Couture for Counterinsurgents

Over at Abu Muqawama, "Charlie" posts some advice for all those Army and Marine Corps colonels moving to Washington this summer to take dreaded staff jobs inside the Beltway. You know the type -- they've been knuckle-dragging muddy-boots warfighters their whole careers. But now they've been tapped to be the special assistant to the J-637.8 on the Joint Staff, and they need to polish themselves a bit. Charlie's got some fashion advice for these guys. Among my favorites:

1) No pleated pants. Ever. Same goes for shorts.

2) No polo shirts with unit insignia. Save them for the reunion. (Yes, you can wear the t-shirts as PT gear.)

3) No tapered jeans; no light-wash jeans. You are not Jon Bon Jovi, this is not 1987.

Uh huh. Good advice. It ties in well with the Wall Street Journal article last week about casual apparel at work. And while we're on this subject, let's talk about overseas apparel.

Do you really think it's a good idea to dress like a stereotypical American military officer when you're overseas on American government business? I mean, you may as well be in uniform when you wear khakis and Oakleys, or when you bring a Blackhawk backpack as your carry-on luggage. Seriously guys -- before that next work trip to Africa, Asia or Latin America, ask your kids for help picking out clothes that don't look like they were bought in a base exchange. Lose the Oakleys. Leave the massive metal aviator's watch at home. Grow out your hair; consider a beard or mustache. And ditch the military-style luggage in favor of something a civilian would carry. You'll fit in a lot better -- something that will only help your diplomatic or military mission.

By Phillip Carter |  April 22, 2008; 8:48 AM ET  | Category:  Civil-Military Relations
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Or, Phil, you could do what Big Army did, and send me alone through Frankfurt to Iraq wearing, by orders, DCUs.

I even had to pay for my own baggage. Never got reimbursed. Then had to carry it all through the Kuwait City airport, INCLUDING A RIFLE.

That left Kuwaiti guards with their mouths open.

Good times, made more precious by all those uncomfortable Europeans and Middle Easterners looking at a man in desert cammies awaiting a flight to Kuwait. Nothing odd looking there. Thinking to myself, why don't I just go sit at the El Al desk and wait for someone to bomb me.


Posted by: Carl Prine | April 22, 2008 8:24 AM

For a few years, I worked across the street from Nordstrom. The trick was to arrive at opening time for the semi-yearly sales.

Good non-iron shirts are becoming available. I'm using ctshirts because of my huge neck.

Dressy braided belts exist. Try Dillards. They have astonishing sales--picked up a nice

Posted by: Dave Martin | April 22, 2008 8:54 AM

... jacket that way. [why do sneezes cause the "return" button to be hit?]

Posted by: Dave Martin | April 22, 2008 8:56 AM

Good points ...

I would also ask that these Colonels consider how they appear/comport themselves while in uniform.

As Carl alludes, the ACU 24-7-365 mindset can have unintended implications in CONUS as well as abroad. Our Army seems to have lost sight of the fact that at times it is more appropriate to wear Class As or Bs. As I mentioned to you in DC a few months back, a duty assignment in Army Congressional Liasion in the Rayburn or Russell building should probably be considered a no-ACU assignment. Ditto for attending a career fair at Georgetown or at a major academic/scientific conference Not for today's "warriors."

Last month I attended a joint conference in Nashville where the prescribed uniform was Class B for attendees and Class A for presenters. Wouldn't you know it, 75% of the Army officers showed up in ACUs (many senior officers conspicuously lacked combat patches). It seems the rules and regulatiosn just don't apply to chairborne COLs anymore who fancy themselves as "warriors."

The scary thing is that I am coming to believe that a lot of these guys really get off on the idea of strutting around a fancy hotel lobby in desert boots. A latent militarism ushered in by a self-selecting AVF was long kept under the surface by customs/courtesies/tradition. No more. The sad thing is that these guys 1) sully the professional image of the Army officer corps; and 2) steal the limelight from soldiers who are genuinely en route home on midtour leave from Iraq. The obsequious way that these combat-patch-less COLs are treated by clueless civilians really irks me ... they also seem to love the attention and free lunches. If only the American public knew what a COL made in Salary, BAH, BAS and CONUS COLA!

Posted by: IRR Soldier ... | April 22, 2008 10:04 AM

Okay, I'll bite: what's wrong with pleated pants? The new flat panel pants look goofy to me.

Posted by: Chris | April 23, 2008 10:42 PM

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