Dear Salvation Army, Is It Time For A Uniform Update?

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.  uniform5

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?
(names of subjects separated by commas)
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: skirt
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.

Dear Salvation Army, 3 Things No One Told You About Wearing A Uniform…

Bad luck
The Salvation Army uniform is, for the most part, recognized by many  people (that is unless you happen to be in uniform in an airport).   It’s certainly not the most comfortable thing you’ll ever wear, but it’s certainly not the most uncomfortable either (er pantyhose…nevermind).

I’ve been wearing an army uniform since I was born…I mean since I made a junior soldier.

3 Things No One Told You About Wearing A Uniform: 

1.  Evolution Exists In The Uniform: salvation-boston_0008
The Salvation Army uniform is, or should be, a fluid thing.
If you don’t believe me that there is an evolutionary process to the uniform just look at pictures of our uniforms as early as 1990…things are changing.  Some of us might wish the uniform would change a little faster, but the days of the high collar and the bonnet are gone (cue the sad music and some of you will no doubt pine for days gone by).   The Railton shirts and the Dorcas (maybe a better name could have been suggested) blouses are relatively new editions to our growing uniform.  Perhaps one day the “Patriot” shirt and others might not be limited to only certain times of year but instead may be worn year round…thus the evolving uniform.

obama2.  The Uniform Opens Doors:
Perhaps someone once told you that the uniform opened doors, but you didn’t believe them.  It really does, if you still don’t believe me just wear it traveling sometime and you’ll see.  Some soldiers have joked that they have worn their uniforms to coffee shops and received a military discount.  Besides the occasional discount (which of course isn’t the reason we wear our uniforms) visits to governmental offices and dignitaries tends to go a lot smoother when wearing of our polyester finest.  The uniform can open some doors…not all.  There might be places and occasions where the uniform is not welcome, so bear that in mind too.

3.  In Times Of Crisis, The Uniform Changes Lives:

All joking aside, moments of crisis do take place around us, and The Salvation Army uniform is recognizable!  After the horrific events of 9-1-1, The Salvation Army’s presence in New York and ground zero was sought out.  Counseling took place for rescue workers and individuals by uniformed Salvationists.  When you wear the uniform, the opportunities to impact lives in crisis increases.  In times like these 1 Peter 3:15 comes to mind; “But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect…

The Salvation Army uniform is a unique thing.   It can be annoying to wear from time to time but it can also be a witness tool, a blessing and a door opener.  I used to take the use of the uniform rather lightly…there are times that I still grudgingly donn it on, if I am honest.  But the older I get the more I see its vital use within the Salvation Army’s ministry.  I’m not saying that there shouldn’t be changes made in the future to it, but I am saying I hope we don’t simply relegate its use only for Sundays.

Perhaps there are more things that no one told you about wearing The Salvation Army uniform that you would like to share with us.  Comment below, we’d love to hear your responses as well!

Something more for the Army world to ponder today!
To God be the glory!

Dear Salvation Army, The Death Of The Uniform Skirt.

February 10th, 2017                                                                                                          Edition #118

It finally happened.
The Salvation Army’s women’s uniform has officially changed.
The days of the skirt with those awkward “gasping for air” tight pantyhose is finally over.
The skirt has finally gone the way of the bonnet and the high collar uniform.
Some say that it is about time, while others claim this is the beginning of the end for our Army.  Either way, the change in uniform policy has come, and time will tell how it will effect our army.

One officer brazenly indicated that with the expiration of the uniform skirt the equality within the sexes could finally be realized.

Is this true?
Could we be seeing all additional walls between “official” roles torn down all because of the death of the skirt?
Could it have been that simple?
Some would contend that officer leadership roles had already begun changing well before this uniform adjustment, but I recently sat down with a few female officers to discuss just how this new policy change will effect all gender roles within the Army.

Photo Mar 30, 11 42 35 AM

The Interview:

So, tell me about this new uniform policy?
Well, I don’t know about everyone here, but I am absolutely thrilled to see the army finally taking this modern step forward!  I can’t tell you how good it feels to not be required to wear those constricting pantyhose at official events and other occasions.  I mean numerous changes have occurred within the men’s uniform shirts over the years but THIS change is just remarkable!

Looking back, what sort of rationale did you hear of in regards to why the Skirt/Panyhose and High Heels were required for “Full Uniform”?  
Oh, there were a lot of interesting reasons that I have heard.  Some of the craziest were – 
-‘The tunic does not look good without the skirt.’
-‘If women no longer wore skirts they wouldn’t know how to sit ladylike anymore.’…
…”One person even told me: ‘I don’t have a problem with it, so why should you?
“Another one I have personally heard was, ‘You can wear pants in the office, so it’s not like you NEVER get to wear them.’
…Someone told me once, ‘Skirts are more formal than pants…’ To which I said, “then why don’t men need to wear them too, for the sake of formality?”
-‘Skirts are feminine, pants are not.’  They told us that we needed heels so that we stood ‘more erect’ and had a better frame.”  (In response to this comment another woman added, “Are men required to wear something that requires them to stand ‘more erect’ and have a better frame?”)

Why is this new change in uniform so important?  Are there any opportunities now that you have that you didn’t while in the skirt?

I always hated that it impaired my ability to play drums on Sundays.  It was frustrating having a talent and not being used because I was uncomfortable playing a drum set with my legs wide open in a skirt.

“I already see a difference in my own life, I used to get swollen feet/legs at the end of the day and now I don’t.  I was always concerned about my back and my health when wearing heels because of the skirt.  Now that I don’t wear the heels anymore, my back pain and worry for my health is also gone!”  

“Prison ministry is certainly different now, I no longer have to wear the skirt and personally I feel less like an object while in this specific ministry!” 

“I don’t get judged anymore by other women officers by the length of my skirt…that used to always drive me crazy when someone would tell me my skirt was too long or too short…that kind of judgment is gone now!” 

“I used to have to do nursery work from time to time during the holiness meeting and inevitably I would be holding a child and their Velcro strapped shoes would catch on my nylons…I always ran them…now I don’t have that problem…and that certainly saves me some money on more nylons every week!” 

“I have seen a difference in some of our women soldiers in our corps.  Some were never keen on wearing the skirt when in full uniform, but since this change, they are back in full uniform on Sundays!”  

“I used to fall a lot while in high heels.  I even twisted my ankle a time or two, once rather severely.  Now I wear flats with my uniform pants and I can’t tell you how good that feels, and I’m sprain free!”

So I’m hearing you say there are a lot of opportunities now, do you think this effects the way others see women performing official “Officer” roles?

“Absolutely!  I think the uniform skirt put certain limits on us at times.  I believe there is an element of respect that comes with wearing pants with full uniform that we didn’t have before.  This is all new, but I have already seen the positive effects this change has had on my ministry and my leadership as an officer.”

What would you say to someone who wants to bring back the skirt or is clinging to this now obsolete uniform?

“I think the army made the right choice in this new policy, but I think if someone still wants to wear the skirt, no one should stop them from doing so as long as they don’t look down their noses at the rest of us wearing our uniform pants in full uniform.”  

“I always felt a little bit judged by people, most of the time it was other women in uniform, who had this kind of ‘standard’ that they seemingly forced on all the other women around them while wearing their skirt and pantyhose… I don’t think that is going to change much now it will just mean they are judging us according to how we wear this new full uniform.  But I would say that if you want to cling to the old uniform great, just don’t judge us by your standards…isn’t that kind of what the pharisees used to do?”

Well, there you have it.
Those that I talked with about this new uniform policy change seem to really like it.
The impression that I got from these women was that this is a good thing, and that some gender barriers are now down (assumed or recognized) within the identity of the Army as a whole.
Will this be the end of the army?  I don’t think so.  The Salvation Army has changed often within its 152 years, and I believe that it will certainly adapt as we move forward in the battle of saving souls and serving suffering humanity…and who knows, perhaps we will look back at this moment in our history and say “that was a minor event in this mighty army for Christ, or perhaps it will be said that this was a mighty turning point in gender equality and leadership roles.  Who knows, perhaps time will tell.

***A satirical article from a non-existent news source in the future…who knows…it could happen!***

Dear Salvation Army, 3 Ways To Embrace The Uniform

**I envision a couple of movies unfolding in my mind where non-conformists make the “required” uniform more fashionable and, dare I say more aesthetically pleasing.**

Let’s face it (and let’s get this out of the way right off the bat) – The Uniform is not going to win any fashion awards.
It will not be walking a runway in Paris or being featured in one of those high-end boutiques anytime soon.
Chances are older generations will be more prone to argue for consistent uniform wear than most of the younger generational soldiers.   I am not here to argue for or against uniform wear (an auditory sigh can be heard being exhaled all around the Army world).    I am here however to recognize the need for such a uniform in our army.

uni1. Recognizable
The uniform is recognizable, sure it might be a marketable feature from time to time but it should also be a symbol of hope to people who see it.  There are many soldiers and officers who can bear witness to the fact that people will inevitably come up to us and say something to the effect of “Oh, The Salvation Army, you don’t know me but The Salvation Army saved my life….” The uniform is recognized by those it has helped as well as those who want to help.  We may have to sacrifice some comforts in order to wear it.  By putting it on we are taking off our personal identities and some of our individuality and becoming a part of something greater than ourselves…or better yet, perhaps our identities and individuality begins to make this Army greater than before.  We do this together.  We wear the uniform for a purpose.  We share in this mission and fight not as a solitary soldier but as a unified army…so be recognizable!

uniform12.  Christ-likeness
I am not saying that Jesus donned one of our finest polyester threaded navy blue uniforms or anything, but I am saying that we can embrace the uniform by understanding what it stands for.  Remember that the “S’s” stand for Saved to Save (or Saved to serve).  Who have we been saved by?  – Christ.  He has provided us this salvation and displayed for us what holiness looks like.  We have been saved for a holy purpose – to show others how new life can be and to help others navigate the murky sin-sick waters of life as well.  We can glorify God in these uniform through the ways that we conduct daily lives.  Can we practice “Christ-likeness” out of uniform?  Of course, and we ought to, but we can also utilize this semi-comfortable contraption to bear witness of a transformed life.  I am not saying wearing the uniform is always easy, but neither is living a holy life.  Again, we can draw some parallels here but they are not mutually exclusive either.  If you are a soldier and you are committed to the cause of the Army then consistent uniform wear is probably a given.

uniform3.  Uniqueness of Witness To Others
Barring that you don’t get delayed in airports often and get frequently mistaken for airline pilots and staff members, the uniform can be a relatively unique witnessing tool.  People are quite curious as to what the uniform is all about.  If anything it’s a wonderful conversation starter.  Bear in mind that witnessing is so much more than the old “gospel tract” methods.  It is so much more than “cold calling” people, or yelling from a street corner “Jesus Saves”.  People are people and want to be engaged as such.  If we have hidden motives and agendas we are disingenuous in our witness.  Wearing the uniform will either scare people away or cause them to ask certain questions…and who knows perhaps you can develop a relationship with someone because of it.  With wearing the uniform, we do not hide the fact that we are Soldiers and Christians.  We all know of areas in which Christianity has been tarnished by inconsistent witnesses and down right hypocritical people – and we cannot afford to be that kind of witness while in uniform.  Seriously, if you don’t think you can be a consistent witness in and out of a uniform (PLEASE JOT THIS DOWN) – THEN DON’T WEAR THE UNIFORM!  I don’t mean to be harsh but either wear it with conviction or don’t.  Either embrace the symbolism behind the uniform or walk away from it.

uniform3 The Future of The Uniform?

Look, I don’t know what the future holds for the uniform, but if what we have seen in the last 20 – 30 years indicates anything, the Salvation Army uniform can and will change.  This doesn’t mean that it will all but disappear, but it might mean that certain adjustments will be made – **ahem the bonnets and high collars…will skirts and pantyhose be next?  I don’t know.  Can I say that I ALWAYS enjoy wearing full uniform – of course not!  Will I stop wearing my uniform as long as I am a soldier and officer – No.  Would I welcome some adjustments or modifications to the uniform in the future?  You bet I would!

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