Uniforms of the Canadian Forces

Uniforms of the Canadian Forces

Prior to unification in 1968, the uniforms of the Canadian Army, Royal Canadian Navy (RCN) and Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) were similar to their counterparts in the forces of the United Kingdom and other Commonwealth countries, save for national identifiers and some regimental accoutrements. The post unification uniforms bear little resemblance to their pre-1968 counterparts except in a few ceremonial cases.


Shortly following unification, these service-specific uniforms (navy blue, khaki, and light blue) were abandoned in favour of a rifle green, single-breasted, four-button tunic and pants, with beret or service cap, known as the Canadian Forces uniform, commonly referred to as "CFs" or "CF greens". Though accommodation was made for army regiments' ceremonial uniforms (kilts for Highland Regiments, for example), no allowance was made for the Navy and Air Force, with the exception of a rifle-green wedge cap for optional wear by the latter. The traditional Navy and Air Force rank names were replaced by their army equivalents, with naval-style rank badges for officers and army-style for non-commissioned members. Navy rank names were restored a few years later. However, the Air Force retains what had formerly been considered "army" rank (but which is similar to that used by the air forces of many other nations).

For everyday work wear, in environments or occasions where the CF greens would not be appropriate, personnel were issued the Work Dress uniform. This consisted of rifle-green work trousers; a zippered rifle-green work jacket; a "lagoon green" work shirt; and beret. The jacket collar was worn open; the shirt was either worn with a tie, or with the collar open and over the jacket collar. For a brief period in the 1980s, ascots or "dickies" in regimental or branch colours were worn inside the open shirt collar. This uniform, derisively referred to as a "bus driver's uniform", was generally unpopular.

A notable exception was the Special Service Force (SSF), who wore a camouflage jump smock, regimental T-shirt, beret, and high-top paratrooper boots, with work dress or combat trousers as applicable.

Distinct Environmental Uniform

In an effort to restore morale, the CF introduced the Distinct Environmental Uniform (DEU). Members of the naval, air, and land forces received uniforms distinctive to their service or "environment". While the term "DEU" refers to "all" the different environmental uniforms, in general usage it refers to what is more properly known as "No 3 (Service) Dress".

The following Orders of Dress existed after DEU was implemented:

*No. 1 (Ceremonial) Dress: Full formal dress uniforms for ceremonial parades and other special occasions. Uniforms include regimental full dress (such as scarlet tunics and bearskin hats of Guards regiments), patrol dress (a slightly less elaborate regimental uniform), and Service Dress (see below) uniform with ceremonial accoutrements (swords, white web belts, gloves, etc). Regimental uniforms are normally not provided at public expense; purchase of these uniforms is done either by individuals or by various regiments out of non-public funds.

*No. 2 (Mess) Dress: Formal evening attire for mess dinners. Uniforms range from full mess kit (with dinner jackets, cummerbunds or waistcoats, etc) to Service Dress with bow ties. Mess Dress is not normally provided at public expense; however, all commissioned officers of the Regular Force are required to own Mess Dress.

*No. 3 (Service) Dress: Also called a "walking-out" or "duty uniform", it is the military equivalent of the business suit; it was the standard uniform for appearing in public (hence the moniker "walking-out dress"). The uniforms range from the tunic-necktie-undress ribbons to the more informal short-sleeve shirt dress. The Navy also has an optional white summer uniform with white high-collared tunic (colloquially termed the "ice-cream suit"). This uniform can be easily modified to No 2 (Mess) Dress by replacing the shirt and tie with a white shirt and bow tie, or to No 1 (Ceremonial) Dress by the addition of ceremonial web- or sword belts, gloves, and other accoutrements.

*No. 4 (Base) Dress: Known as "Garrison Dress" in the Army. It was a more informal uniform, originally for day-to-day wear in garrison or on base, out of the public eye. It usually consisted of work trousers and either a dress shirt or work shirt, with an optional sweater; Army personnel wore a disruptive-pattern jacket. It has been phased out; No. 5 dress (below) has been adapted to replace it.

*No. 5 (Operational) Dress: Originally specialized uniforms for wear in an operational (i.e. combat) theatre, they have now superseded No 4 uniform for everyday wear in garrison. It consists of a CADPAT combat uniform for the Army and Air Force and Naval Combat Dress (NCD) for the Navy.


Sea element personnel were issued a "navy blue" (actually a tone of black according to Canadian Forces Dress Instructions) double-breasted 6 button tunic and trousers, and white peaked cap; with the exception of colour and material, it is very similar to the old RCN Petty Officer's uniform. For the summer periods, an optional white uniform may be worn; it consists of a white tunic with closed stand-up collar, and with black shoulder boards for officers; white trousers; white web belt for the trousers; and white socks and shoes. It is interesting to note that officers' and non-commissioned members' uniforms are identical, differing only in insignia and accoutrements; the old RCN "square rig" uniform for Leading Rates and below was not resurrected. Naval personnel were also issued No 4 (Base) Dress, which consisted of a jacket and trousers similar to old CF work dress, but in black; it was worn with a white dress shirt — open necked or with necktie — or with the Naval blue work shirt. This uniform has since been replaced with the No 5 (Naval Combat) Dress. Baseball caps (with ship's designations and numbers) similar to those worn by United States Navy personnel are authorized for shipboard wear.

The following are the different categories of naval uniforms in Canada:

Ceremonial Dress - 1

*No. 1 - Navy blue uniform with medals, swords, etc.

*No. 1A - Navy blue uniform with medals only

*No. 1C - White high-collar uniform, with medals

*No. 1D - White high-collar uniform, with ribbons only

Mess Dress - 2

*No. 2 - Navy blue mess uniform (short tuxedo jacket, tuxedo style trousers), authorized white (tuxedo) shirt, hand tied black bow tie, white vest (blue vest for "mess undress") or black cummerbund, black oxford shoes, miniature medals are worn; for officers: "traditional" RCN ranks (with the executive curl) and gold lacing on the trousers. Tails for Captains and above.

*No. 2A - As per above with White mess jacket, with "traditional" RCN shoulder boards for officers.

*No. 2B - Normal service dress, however with a hand tied black bow tie instead of the neck tie, oxford shoes and ribbons only (without medals). Worn by personnel not in possession of Mess kit which must be purchased at the member's expense.

*No. 2C - Shipboard mess order. Like 3Bs, however, with a cummerbund (black for sea ops trades) and without ribbons, specialist skill insignias, and name tags. "Traditional" RCN shoulder boards shall not be worn. Referred to as "Red Sea rig."

*No. 2D - Canadian Forces Standard (the midnight blues) which was worn by all members of the CF, during the unified uniform period (1970s to 1986). Resembles the Air Force No. 2.

Service Dress - 3

*No. 3 - Like No. 1A, however, without medals, ribbons only.

*No. 3A - White long-sleeve shirt, with navy blue trousers. (worn indoors)

*No. 3B - White, short-sleeve shirt, with ribbons, specialist skill insignias, and name tag, navy blue trousers and black oxfords.

*No. 3C - Navy blue wool sweater, with either the long sleeve shirt or short sleeve shirt. (If worn with the LS shirt, must wear neck tie).

*No. 3D - White, short-sleeve shirt, specialist skill insignias, and name tag, white trousers and white oxfords. (Tropical uniform)

Naval Combat Dress - 5

*No. 5 - Navy combat jacket, with beret (or baseball cap), trousers, "high top" sea boots (essentially steel-toed Gore-Tex combat boots), and naval combat shirt.

*No. 5A - Same as above, without naval combat jacket.

*No. 5B - Same as above, however, with naval combat shirt sleeves rolled.

*No. 5C - (no longer authorized) Same as above, with navy blue wool sweater.

*No. 5D - Same as above, however, with naval (dark blue) shorts, socks and sandals. (Tropical uniform)


;Service DressLand personnel were issued new tunics and trousers similar in style to the old CF greens, but with the addition of shoulder straps. They were issued in heavy-weight rifle green (worn with the old CF green dress shirt) for winter wear, and lighter weight tan for summer; unfortunately in the latter case, headgear, neckties, belts and badges were still rifle-green or on rifle-green backing. Only the Army retained the branch or regimental collar badges on the dress jacket, such non-traditional devices having been abandoned on Navy and Air Force jackets.

Recently, the peaked service cap was retired for Land personnel, and the beret (except in Scottish and Highland regiments) became the universal Army headdress. Most recently, the heavy combat sweater was retired, replaced with a lighter-weight V-neck sweater for Service Dress wear, and with a fleece sweatshirt for Operational wear.

;Garrison DressThe unpopular work dress was replaced with "No. 4 (Garrison) Dress", which consisted of the old-style work dress pants, a disruptive-pattern jacket, a black web belt, a short-sleeve summer Service Dress shirt with the collar open and over the jacket collar, and high paratrooper-style garrison boots. The rifle-green crew-neck combat sweater doubled as a sweater for wear with Service Dress and Garrison Dress. Due to concerns over the number of uniforms Army personnel had to carry with them on postings and taskings, the tan summer DEU was eventually retired, and the winter uniform mandated for year-round wear. The garrison dress uniform was never popular with the combat arms, as the boots were easily scuffed, especially when doing manual labour; the jacket was hot (being heavily lined) and restrictive; the belt was designed to ride very high on the body and served no practical purpose. Army troops generally eschewed garrison dress for the combat uniform when possible, even in garrison. Land Force Western Area actually instructed its units to wear the combat uniform instead, and Land Force Command later adopted the practice across the rest of the country, authorizing combat uniform for all occasions where garrison dress was deemed appropriate. This authorization was extended to Land environment personnel in other commands.

Air Force

Personnel in the Air element were issued a uniform similar to the old CF greens, but in "blue", with a light-blue shirt, black necktie, and air force blue wedge cap and beret. No 4 (Base) Dress consists of blue work pants, light blue dress shirt (open-necked or with necktie), and optional V-neck sweater. Air personnel were eventually authorized to wear the Navy's work shirt, which was similar in dark blue, though this was recently replaced by a camouflage uniform similar to the Land combat uniform. Air personnel were issued a blue beret for wear where appropriate; it was soon authorized as was the blue flyers jacket and Gore-Tex "line" jackets for use with work dress, then with service dress; the wedge cap is still popular.

The "Purple" Trades

For military occupations that are not specifically designated to a particular element (e.g. clerks, military police, medical personnel, etc), an element is usually assigned or may be requested on enrolment. Due to the way that members of these "purple trades" frequently have environments different from their current assignments, many units of the Canadian Forces, when on parade in dress uniform, will display a somewhat odd mix of navy, army, and air force uniforms. As various specialty courses become more widely available, no longer restricted only to "soldiers" or "sailors", for example, it is not unheard-of to see a Navy clerk in a tactical air squadron with parachutist's wings, or an Air Force medic in a tank regiment with a submariner's "dolphins" badge.

Operational Dress

Until the early 1960s, the Army Battle Dress uniform was worn both on parades and in combat. It was common to maintain traditional regimental distinctions, even in the thick of battle. A notable exception to this was the highland regiments, who were ordered to cease wearing their kilts in 1939 in favour of more generic service dress, the kilt being deemed "unsuitable for modern war".

By the time of the Korean War, more comfortable combat clothing was being designed, notably "Bush Dress", in dark green cotton and bearing a resemblance to the Khaki Drill uniform of the Second World War. Lightweight Service Dress known as "T-Dubs" were issued for parades in the summer months.

In the early 1960s, Battle Dress was replaced for field wear by the combat uniform, often referred to merely as "combats". It was issued as a standard order of dress for the pre-Unification Army, and later Regular Force "army" personnel in field units of Force Mobile Command and for personnel in field units or detachments in Canadian Forces Communication Command, as well as for personnel in other organizations as required for employment in a land combat environment. Combat uniforms were not issued to Reservists until 1972, although they were permitted to wear it if they purchased it themselves (usually at war surplus stores).

The combat uniform consisted of a long-sleeve olive-drab (OD) shirt, with two voluminous cargo pockets at the hip and two slanted pockets (designed for the 20-round FNC1 rifle magazine) at the breast, and drawstrings at the waist and hem; OD trousers, with regular pockets at the front and back and a large cargo patch pocket on each thigh, drawstrings at the cuff, and buttons on the belt loops for the attachment of optional suspenders; an OD V-neck undershirt; and black combat boots, with trouser cuffs bloused over. The beret was often worn, but could be replaced by a soft OD field hat or the American M1 steel helmet as the tactical situation dictated (while the Canadian combat uniform was universally olive green, American style cloth helmet covers with two types of camouflage pattern were issued; the woodland pattern worn in Vietnam and an autumn pattern). At the time of adoption, the OD colour was a standard among NATO forces; however, as other NATO forces adopted camouflage uniforms (for example, the British DPM (Disruptive Pattern Material) uniforms, or the Americans their woodland camouflage BDUs (Battle Dress Uniforms)), the Canadian Forces quickly became one of the only first world militaries not to adopt camouflage garments.

Officers displayed their rank on slip-ons on the epaulets of the shirt or jacket; NCMs wore small OD versions of their rank insignia stitched in the centre of the upper sleeve, although for a period in the 1980s these were stitched onto slip-ons, ostensibly to save wear-and-tear on the uniforms, but also providing the ability to remove rank for security purposes. The national identifier consisted of a "CANADA" flash stitched on the upper shoulder just below the sleeve seam, and unit or trade identifiers were worn on slip-ons on the shirt's epaulets; however, personnel belonging to Canadian Forces Europe and other overseas missions wore full-colour Canadian flag patches on the upper sleeve. In the 1990s, the "CANADA" flash was replaced with a subdued olive-drab Canadian flag, worn on the upper left sleeve below the epaulet. Interestingly, these flag badges showed up in full-colour red-and-white when illuminated by a blue light.

Lightweight coats, rain suits, parkas, and other tactical clothing (in OD) were issued to deal with different weather conditions. For winter conditions, personnel were issued white mukluks, mitts, and balaclavas, as well as white camouflage covers for their parkas, trousers, helmets, and rucksacks.

In the late 1980s, the CF experimented with an alternative combat shirt designed by an Air Command officer. The Mark III Combat Shirt had flat breast pockets and lacked the hip cargo pockets and drawstrings. It was designed to be tucked in to the trousers like a regular shirt if desired, or worn untucked like the older style shirt. It proved rather unpopular from an operational standpoint due to its lack of storage capacity, and was considered to look sloppier than the older style; few were issued after initial stocks were depleted but the Mark III was worn alongside the earlier marks by some individuals until the adoption of CADPAT throughout the Army. Today they remain in small numbers in the Cadet program and are issued at summer training facilities to junior cadets for survival exercises.

CADPAT and the "Clothe the Soldier" Program

In September 1996, the Treasury Board of the Canadian government approved the "Clothe the Soldier" project to address the deficiencies in the Army's operational clothing and personal protective equipment. By the 1990s, it was realized by the Forces that the combat uniform and personal protective equipment was becoming outmoded and obsolete. Over the years a number of specific deficiencies with various items had been identified; it was also noted that many items were not fully compatible with each other, reducing their overall effectiveness. In September 1996, the Treasury Board of the Canadian government approved the "Clothe the Soldier" project to address these deficiencies.

Since that time, the Clothe the Soldier project has begun an ambitious task of issuing new items of compatible clothing, ballistic protection, and load-carriage systems. New combat clothing would be issued in an integrated system to deal with any weather or environmental conditions, from tropical to arctic and from arid to wet.

The project was initially mandated to support 40,000 members of the Land Force, Regular and Reserve. In July 2000 the project was expanded to cover 50,000 members, to include all CF personnel conducting land operations (the additional 10,000 members from "entitled units", for example the Communication Reserve). system, and can be switched with a green-coloured equivalent for use in the field. A name tape is similarly attached over the right breast pocket; the tape bears the member's name, preceded by a symbol denoting the member's environment: crossed swords for Land, an eagle for Air, and an anchor for Sea. Members of the Air Force have their rank insignia and nametag stitched in dark blue, and wear blue shirts with the CADPAT instead of the standard green ones. Members of the Navy, have their rank insignia and name tape in black and wear black shirts with CADPAT instead of the standard green ones. The old-style field cap was replaced by a broad-brimmed bush hat with a deployable neck covering.

Naval Combat Dress

Referred to as "Naval Combat Dress" or "NCDs", both officers and non-commissioned members of the Navy (or the Army and Air Force if required) wear a denim coloured work/dress shirt (combat shirt) with epaulets for rank badges on both shoulders along with black work trousers. Combat jackets, worn over the combat shirts, have epaulets for rank badges on each shoulder, along with name tags and ship's badge over the right chest. Specialist badges (such as diver, naval boarding party, or submariner qualification) are worn on the left. Depending on situation, headdress is either be a beret (colour depending on the wearer's element) or a ship's ballcap. Footwear is black steel-toed (high top) sea boots (or optionally black ankle/parade boots while ashore). NCDs Jackets and pants are made of NOMEX. Fact|date=January 2008

Military Police

After unification, military police (MPs) wore the same uniforms as other personnel, distinguished only by a few unique accoutrements: a white vinyl cover over the service cap, a gold-coloured police-style badge on the breast pocket, and/or a brassard or armlet bearing the title "MP" or "MILITARY POLICE MILITAIRE".

With the introduction of DEU, these accoutrements (except the brassards) were replaced. Now the main identifying feature of the military police was the addition of the colour red: a red service cap band for Naval and Air Force personnel, a red beret for army MPs and red backing for the cap badges of air force and navy MPs. In 2005, the dress regulations were amended to permit all MPs to wear the red beret regardless of their element, with any order of dress that may include a beret, except the number three order of dress for the Navy, in which the peaked cap is still worn, and the Air Force, in which case the Wedge is worn - both of which have a red identifier around the Military Police cap badge.

In 2001, the CF formally introduced the Military Police Operational Patrol Dress (MP OPD), a marked departure from standard military uniforms: it is immediately recognisable as a police uniform as opposed to a military one. It consists of black trousers, short-sleeved shirts for summer wear, long-sleeved collared shirts for winter, the naval pattern sweater, patrol jacket, body armour, police equipment belt and MP Gore-Tex boots, with a red beret for all MPs. It is normally authorised for wear on patrol duties only, by members up to and including the rank of Warrant Officer / Petty Officer 1st Class. Some units, however, have begun to dress all uniformed and badged MPs of all ranks (including those above Warrant Officer / Petty Officer 1st Class) and those outside of patrol duties, in MP OPD and accoutrements. This is to ensure that all MP are available at any time in the case of a Extraordinary Rapid Deployment (similar to the US SWAT) scenario.


The beret is still the most widely worn headgear, and is worn with almost all orders of dress with the exception of the more formal orders of Naval and Air Force dress (i.e. Ceremonial, Mess, and Service Dress). A regimental or branch badge is worn centred over the wearer's left eye, and excess material pulled to the wearer's right. The colour of the beret is determined by the wearer's environment, branch, or mission, as follows:

:*All army — rifle green (except as noted below):*Armoured — black:*Airborne — maroon:*Military Police — red:*Navy — black (Navy Blue):*Air Force — blue:*Search-and-rescue technicians — orange:*Members of Canadian Special Operations Force Command (CANSOFCOM) — tan:*United Nations missions — UN blue :*Multinational Force and Observersterracotta

Full dress and patrol dress

The armoured, artillery, and infantry regiments are authorized ceremonial uniforms, but they are rarely seen because they are not provided at public expense (with a few exceptions).

Regular force

These regular force regiments have authorized full dress.


Regulations for the wear of uniforms are contained in the CF publication "Canadian Forces Dress Instructions". Amendments to dress regulations are issued through the office of the Vice Chief of the Defence Staff (VCDS), initially in the form of a CANFORGEN (Canadian Forces General) message, which is placed in the dress manual until an official publication amendment can be promulgated.

Dress regulations may also be amplified, interpreted, or amended by the commanders of formations and units (depending on the commander's authority) through the issuing of Standing Orders (SOs), Ship's Standing Orders (SSO), Routine Orders (ROs), and Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs). This may include amplification where the regulations are unclear or are not mandatory; amendments or reversal of some existing regulations for special occasions or events; or the promulgation of regulations regarding the wear of traditional regimental articles (such as kilts).

ee also

* Military uniform
*Canadian military fur wedge cap

External links

* [http://www.canadiansoldiers.com/mediawiki-1.5.5/index.php?title=Site_Map canadiansoldiers.com]


* A-AD-265-000/AG-001, Canadian Forces Dress Instructions.
* Dorosh, Michael A. "Dressed to Kill" (Service Publications, 2001).

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