ROTC Uniforms: Look Sharp, Be Sharp

ROTC Uniform

ROTC uniforms have always been a distinctive part of the overall ROTC experience. Rather it was JROTC in high school or the more streamlined uniform in college ROTC, cadets were instantly recognizable whenever they moved around campus. Along with the distinctive clothes of the ROTC uniform, there are also numerous accessories that form part of the overall uniform appearance. With this in mind, what are the most important parts of the ROTC uniform?

Each ROTC uniform is designed to reflect the service branch of the Armed Forces the cadet is dedicated to. The most important parts of any branch ROTC uniform are the garrison beret, appropriate accessories for the occasion, and either the class A, class B, camouflage field uniform, and the physical training uniform. 

Are you curious about ROTC uniforms and what accessories belong to each ROTC service branch? If so, this guide will tell you everything you need to know about ROTC uniforms as well as appearance and grooming requirements. From caps to shoes, to rifles, and all appropriate and required equipment that is part of every ROTC uniform, we will explore each of these components of the uniforms in detail. 

ROTC Ribbon Rack

One of the most instantly recognizable symbols of any ROTC uniform is what is known as the ribbon rack. The ribbon rack is a pin that is designed to hold many of the various ribbons that cadets are awarded for merit and meritorious service and good conduct throughout their 4 years in the ROTC program. 

Since cadets may accumulate more than one awarded ribbons during their time in the ROTC program, there is an order of precedence and arrangement in which cadets are expected to arrange the ribbon racks. 

Ribbon racks will always appear on the outside of the coat on the right part of the upper chest of the cadet. There are over 30 ribbons that can possibly be awarded to a cadet, and each ribbon rack is to be aligned from top to bottom according to the precedence of the awarded ribbon. 

ROTC Beret

Each branch of ROTC also has a uniform beret that is to be worn only at designated times and at designated areas. For the ROTC program, the beret is typically black and is only meant to be worn when authorized to do so by program administrators. 

The beret is worn so that the headband (edge binding) is straight across the forehead, 1 inch above the eyebrows. The flash is positioned over the left eye, and the excess material is draped over to the right ear, extending to at least the top of the ear, and no lower than the middle of the ear. 

Personnel will typically cut off the ends of the adjusting ribbon and secure the ribbon knot inside the edge binding at the back of the beret

ROTC Garrison Cap

In all branches of ROTC, a garrison cap is issued to each cader to be worn at designated times when instructed. The garrison cap is a visorless cap made of soft cloth that sits atop the head with a band that encloses around the top of the forehead. 

This is the standard cap issued to ROTC cadets and is typically worn more often when compared to the ROTC beret. 

Air Force ROTC Cap

In Air Force ROTC, cadets will wear the officer flight cap with a diamond braid (male or female) with the service dress uniform. Cadets will be issued “Prop & Wings” flight cap insignia upon satisfactory completion of the program. 

Additionally, Air Force ROTC also features a beret that is to be worn only at designated times when requested, but the officer flight cap is the main hate issued to Air Force ROTC cadets. 

ROTC Cords

ROTC Cords

Another interesting aspect of an ROTC uniform is the cords that are seen being worn over the shoulder. These cords can range in color based upon the unit of a cadet and their own design choices based on ranks earned by a cadet as they advance through the ROTC program. 

Some cords, such as ROTC commander cords, are typically gold in color and feature embroidered emblems that are woven together to create one dominant pattern of the cord. 

Other cords may appear in either blue or white colors, and all of this is based on what a cadet’s unit has created to signify the various positions that cadets can get promoted to at different points during the program. 


An ROTC tab is an emblem that is awarded to cadets based on different positions and ranks obtained throughout the program. The tab comes in many different forms, each corresponding to a particular unit.

Tabs are worn on the right shoulder of the ROTC uniform. The emblems that make up the tab are typically attached to a large patch that covers most of the shoulder of the cadet. Sometimes tabs can be worn on the left shoulder, it all depends on where the specific tab is meant to be worn. 

Tabs can be earned either from a display of certain skills that align with the distinction for the tab or to signify a particular ROTC unit. 

ROTC Camo Uniform

The ROTC camo uniform or, the combat uniform as it is properly known as is the camouflage uniform that all branches of ROTC are issued and ordered to wear on specific occasions. 

The ROTC camo uniform is largely similar in design across all 4 branches of ROTC. A camouflage coat and trousers with a matching hat are the three main components of the uniform. Boots are typically coyote brown combat boots and a coyote brown belt as well. 

A tanned undershirt is meant to be worn underneath the ROTC camo uniform coat. 

ROTC Boots

The boots most associated with ROTC uniforms are coyote brown combat boots that are meant to be worn with the ROTC camo uniform. 

The boots will be diagonally laced with matching color laces, with the excess lace tucked into the top of the boot under the bloused trousers, or wrapped around the top of the boot with the excess lace tucked into the top of the boot. The boots are expected to remain clean at all times and zipper inserts are not authorized.

ROTC Uniform Shoes

Apart from the ROTC camo uniform, all other uniforms will require certain types of shoes to be worn with the uniform. 

For example, class A and B uniforms require males and females to wear black, shined, oxford shoes along with the uniform. Females also have the option of wearing black pumps if they prefer these two classes of uniforms. 

Shoes must be solid black with no markings or distinctive design patterns on the shoes. 

ROTC Drill Rifles

The drill rifles used in ROTC programs have been altered so that the guns can no longer fire live ammunition. This is largely because having a loaded gun is not necessary for conducting drills and drill training. 

The M1 Garand rifle is one of the most common rifles altered and used for drills, as well as the M14. 

ROTC Drill Rifles

Fatigue Uniform ROTC

When you hear an ROTC uniform referred to as “fatigues” this is essentially another name used for the camo or combat uniform. This uniform is meant to be worn during combat as it is both durable and not formal, which allows soldiers easy maneuverability, as well as protection from the elements that exist in whatever environment they are deployed in. 

ROTC cadets also wear these uniforms on specified days of the week. 

Dresses for ROTC Ball

At an ROTC ball, female cadets are allowed to wear dresses in lieu of the formal uniform required for such events. Any dress worn is expected to have a long length and be formal in design with no excessive amounts of skin showing. 

Females also have the option of wearing their class A uniform to an ROTC ball if they wish. 

ROTC Equipment

Your ROTC program will typically provide you with everything you need upon entry to the program or in some situations, upon signing a contract to continue on for advanced ROTC training (junior and senior year). 

You can choose to buy your own ROTC supplies if you would like. It is a good idea to buy a pair of coyote brown combat boots, an eyepro, tactical gloves, and a pair of running shoes if you do not already have a pair. 

How To Put On ROTC Belt Buckle

The ROTC belt should be looped through to the left for males and to the right for females. 

What this means is that when you begin to assemble your belt, take the end of the belt with the tab and then loop it through the belt buckles until the edge meets the end of the other side of the tab; make sure no access belt is protruding out of the belt buckle. 

Basically, it is best to remember that the belt buckle should point to the right for females and to the left for males. 

ROTC Uniforms Cost

Each year of the ROTC program, a uniform fee will be charged to each student at only about 25% of the total cost of the uniform. This typically comes out to about $230-$260 dollars for each cadet in the program. 

Furthermore, the overall uniform cost can be dependent upon how the ROTC program at a particular university chooses to provide uniforms to cadets. Some programs may provide uniforms at no cost at all to cadets or, as part of an overall ROTC scholarship

When Do You Get Your Uniform in Army ROTC?

Your Army ROTC uniform is usually given to you once you sign a contract and enter into the advanced portion of the ROTC program. Thai policy differs according to the policies of the ROTC program at various universities. 

In some ROTC programs, the uniform can be issued as soon as entering freshmen who are on an ROTC scholarship begin the program. 

ROTC Dress Blues

ROTC dress blues are a term used to describe the class A uniform in an ROTC program. Cadets are not given this uniform until they contract with their service branch and become committed to completing the advanced portion of an ROTC uniform. 

Dress blues are also known as ROTC service dress. For males, the class A uniform consists of a Garrison beret, Army service coat, and trousers, white service shirt (short or long sleeve), a black four-in-hand necktie, black oxford shoes, black socks, black belt with brass buckle and tip, black all-weather coat (optional), uniform brass and accessories.

For females, the class A uniform consists of a Garrison beret, Army service coat, slacks or skirt, white service shirt (short or long sleeve), black neck tab, black oxford shoes or black pumps, black all-weather coat (optional), uniform brass, and accessories. 

Additionally, all insignia and the nameplate are also to be displayed on the class A uniform. 

Also, a black sweater can also be worn as an optional uniform item. It can be worn with either shirt. If the long sleeve shirt is worn, you must wear a necktie or neck tab. The collar of the short sleeve shirt is worn out when no tie is worn. Cloth shoulder boards with embroidered cadet rank are also worn on the sweater. The nameplate is worn centered on the black patch except when wearing the distinctive unit insignia. 

ROTC dress blues are only worn on select occasions. 

ROTC Haircut Regulations

You do not have to keep a crew cut in ROTC but there are hair grooming and length requirements. Your hair should be clean, well-maintained, and never extend past your uniform collar. 

For guys, your hair must not appear shaggy or tangled and cannot fall over your ears, eyebrows, or onto or below your uniform neck collar. 

For women, the same rule applies but if you have long hair, you can pin it back or pin it, in general, to wear it does not fall over your neck collar.