Gen McPeak Service DressGen McPeak Service Dress Close up

General Merrill A. McPeak Service Dress Uniform

1991 - 1994

By far, the most controversial and unusual uniform within the repertoire of US Air Force uniforms. The uniform was named after General Merrill A. McPeak, the fifteenth Chief of Staff of the United States Air Force - 30 October 1990 to 25 October 1994. Since the US Air Force separated from the US Army in 1947, the US Air Force uniform evolved very little. General McPeak felt the US Air Force uniform needed a long overdue change of appearance. In 1991, he ordered a change in the style and design of the service dress uniform. The change in style was so profound; the uniform has since become identified to the general. It was, by far, the most sweeping change in the USAF service uniform since 1948 but became the Edsel of US Air Force uniforms.

The unveiling date of the new uniform was 31 October 1991. Wear testing was to be accomplished in 1992. The uniform was to be made available to all officers by 1994. The issuing date of the new uniform was 1 October 1995. However, the old service style uniform still in use was also covered by regulation and could be used up to and including 1 October 1999. This meant a four-year transition period was allowed for officers to switch to the new style uniform. However, the uniform started to appear publically as early as 1992 during the wear testing period.

Normally, a transitional period in the US Air Force would run without a hitch. By the end of the four year period, the officers would have been given ample time to make the transition. However, once the uniform was released, it became an immediate flop with the officers. Not very many officers liked the new uniform. Some thought it looked too much like the US Navy uniform while others thought it looked like an airline pilot's uniform. Whatever the discontent, the officers did not look forward to the transition to the new uniform.

Many officers decided to wait to the last minute before switching over to the new service dress uniform. They new there was wide spread discontent among the officers in lieu of the new uniform. They felt if they could avoid the change as long as possible there might be a chance that the new uniform would be discontinued or dropped before the end of the transitional period due to so much discontent. Another factor for consideration was that General McPeak would probably not be the USAF Chief of Staff by the end of the transitional period, 1999. The officers were hoping the wide spread discontent toward the new uniform would convince the new Chief of Staff to countermand the orders of his predecessor and discontinue its use.

The hopes and patience of the officers paid off. General McPeak was no longer the USAF Chief of Staff after 25 October 1994. General McPeak was replaced by General Ronald R. Fogleman on 26 October 1994 as the new USAF Chief of Staff. During the tenure of General Fogleman's leadership of the US Air Force as Chief of Staff, the orders on the new service dress uniform were countermanded and the General McPeak uniform was no longer considered regulation.

The McPeak uniform was no longer regulation and the transitional period was brought to an early immediate close. However, the old US Air Force service dress uniform was not reinstated. Another new style US Air Force service dress uniform was adopted which was much more acceptable to US Air Force personnel. The old style US Air Force service dress uniform would never be used again.

Just as the Edsel was a flop the McPeak uniform was a flop as well. However, today the Edsel is one of the most sought after cars as a collectible. Not many people bought or held onto the Edsel and, in time, a rarity was created for the collector. The same is true for the General McPeak uniform. Because the officers waited to the last minute to buy their new McPeak uniforms, not many were sold. When the McPeak uniform was discontinued there were not many in circulation. This has created one of the rarest US Air Force uniforms to collect. In matter of fact, when a McPeak uniform is found without the attached US Air Force insignia, most people do not recognize it as a US Air Force uniform and think it belongs to the US Navy or a commercial airline company.

Many high-ranking officers wore the McPeak uniform as early as possible to show solidarity with the US Air Force Chief of Staff especially if they were stationed in Washington, D.C. The wear-testing period for the McPeak uniform was 1992. Many of the high-ranking officers, who received their uniforms early, received them through Air Material Command as Experimental Test items. Therefore, if a high-ranking officer’s uniform is found it will probably be marked “Experimental Test” which creates a much more sought after uniform to have in one’s collection.

The McPeak uniform was blue shade 1620 and was 55/45 percent polyester wool blend serge weave. Its equivalent counterpart in the civilian world would have been the business suit. The coat is semi-draped and single breasted with three buttons. As in a civilian suit, there was one left breast pocket without a flap. There were two lower pocket flaps. The buttons bear the old US Army Air Corps wings and star. Officer rank will be worn on the lower sleeve as silver colored braid bands similar to the US Navy. The trousers are of matching color and material.

The belt and buckle remained the same as in the old style service dress except general officers may wear a buckle bearing the wing and star design. The shirt under garment can be any of the regulation long sleeve light blue styles with epaulets. The tie is to be polyester herringbone twill, Air Force shade 1621. Footwear is the black low quarter shoe without design or decoration and the socks are plain black. The cap worn with the McPeak uniform was the service cap or flight cap. The shade and material of the cap did not need to match the uniform. All regulation insignia was to be high gloss.

Outer garments worn with the McPeak uniform were the all-weather coat, overcoat or raincoat. If gloves are used they are to be wool knit or leather and gray or black in color. A scarf was authorized for use with the outer garment. The scarf was to be made of wool or cotton, with or without napped surface, white or gray and worn tucked in. Any commercial earmuffs may be used as long as they were plain and solid blue, black or gray color. Cuff links could be one of any three kinds authorized by the USAF: wing and star design; oval bearing US Air Force coat-of-arms; or the plain satin silver finish. Style of cuff links was optional as long as it was one of the three mentioned.

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