How to Wear Military Insignia


This article will describe how to properly wear military insignia on a military uniform. Military insignia means any badge, rank, ribbon or medal that carries a symbolic meaning for the wearer. For example, one can recognize a soldier wearing three chevrons as a sergeant, and a soldier wearing two vertical bars as a captain. On a sailor, a badge worn on the chest that has two dolphins indicates submarine service.

The proper wearing of military insignia on the uniform directly reflects the military bearing and discipline of every soldier, sailor, airman or Marine, so it is important to get it exactly right.

Things You'll Need

  • Uniform
  • All decorations, ribbons and insignia
  • Copy of service manual describing proper wear and appearance of uniform
  • Sewing ruler or measuring tape
  • Lint brush
  • Q-tips
  • Glass cleaner
  • Brass cleaning solution

Wearing the Military Insignia on Your Uniform

  • Ensure you know the proper uniform you are expected to wear by consulting appropriate regulations and instructions for the uniform of the day. Ask a leader or a fellow service member for help if you do not know.

  • Consult your service's specific uniform regulations (see uniform regulation links below) and ensure you have all the appropriate uniform materials. If it is a dress uniform, take it to a dry cleaner and ask them to properly sew on any patches, rank insignia or other identifying features you might need.

  • After you receive your uniform from the cleaners, the prep work begins. Take each medal, ribbon, badge and rank insignia and ensure that they are clean and shined properly. Q-Tips dipped in glass cleaning solution or rubbing alcohol are an excellent way to bring out the shine on badges. Brass cleaner should be used on brass belts and buttons.

    Take care to avoid putting fingerprints on the brass--you may want to wear cotton gloves. Use a lint brush on your uniform and touch up any wrinkles with a hot iron.

  • When all your insignia is cleaned and brought to a high shine and your uniform is well-pressed and lint free, consult your service's uniform regulations and begin affixing ribbons, medals and badges to the uniform. Use a sewing ruler or tape measure to judge the distances--do not just "eyeball it." Use thin cardboard behind the pins to make sure that the ribbons and insignia are crisply placed against the uniform.

  • After you have affixed your insignia to all parts of your uniform, put the uniform on and have a friend check to ensure there are no smudges, stains or crooked items to your uniform. If you have followed all the previous steps, your military insignia will now be worn properly.

Tips & Warnings

  • When not worn, store your military insignia in a felt lined box--this way they will not acquire tarnish or smudges. Wear cotton or latex gloves when cleaning and affixing your insignia to prevent fingerprints
  • Never attempt to clean the insignia while it is on your uniform. This could result in damage to the uniform itself.

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  • Photo Credit United States Army Photo
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