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Which Uniform Is The Right Uniform?

Which Uniform Is The Right Uniform?

This is a frequent question: “What’s the Uniform of the Day?” or “Can I wear [insert uniform here] to this event?”

Let's set the stage first and talk briefly about categories of uniforms and how they relate to one another.

Civil Air Patrol has 5 categories of uniforms. Within each category of uniform, there are two distinct uniform styles: Corporate-style and USAF-style. In rough order from “most formal” to “least formal”, these uniform categories and their civilian equivalents are:

  1. Mess Dress (or Semi-formal) - Tuxedo (ie. black-tie)

  2. Service Dress - Business Suit

  3. Service (or Aviator Shirt) - Shirt with tie/Business Casual

  4. Working & Utility - Work clothes

  5. Flight Duty - Flying togs (ok, yes, I used the word ‘togs’)


When a “Uniform of the Day” is selected for a meeting or event, it is usually based on what is expected to be done that day. Classroom training?  A Service or Aviator Shirt uniform would suffice. Meeting with the governor? He’s going to be in a suit, you’ll want to be in Service Dress. Squadron building cleanout day? Working & Utility is your best bet.  This list is not intended to be exhaustive but instead illustrates that not every uniform type is appropriate for every meeting or activity.


There are times when some uniforms from different categories may be worn at a specific activity (ie. Working & Utility and Flight Duty uniforms at a mission and while flying). There are also times when a uniform of one or more categories is likely entirely inappropriate for a particular activity or event.

It is important for activity planners and commanders to “read the room” when selecting a Uniform of the Day. Holding a squadron awards banquet? Service dress (or appropriate civilian attire) is probably the best choice. Especially if you have a guest, say an elected official, coming to present awards and will be in a suit. A Working & Utility or Flight Duty uniform would be the least appropriate for that event. Instead of wearing the wrong category of uniform, you should check with your commander to see if wearing a civilian equivalent is more appropriate instead.

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