Dear Salvation Army,
I see an inconsistency and I’m wondering if you see it too.
I have been to some divisions and locations where uniform wear is enforced almost militantly and there has been a real lack of grace when someone falls out of line. Flipping the coin, so to speak, I have also witnessed in other areas of the country and world where the uniform is stressed less, and I would imagine not “policed” like others clearly are. I have even witnessed territorial and some divisional officers in other places being publicly photographed in “Army” polos and other “not full-uniform” wear, or in casual uniform wear.
I am most certainly not criticizing this practice, nor am I railing against the uniform, but I wonder if a shift has begun in what the army deems as “appropriate uniform attire”? It most certainly is not universal anymore, and I am rather happy to see women being able to “buck the trend” and wear suit pants instead of polyester skirts if they so choose. Is this also a trend that will continue until suit pants are considered for full uniform for Women? Some might consider the staunch supporters of the full uniform wear to be old fuddy-dutties or too stiff in a swiftly shifting organization. I am not so sure about that either. But I do wonder if we should consider a universal change given the fact the times have changed as have styles of most of the world’s militaries -from which we were modeled after. I might sound a bit progressive here, but why haven’t we adapting and changed yet? Is it that hard to do so? Beyond the rationale “this is what it is” can we clearly articulate why it is so difficult to change it?
Questions to Ponder:
Is full uniform still practical?
What purpose does it serve to the world around us? Do they see and understand what it is we are wearing and why? Do we simply wear it because it is what we do?
Beyond these questions, and the practical applications of uniform wear, can or should the Army be pursuing modern updates or allotments? Has this already begun? Perhaps I serve is a moderately more conservative part of the Army world than you, and you are already seeing this trend…help us out and tell us about it! Historically uniform wear was cost effective to many who could not afford certain “richer” clothing, but the uniform costs today have gotten more expensive, tunics ranging from $200 – 300…these uniforms are not cheap and that historic purpose, at least in my “neck of the woods” is now obsolete.
Someone will inevitably write me (and probably criticize me…again) and say, “But you’re missing the point, there are far more pressing matters to address” to which I would say you are correct…but then why do we spend so much time on the emphasis of uniform? Others might argue that it is our witness as those who are Saved to Save (or Serve, which ever you like) and is represented in our obedience to the uniform…quite right, but it goes deeper than that doesn’t it? We aren’t necessarily obedient to the “Uniform” we are first and foremost obedient to God and then from Him all other forms of obedience flows. One wonders if the uniform is a detractor or an attractor for others to join our ranks? I am not saying that I hate this uniform, please do not take that from what I am saying here, I am merely wondering to what end does our uniform wearing take us? Why do it? Who are are impressing? The General? Our Leaders? God? Of course I am being facetious here, I know why we wear it…but is this a general consensus? Or is it part and parcel to something deeper, more lasting within us? Can you tell me its purpose? And do YOU believe this purpose is lived out in your use of the uniform?
So I guess this pondering is two-fold:
1) Should the Army consider adapting and updating the uniform universally (understandibly there are certainly culture issues at play here as well)?
2) What is the spiritual benefit to the use of Uniform in our witness to ourselves (Ecclesia) and to the world around us? To the last point, the uniform is certainly recognizable to some places of our world and to the poor and downtrodden.
What do you think?
Tell us your thoughts, concerns, gripes, Ideas, convictions…let’s hear it!
Ponder with me on this if you will!
Something more for the Army world to ponder today.
I was raised in TSA, work for TSA, but attend another church so my opinion might not hold much weight. But …. I think the uniform is still a vital part of the Army as it is visibility. I do not believe is a sacred garment, but it is a symbol of a commitment made and represent’s one faith and practice. If it is worn, it should be worn well. Sorry, I dislike pants with tunics on women. I don’t think it looks good, primarily because the colors don’t match. I also think that there is a place for casual uniform – matching shirts/pants for outdoor things is perfectly fine. If you are working a food drive, uniform isn’t very practical. As long as there is identifable logo/presentation, I think all is well. What disturbs me the most is the notion that uniform wearing makes one more of a Salvationist or more of a Christan. There are many wonderful Christian Salvationists who do not wear the uniform. Many saints from my home corps do not wear a uniform. The battle over uniform seems to be an internal one, that’s for sure. One thing that we have done at the Corps I work at is to dress alike on major distributions or events. For example, we all will wear our teal polo shirts. This stands out in a crowd and folks know anyone in a teal shirt is part of the Army. We also have Christmas shirts we wear at distribution so folks know that “uniform” is.
I am a life-long Salvationist as well. I remember being enrolled as a Senior Soldier at 14 and I couldn’t wait to get my uniform. I do think the uniform still has a place in our society and I also think that wearing the uniform isn’t always necessary. I love the regulations that the Austalia Territory has enforced. They wear the clothes that work in the situation they’re in. It is left up to the officer to decide if they should be in full uniform on a Sunday, or if they should be in pants and a polo. It’s worked very well for them. I vividly remember my Aussie friend coming off of the elevator in pants and a uniform shirt to attend worship. I asked her where her uniform was and she said, “I’m in uniform!” I asked where her Sunday attire was and again she said she was wearing it. I asked her why she chose this uniform on this day and she responded with, “Well, I’m not on the program, and I know we will have Praise and Worship and I also know that I may be called on to witness to someone at the altar! It’s much easier to witness if I’m not worrying about my skirt showing parts that people shouldn’t see!” It seems to work very well (this happened about 10 years ago here in FL and they’re still doing it now), and it appears that the officer’s are making the right choices because it’s still happening!
I feel that the uniform has to remain a very important part of us, now the question remains as to how much of a part.
Again in my humble opinion, if your on the platform you need to be in uniform. If your doing League of Mercy, if your working kettles or representating the army in any way, your in uniform
The price has and is ridiculous and can not be honesty defended by the trade Dept.
I am fully convinced about the need,the justification and the appropriate case for the wearing of uniform.i do however think it should be more regulated and discipliñed.There are many in uniform who are a witness to nothing,except their own poor standards of appearance.From long hair and screwed up caps,to ill fitting pants and jackets,that have laid on the bdedroom from one sunday till the next.If you have a fancy for just wearing unforms,go be a traffic warden.But if you want to represent Christ through the SA,i troduce your gear to the dry cleaners,and a brush.
I wear some form of uniform most days, I think it’s a great witness. Though I change to suit what I am doing, if I am unloading the food truck that day or helping a pensioner move it’s s polo and shorts. Otherwise pants and a tie. I think the uniform is a great leveller on Sundays and a great witness on other days.
Thank you! This is great insight! Blessings on you!
Just like any garment the uniform can carry great power and authority yet for most can be an immediate sign of Christ’s compassion. I’ve often disagree with the idea that the general public don’t understand what the uniform is about. They understand enough and that God is in there somewhere. Other that that it’s a great conversation starter
I have been harping on this for a while now. The uniform is certainly a unique aspect of our organization and movement. I wouldn’t motion to abolish the likes of the uniform, something that ties us together and whose historical significance and broad popularity lends itself to perks and ministry opportunities. It’s sacred to those who choose it as a part of life change that God has called them to. Real TSA soldiers where it with pride and rightfully so as they excitement for being part of God’s work and the grace that it represents is truly awesome. The uniform reminds us that our name is not merely rhetorical, but that we believe in a very real war, a spiritual one. With that being said, we could remind ourselves in much more effective and pragmatic ways then polyester….
I feel that it’s a little hypocritical to expect financial frugality on part of soldiers and officers and then charge them what its costs for the uniform. My wife and I spent 5K getting everything for training and beyond. Considering that most colleges allow for pajamas in class, a significant amount of money could have been spent elsewhere, rather than classroom attire.
In addition to the high cost of the uniform is the utterly impractical form. I’ve torn two pairs of pants entering into vehicles, and I’m not a large guy. The suits are fitted, but not flexible or adaptable. It does not allow for the full and free exercise of CO responsibilities in regards to manual labor, cleaning, and warm weather.
The uniform and TSA’s military themes are borrowed, but not fully. We merely resemble the dress blues of any military organization. Dress blues are worn on special occasions and events, but not on the battlefield. I’m implying that to mimic a field dress, perhaps we should give out BDUS with black polos bearing the army shield or crest. More durable and tactical clothing would signify warfare, OR develop a professional yet underground look. Of course, this would all be mistrusted by certain cultural suppositions, but is that any different than being mistaken as an airplane pilot? Its another chance to witness to the cause.
OR Slacks and polos like any other organization which is much more cost effective, much more comfortable, much more manageable both personally, and for Trade, and professional.
I am in agreement that the uniform needs reform.
I agree with the problem of the cost factor. As a soldier, I’ve had the same (one) uniform for years (even though it’s not my size anymore) because a new one would be so expensive. I understand that officers get a break on cost, which is as it should be, since they have to wear uniform all the time, but we don’t get a break, except on our very first uniform. Also, I don’t really see the point of wearing uniform inside our corps, except for the sake of visitors. But when I WAS a visitor, I wondered if I could really enter a building in which so many people were in uniform and I wasn’t. Most of the time in winter, I wear pants and a SA blouse and sweater to church. I know that’s not regulation, but lots of our soldiers do. In fact, many soldiers wear what I would call work clothes to church. I think it would be better to have some variety in appropriate uniform wear, and ideally, pieces that are washable (thanks, Steve Court, for that suggestion). When we visited a prison recently, I wore a T–shirt that said, WE ARE the Salvation Army. The inmates definitely responded to that.
On the other hand, when I am in uniform and we go OUT after church, we are often asked what our uniform is and what it means. We have been taken for pilots or military people in the past, but the opportunity to clarify also gives us an opportunity to witness (and often, to hear how much the SA has meant to someone).
I can’t say that I ever “liked” uniform but from the moment I knew I was called to be a Salvationist I was expected to wear it and I promised that I would, so to me it’s a matter of keeping my word and thus I have never worn the uniform because I had to. My best friend said, though, “that’s your religiosity, not your spirituality.”
I am all for flexibility and have usually (in 8 Latin American countries, that is) felt ‘uniformed’ if I have Ss on my collar – now shoulder – and white shirt and navy pants. I have never felt that Sunday should be any different, but where “full uniform” is generally worn I go along.
I believe General Brown was right when he promoted uniform-wearing with his message: My uniform is a witness, a protection, and a passport.
P.S. I couldn’t care less when others don’t wear uniform.
As I read through previous comments I can see where officers in appointments where they are responsible for more of the hands-on daily duties would need something more appropriate to the task . That said, when it comes to official activity, whether services or other, the proper wearing of the uniform is crucial in that at a glance it identifies not only who we are, but who’s we are as well. I believe that the idea that ” I’m not participating in the service, so I needn’t be in uniform” has already had the affect of only seeing soldiers in uniform on the platform when music forces are on duty. I am suggesting that we might need to update our attitudes of what a Salvation Soldier is and how the uniform makes it visable to the world.
Well said Mark.
No-one can win on this subject. There is no one uniform style that is perfect, but to use a variety of styles means there is literally no ‘uniformity’. Does it matter? Yes, if you’re concerned about visibility and identification. No, if you believe what we are Will be seen in how we act. Cost is crucial. Navy serge fitted two-piece uniforms (plus caps/hats/uniform coats and black leather shoes) are out of the reach, financially, for many soldiers, and it’s difficult to justify this cost in stewardship terms. Also, we may know what the uniform stands for, but do the public? In the UK a dark blue uniform with a peaked cap looks more like a policeman than anything else. Some of the people we most want to serve would be very unhappy with a policeman knocking at their door. On the plus side, uniform adds a sense of belonging and an esprit de corps. So – should we change? I think the Army needs to be identifiable, so my personal view is that, on balance, unform for members willing to wear it is desirable. But what it should look like I’m not sure.
Good thoughts, Charles 🙂
To add to Charles’ comments. I can only second your views. I think it appropriate to add that a. As The SA has cultural diversity, Uniform diversity should & from personal experience, is allowed within each culture, whether that be at local, regional or national level. It is important to wear any prescribed uniform correctly, after all it is your ‘best’ wear, whenever you are ‘on duty’ not just on Sunday, but any day; b. Being an outward expression of an inner change, SA Uniform needs to be worn to advertise that claim, but as all can claim God’s grace, Uniformed Salvationists must never consider themselves as any more important than others because of that uniform. As part of that expression, the uniform signifies availability to minister to all men, whatever that ministry should entail.
I love The Salvation Army and I love our uniform. I often joke about bleeding red, yellow and blue! I believe we still need to wear our uniform and I am in favour of formal uniform and workday uniform. I couldn’t imagine myself on the floor at playgroup in a skirt. But, we need to keep it “uniform”. The word in itself says “one” or “the same”. My problem is all the variations within my territory alone. And they keep changing it! When all the components of dress uniform and work uniform are so expensive for the average person, don’t keep changing it! In my opinion, there should be one male and female style for formal and then workday uniform and the only differences be from summer to winter. Our uniform represents so much and does make us identifiable in the community. I wonder though, with all the variations, how identifiable we still are??
The trouble is we do not say or refer to our self as The Salvation Army…we say Sal Army.org ect….The uniform is a Kevinwitness…identified purpose…we gave up to Bonnet I to be modern ect….doing the most good…..in stead of Heart to God and Hand to Man….the uniform doesn’t need any more change but saved to serve needs to be strengthened Sinners need to be saved before its to late…
Uniform wearing certainly identifies us as belonging to The Salvation Army. I think we all know that it’s not what’s on the outside but what’s on the inside. That said, I love the uniform. I wear it every opportunity I get. Blessings
I think we as soldiers of the Army should wear our uniform ,it shows people what we represent ,
Also when people see the uniform they know we belong to the army ,and we are there to help when needed .
I love the SA uniform. There does need to be changes though. It needs to be cheaper and machine washable. I love my uniform and am proud to wear it. I’ve had many chance to witness with it.
I found it interesting that my wife and I once wore the uniform for many years as officers. When my wife retired she wore a small cross on her coat. She told me that she had more contacts with others in supermarket queues and in travelling. Some asking if she was a nun! Her view was that when she had wore the “uniform” previously people approached her re welfare handouts, while, in replacing it with a small cross on the lapel of her coat, people saw the connection with “church” or indeed, “Christ”! So, everybody to their own. I personally would rather be without it!
Here in Australia, uniforms are certainly not uniform! You’ll see a variety of styles ranging from full navy to informal “creations” in white, blue, red, grey, khaki, black, and combinations of colours and designs. Logos are often unique to a corps or social/community service centres.
But, instead of asking if the style should be changed, I reckon we should be asking questions like:
What was the original purpose in creating a standardised, distinctive dress code?
Where and when did our forebears wear this garb?
Was uniform intended to be a sacramental observance- an outward sign of an inward experience?
Is that its purpose today?
Why do most Salvationists don the uniform only on Sundays or for official internal or public events?
Now,vthere’s something to ponder!
TSA uniform is a symbol to people around us here, when others sees us they will know that we are from TSA. I think wearing uniforms is vital.I always have a special respect when I wear the uniform.
I wear my uniform daily in a modified form most days. With the advent of the Patriot shirt, I most often wear that with black work pants. It is recognized by most everyone as Salvation Army Uniform. The pants don’t match a tunic, but a Patriot shirt is not for tunic use anyway. On days I know I will be in meetings with the public or board members and donors, I get tunied up.
A couple of my larger donors have commented in private meetings that they are glad to see the uniform. It’s important to THEM as our identity and they expressed their hope that we never lose it.
In public, the response I get when wearing full uniform is pretty remarkable. While I cannot identify specific behavior or action by members of the public, there is a distinct difference in the way people interact with me when I’m in uniform versus when I’m not.
I have a love/hate relationship with it, I love the opportunities the uniform allows and what it represents, but hate the physical attributes of the feel of the garment itself. How come I can go into the Men’s Warehouse and buy a better fitting suit off the rack for half the money and twice the material quality and comfort?
I really appreciate the post, and your willingness to think critically.
I didn’t grow up in the Church, but I decided to follow Jesus when I was 17. About 10 years later I was hired as a youth pastor of sorts by the Salvation Army. After having completed 4 year degree studying theology, and being trained to think critically and biblically, stepping into a Salvation Army corps was a very odd experience. I remember thinking, “What are they WEARING?” At first I thought the first guy I shook hands with must be in his work uniform because he needs to go and drive an ambulance right after the service.
Can you imagine what Jesus would’ve thought of a uniform? It would’ve been akin to wearing a Roman soldier outfit with a special engraving on the shoulder to show they’re not the official Roman army, they’re just part of a sect of Christianity, which is considered a sect of Judaism. Pretty straightforward, right?
What about what Jesus said about the importance of our hearts, and how he called Pharisees whitewashed tombs because they were so impeccably dressed on the outside, but their hearts were akin to dried bones. What does it say when there are only certain people that are dressed all fancy? What does it say when you have to earn your way to be able to wear the uniform? Upon discussing it with unchurched millennials, I realized pretty quickly that the uniforms convey a distinct message to our culture: “we’re a weird hierarchical cult that takes the vague biblical metaphor of an army of God way too seriously”
I personally think the uniform has been outdated since the end of WWII, and now it is so far out of touch that it literally scares people away. While I was a youth pastor in the SA, I refused to wear clothing identifying me as SA, but rather connected with kids and led them to Jesus. To the few kids that asked why I didn’t wear it like the others did, I told them that Jesus doesn’t care about what clothes we wear or how nice we look – he was a homeless guy with a beard that hung out with stinky fishermen and had very basic, and probably ragged clothing. Jesus cares about what’s inside, and people care about what’s on the outside.
Right on! You nailed it!
I think it’s great to have open conversations about the uniform. To give permission for your officers and soldiers to wear what’s appropriate uniform for the occasion is building a foundation of trust. I did appreciate when we were able to use the wording on our blouses & shirts The Salvation Army with the t in Salvation as a cross. That felt like it would be clearly understood that we were followers of Jesus to me. I’d be interested in a few more choices for work uniform. As for dress uniform I wish the material was more comfortable yet just as smart looking and easier to care for. To go from high collar to low collar uniform I would think was progressive at the time perhaps the time is here for a new fresh look? Yes, I have found that more often my husband and I are thought of as paramedics, ferry or airline crew and unfortunately still known most for thrift stores and social work. In a disaster setting there’s no doubt who we are in that work uniform.
My thoughts often wonder if Wm & Catherine were here today would they not be as innovative in uniform and forward moving in how they sought to win the world for Jesus?
I am in a position where I meet people in business meetings. I believe the uniform with tie is a necessity especially when others in that meeting wear their respective full uniform or business suites. We are a professional Christian organisation and I do believe we need to look respectable when out in the community on official duty or meeting with other organisations. People are aware what the uniform stands for and there should be no excuses. Saved to Serve. I do think the full suit uniforms are far to expensive for the ordiary person and that is probably why people choose other options.
The word uniform speaks for it’s self. I your dress is different form someone else, there is no uniformity. However, I find that most Salvationist in my area seem only to desire to wear their uniform when they are attending their own church. If they are doing or going somewhere else, they can’t wait to get out of the uniform. That I can8’t understand. It appears as if they don’ want to show or be seen as a Salvationist. It is a recognized witness.
As for the cost to an individual who wears their uniform, it is lest expensive to wear a uniform. Than having to outfit with a different attire every time you go to church or a church function. How many of us would show up in the same non uniform dress every week.
Do we carry ourselves differently when we’re uniform and are able to be not so Christ representative when not in uniform?
The uniform is, to others, a distinct indication of who we are and what we are about. In uniform, we are held to a standard that we can’t misrepresent.
When I go to a church other than The Salvation Army, I take great pride in wearing my uniform.
All of us who went to Boundless Congress know how outstanding the wearing of the uniform was.
I hope this uniformity never changes.
I’m in the the army at Cleethorpes and Grimsby and I am proud to were the uniform and the public like to see us in it and to they know who we are. And that means a lot to me if you do not like the uniform maybe you should not be in the army if you don’t like it that what I think. The uniform is part of us and it should stay for good.
what is being discussed here sounds more like Salvation Army
TSA as a whole needs some major updates. Society is ever changing but TSA has not changed – services are not adapting to keep and encourage young people (youth and young adults) to attend. We know so much more about education now than we did even 10 years ago (we can look at the principles of adult learning, e.g. Participation, acknowledging the learner’s prior experience and knowledge, etc.). If we are teaching about God, it is education, and effective teaching practices should be used. Church is so boring and doesn’t engage the congregation the way that it should.
In terms of the uniform, I can understand the use of it for public things like kettles and concerts and any other formal event, but it shouldn’t be mandatory for services and in-house events.
I got enrolled in July 16 & I wear the white blouse with the epaulettes & trousers which I love,my officers also on Sundays wear the informal uniform but this is a corps where previous officers banned the uniform !in fact one older couple only started wearing theirs again becuase I was going to wear mine.I would wear the formal but it is far too expensive in fact my officers gifted me my 2 blouses & my trousers are not the £40 offical ones, I would like to see the offical uniform as a blazer that could be brought from anywhere with a badge & coller dogs on from HQ rather then the outdated & expensive to make tunic.& everyone in caps like the mens one’s.I also wear the blue ladies shirt with jeans etc when at our church cafe & I love wearing uniform as a witness & becuase it gives you a way to approach people,I would never want the army to do away with uniform but it does need a tweak to make it easier to afford for everyone,one thing I don’t like is seeing in the salvanist magazine is adherent’s in uniform, as I feel that undermines soildership & what the uniform stands for.
…here’s a few thoughts; not new as I’ve posted them in a few places before, but some of you might find them interesting:
I have to confess, there are times I struggle with wearing my Salvation Army uniform.
It’s not that I have a problem with being identified as a member of The Salvation Army – it’s just that the style or form of uniform that I don’t like. It’s too close to a generic traffic warden /prison officer/security guard – whatever; white shirt, dark blue serge and smacks far too much of the conservative,
conventional and buttoned-down for my liking. Also, it’s not exactly the most comfortable piece of clothing in my wardrobe and white shirts aren’t always that slimming 😉
I don’t have a problem with being visually identified with The Salvation Army. In fact, I’m glad to be so, but I’m not a great fan of the particular FORM of uniform we’ve worn since the early ‘70s or thereabouts.
The uniform is certainly not as readily identifiable as it used to be when The Salvation Army was more of a known quantity for people in broader society, so maybe today if it was a bit more STRIKING and uniquely Salvation Army it may, in turn, become more recognizable?
Perhaps it’s time for a wholly new design – with a hat-tip to the early days as an inspirational starting point.
Somehow our buttoned-down, starched and generic uniforms don’t speak to me of this radical Army of Salvation. They are simply too anonymous.
I came up with a list of 7 bullet points that I thought would be helpful if the SA ever thought about a wholesale change of uniform:
1. That it be more distinctive, so we look less like generic airline/security staff
2. That it be relatively cheap so easily duplicated regardless of what part of the world it was worn in
3. That it incorporates the iconic and widely recognized Red Shield
4. That it be variable and adaptable
5. That it be attractive and presentable on the wearer regardless of age, gender and body shape
6. That it somehow said inclusion rather than suggested exclusion
7. That it would speak less of buttoned up conformity, and more of an energized movement of people of action
Imagine too, an across the board shift that was sufficiently radical to mean the wider world wanted to know more about who we were, what we did and why? Could be a wonderful news story & PR opportunity
A final part in the jigsaw could be an international SA entrepreneurial project to manufacture uniforms to affect the change in an ethical, job-creating way in the spirit of Booth’s match factories and other similar innovative initiatives.
I’m so sad that I even put a Pinterest board up to play around with alternative future uniform ideas in my head 🙂
As someone who wears the uniform on a nearly daily basis, I can certainly see the arguments for change. It’s not cheap. It’s certainly not comfortable – especially when you have those days where you are NOT behind a desk. At the same time, I love the conversations it starts when I am out and about in my uniform. Even when it interrupts my dinner after work.
I recently re-watched Sister Act on Netflix, and I loved the scene where all the nuns are actually getting out in the community and doing basic support work. As I was thinking about it afterwards, something struck me. They were wearing their habits the whole time. It had to be uncomfortable. The movie even makes a joke about changing oil in a car and getting it all over the habit. And yet, they wore it. Because it was symbolic of who they were, and it was a loud and clear statement that while they were out there working, they were something different too.
And this is where I struggle with the idea of abandoning the uniform or even just moving to something more ‘contemporary’ and comfortable. It’s not that I think we have to be uncomfortable. But I want to stand out. If I’m wearing a polo and khakis or even jeans, who’s going to see me as any different than Joe Schmoe down the block who works for Jiffy Lube or a department store? I want to be out there, working in the community, among the people, doing everyday things, and yet making a testament to all who can see that I am different and I am proud of my church, and I have set myself aside for that work.
That said, if we can find a way to update the uniform and still maintain that “set-apartness”, I’m all for it. And if you’re going to have a day in the office, where you are not out and about, being a ‘face’ as they say, I think it should be ok to be in a polo and khakis or even jeans. And we absolutely need to allow women to wear more comfortable slacks, just like the guys – even on Sundays.
Uniforms are good at creating a group identity.
They also separate us from people and emphasize rank instead of creating inclusiveness.
They give an impression and can help people recognize anyone in one as part of our force for good. When I go up an alleyway looking to bring food to those in need, the uniform is more likely to be recognized than I am, at least from a distance.
A standardized use of the shield (in all of its design variations, it is still distinctively our shield) would accomplish the same purpose.
Different uniforms based on gender emphasize our desire to keep men in a superior working position. Wait, we aren’t supposed to believe in paternalism. So what’s with the skirts and heels?
Uniform wear has been recognized as impractical for many applications. When is the last time we encouraged someone to wear uniform to retreats or camps outside the Sunday meeting (often a fatigue only event, sometimes even for those on the platform)? Even many external workshops or meetings are fatigue wear? Yet for internal meetings we all suit up even though we aren’t providing a witness to anyone other than ourselves? It seems we recognize the “formal” uniform look is passe in modern culture.
On balance, reform is needed.
It’s good to see this subject brought up as I am totally confused regarding the wearing of a uniform of sorts. I use the words “sorts” because in today’s Army it’s a mush mash of all sorts. I think there should be a directive from our leaders as to what the uniform should be if Salvationists are to wear one at all. Salvationists still need to be seen by the public, they need to stand out as Christians by the wearing of the uniform and one that the public recognises. A perfect example of this was described by an officer who worked in the courts. He was approached by someone who obviously recognised him by the uniform he was wearing and he was able to minister to him. Would he have been recognise able had he been in a tea shirt?
It was sad to see the Army Band last year in a March of witness during our Anzac Parade, some wore the traditional uniform , some in jumpers with hats and two female officers in winter uniform but hatless in pouring rain. If the Salvation Army is to be recognised by its uniform then a directive needs to come from the top. The other option is to dress how you like or what you feel comfortable in and hope the general public notices you. Thank God Jesus is the same today as yesterday .
I have been pondering this since it was posted. The conversation regarding uniform wear is an old one. The January 2017 Issue of the Young Salvationist gives some background to the uniform. I found it interesting George Scott Railton “feared uniforms might create separation that would keep Salvationists apart from other people…” (p. 30). William Booth, however, felt it was useful, in part, for drawing attention and opening the door to conversation. Coward (1998) mentions Samuel Logan Brengle had some misgivings when he started to wear the uniform. A few years back, in the Eastern Territory, allowances were made for a set of Officers working in a Hispanic community to wear slacks and a branded polo due to those wearing the uniform being mistaken for the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS). One key to success in organizations, for profit and non profit alike, is flexibility. There does need to be flexibility in regards to uniform wear. We can be rigid and tend to shut down Joe the Turk behaviors in the ‘Army’. With that being said, I have never been reprimanded for being out of work when doing work not suitable for uniform wear. It really is a matter of the heart. We must have the right motives when wearing the uniform. We should not rely on the uniform to give us identity, but rather we should wear the uniform as a testimony to the identity we have in Christ. The uniform still serves the original intent of our founder to open doors to conversation whether in an airport, grocery store, or on the street. Perhaps the deeper issue is a desire for the ‘Army’ to conform to the look and feel of what we perceive a church to be. Perhaps there is still confusion regarding why we do not label ourselves a church, but rather identify as an “evangelical part” of the universal Christian Church. Change is not bad, but it requires a measured approach. When considering change John Maxwell asks himself the following:
Is the change beneficial?
Does the change serve the vision or purpose?
Is the action required clear?
Are the top 20% of your influencers in favor of the change?
Is there a way for you to validate or test the change?
Do you have direct or indirect access to focus resources to support this change?
If conditions change, can this change be reversed?
Does this change bring both short and long term benefits?
Is the leadership capable of bringing about this change?
Is the time right for change?
Coward, E. (1998). The Brick and the Book. Wesleyan Heritage Publications.
Great observations my friend! Thank you!
I have many problems with the uniform and the endless discussions we have with it, but I’ll stick to three…
1. The cost of the uniform. Currently in the U.K. the full Army uniform required by my corps would cost me around £250. As someone who has lived in poverty and lives in an area surrounded with poverty I find it terrible that we ask members to fort out so much for full church membership. Let’s be honest here, without the uniform (at my corps at least) I am unable to play in the band, sing in the songsters, hold a position in the corps. Until I find the equivalent of over a months ‘wage’ I am banned from being a full member of my church. The Army, which was started amongst the poorest members in the slums of London is now one of the most middle class churches in attitude and that stinks.
2. As someone who has spent the past four years studying textile manufacturing I believe (and I’ve had officers at high levels confirm this to me) there is no way, the posh uniform could cost the price it does and not include a sweatshop or slavery somewhere along the manufacturing process. Drink as much fair trade as you like, buy your little charity cards for Christmas and feel good about the good you do with your pennies, but every time you put that wool rich uniform on your back you are participating in the sweatshop and slavery industry, why do you think the U.K. uniform won’t tell you where it’s made (which is a legal requirement) because they’ve got something to hide.
3. Right now, within 10mins walk of my corps front door there are young trafficked women selling sex for less than the price of coffee. How do I know this? Because I’m one of only two corps folk brave enough to live in the area. Our corps have become middle class clubs. Where would Jesus be right now? Where would William Booth be right now? Not talking endlessly about whether the girls are wearing trousers or skirts, they’d be on the street with the people. But not us, we’re too busy practicing out band pieces for Sunday. Why are we constantly talking about these little things when the big issues are happening under our noses?
As an Army, a Salvation Army, we are a disgrace.