world over so renowned as "cadet gray."

Cadets spend much of their time in some type of uniform or other. There is a different uniform for just about every activity and phase of a cadet's daily program. The basic uniform is the dress gray uniform.

In 1889, the gray blouse (jacket), trimmed down the front, around the bottom and up the back with black mohair braid one inch wide, was adopted to replace the gray shell and riding jackets. This same coat is worn today as a semi-dress uniform with either white or gray trousers. For many years it was the coat cadets knew best, for they wore it to class and most of the day.

The full dress coat was adopted in 1816 and has remained almost the same throughout the years. It is of swallow-tailed style and many of the small details of 1816 still exist today: black silk core on the breast, cuffs and coat-tails in herringbone form and three rows of gilt bullet buttons. This coat is made by hand in the Cadet Store Tailor Shop by highly skilled master craftsmen in much the same manner as their predecessors did a century and a half ago.

The cadet white uniform has been worn here since 1886. White pantaloons and trousers of various cuts and designs have been worn at the Military Academy since 1802. Authorized in 1913 and redesigned in 1959 to provide for conventional length and single rear vent, the current white uniforms are used primarily for social occasions during the May- September period. At the summer Camp Buckner encampment, they are worn for Saturday inspections and parades.

A combination of both the dress gray and white uniforms, the dress gray over white uniform is a familiar sight to visitors during the summer period. It is authorized for a multitude of occasions ranging from escorting to off-post wear. It consists of the dress gray coat worn over the dress white trousers or skirts if women cadets prefer.

Traditionally, cadets wore their dress gray uniform trousers and a gray flannel shirt to class. In 1947 the gray flannel was replaced with a tropical worsted wool shirt colored dark blue. Since that time it has been worn with the dress gray trousers as the regulation class uniform in lieu of the traditional dress gray uniform. When weather conditions necessitate, the gray gabardine jacket, authorized in 1946, is required for class formations. In 1980, the black pullover cardigan was authorized for wear when not in formation.

The drill uniform is the same as the class uniform except that it is worn under arms. The expression "under arms" mean that the cadets are carrying certain weapons and equipment, which may include sabers and sword belts, rifles, bayonets, first aid kits and cartridge belts.

The winters are long and hard at West Point so some type of heavy overcoat is needed much of the academic year. Overcoats were first issued to cadets in 1828; before that they wore any kind they pleased. "Such a mixture of scotch-plaid and camlet cloaks and cloth surtouts was probably never seen elsewhere on parade," one graduate recalled. Superintendent Thayer adopted the long gray overcoat in 1828 and it has changed only in the fact that the present overcoats are double-breasted. Women cadets have the option of wearing high leather boots with overcoats in winter.

The long gray overcoat is a traditional part of the cadet's uniform and has been copied by military schools throughout the country. It, like the full dress coat, is still made by hand in the Cadet Store Tailor Shop.

A short overcoat supplements the long overcoat and is generally prescribed for all informal occasions. First authorized in 1926 and worn until the early thirties, it was reintroduced in 1948. Accessories worn with it are the dress cap, gray leather gloves and muffler.

Rubberized raincoats (called mackintoshes) were first introduced in 1894 to supplement the long overcoat. Worn today with a dress cap and rubber cap cover, it still supplements the long overcoat, as well as the short one, in inclement weather. The raincoat is the only article of clothing that may be loaned to visitors.

In addition to the purely cadet uniforms, cadets also wear uniforms that are utilized Army-wide.

Cadets have a uniform for physical workouts and games called the gym uniform. It consists of black gym shorts and a white T -shirt with tennis shoes.

The admittance of women to the Military Academy necessitated the need for a uniform that was compatible with the traditional uniform worn by male cadets yet maintained a feminine style. Most of the uniforms of women cadets include a trousers/skirt combination with trousers worn in formation and skirts permissible for non- formation wear.

The cadet at West Point is nearly always in uniform during the academic week, and the United States Army sees to it that his or her uniforms are always the smartest and best uniforms that can be made. "A uniform for every day and the pride to wear it standing tall."


Cadre (Officers and Enlisted) Blue
Firstie Black
Cow Gray
Yearling Yellow
Plebe Nothing