The US Army’s physical fitness gear has become as much an icon of the service as the M16 or the Abrams tank, but progress catches up with everything in the end, and the old gray shirt with black ARMY has reached its retirement date. Starting in October, a new PT uniform will be rolled out, bringing the gear our soldiers train in right up to date. The new uni has been based on discussions with troops, starting from the introduction of the Improved Physical Fitness Uniform 14 years ago. The IPFU generated a lot of complaints, so some real effort has gone into making sure the new uniform is what soldiers want.
Over 40 changes have been made to the PT gear, and one of them is really distinctive. The old black on gray design is gone – the new uniform is a black base with gold ARMY logos. It’s eye-catching, and in tests has been very popular with soldiers. The A logo on the rear has been dropped, as have the reflective patches featured on the IPFU. Along with eliminating the liner from the pants, that means a set of the new clothes will cost soldiers about $3 less than the IPFU did.
The uniform consists of 5 separate garments – jacket, pants, trunks and long- and short-sleeved t-shirts. All are made from improved moisture-wicking fabric, have tagless labels, and feature embroidered logos other than the large ARMY on the t-shirts, which is screen-printed.
Detail changes include revised trunks following complaints from soldiers that the old design was too revealing, especially when doing sit-ups. The new ones have a modesty liner to hide any embarrassing dangles. Many other details, including the drawstrings and zipper tags, have been improved based on user feedback. The trunks have an internal key pocket and an ID pocket on the left thigh. The mock collar has been removed from the long-sleeve shirt and half-elastic lower legs make the pant cuffs easy to adjust. The underarm zips on the jacket are out, and lighter and more robust eyelet vents are in. Female sizing has also been introduced for the jacket and pants. Meanwhile, the watch cap that goes with the uniform will stay the same except for a color change – it’s now black, too.
One concern was that a black uniform be hotter for exercising troops than the gray was, but it’s been tested in a lab; the wicking properties of the new fabric more than cancel out any heat gain there might have been.
The Army will be introducing a new option as well. For troops who take their training extra-seriously, there will be an optional purchase version of the uniform made in premium high performance fabrics. It looks the same as the standard issue, but it’s lighter. The price is higher, but soldiers can buy the components they want and mix them with the standard uniform. This version is scheduled to hit the clothing stores in December.
The new Army Physical Fitness Uniform is the most radical change to training gear in decades, but two large-scale trials show it’s already popular with the people who count – the troops who’ll wear it. The rollout should go quickly, because the Army has taken time to build up inventory before the changeover starts, so it shouldn’t be long before exercising soldiers look even more professional than before.