Guide: Can Retired Military Buy and Wear Uniforms?

Having a family member in the military meant there was no shortage of uniforms passing in and out of our house. Formal uniforms, workday uniforms, hats, pins, jackets, even training uniforms! It was hard to keep up with it all. Now, as they’ve reached retirement my house faces the question “What do we do with all of this? Can it still be worn?”

Retired military members are only allowed to wear certain uniforms and only on special occasions. For formal functions, national holidays, parades, military funerals, and weddings: only the Service Dress Uniform may be worn. Outside of formal events, uniforms may be worn if they fit the occasion. They are not to be worn for leisure, and it is not encouraged to purchase uniforms outside of their own collection.

There are a few more specifics, however, that just go into buying or wearing uniforms, and a lot more rules that you may not think about! Here are a few questions you may have, to better understand whether or not retired military can buy or wear uniforms.

Some Things To Know…

There’s a difference between retired military, and veterans, and this influences what you can and cannot wear. Veterans are considered any military personnel that served 20 years or more in their respected fields. The retired military title is given to anyone who has served less than 20 years but has still been honorably discharged.

It’s also important to note that we’ll be discussing solely the U.S. military, and no reference to military regulations anywhere else in the rules.

In this article, we will be referring to both as retired military members but will discern the difference if the dress code requires it.

Can Retired Military and Veterans Buy Uniforms?

If you’re looking to purchase uniforms, you’re more than welcome. Often things like formal uniforms can deteriorate over time, or no longer fit. In these situations, it’s very much welcome to purchase new ones and to wear them for the fitting occasion.

You can purchase these at a number of different places, but the most commonplace is any uniform exchange store on any military base. There are no rules against purchasing new uniforms, however, many retirees don’t re-purchase basic uniforms or PT clothing and instead buy their formal wear.

Can Retired Military and Veterans Wear Uniforms?

Yes, retired military members can wear their old, or newly bought, uniforms. It is often encouraged to wear in respectful settings and is welcome. However, there are some situations where it’s okay to wear your uniform, and it’s not okay. The most general consensus seems to rely on whether or not the retired member themselves deems it fit to wear, although there are some prohibited situations in which to never wear it.

It’s important to note that often after time served, some uniforms are taken back. Things like workout clothes, or boots, anything that could potentially be worn again are often returned. Dress uniforms, or anything purchased separately, is yours to have. The only items that are taken back are items that were issued.

Due to there being few situations or events in which you’d want or need to wear your regular uniform, so most veterans don’t re-purchase them. So whilst you can, it isn’t often done.

Where is it okay to wear your uniform??

Each uniform has a designated time and place to be worn, even in the military. So of course there are going to be designated events outside of it. As mentioned earlier, for military funerals, weddings, parades, and holidays, Service Dress Uniform is appropriate. Service dress uniform is the classic uniforms you see military members wear and are commonly much more formal with any decorations or medals are worn with them.

For any other uniform, it depends on the situation, however, none are absolutely restricted. The uniform isn’t meant to be flashy or shown-off. And whilst keeping up with military grooming standards is not required once you have been released from duty, it is encouraged whilst wearing any military uniform out of respect. Things like PT gear, are discouraged.

When is it NOT okay?

There are some situations that are frowned upon to wear your uniforms, in fact, they are prohibited. Prohibited situations would be:

  1. Any meeting, or demonstration, that is anti-government in nature.
  2. During or in connection with the furtherance of political activities, private employment, or commercial interests, when an inference of official sponsorship for the activity or interest could be drawn.
  3. Civil, or criminal, court.

Uniforms are also not encouraged to wear leisurely or in common settings. If available, changing into “civilian” clothes is encouraged if going out in public. Places like the supermarket, the mall, any common area isn’t encouraged. It’s also not encouraged to wear any decorations that may have been awarded to you out in public, some even argue you shouldn’t wear your ranking if possible.

Overall it’s encouraged to not wear it off of any military bases or in any common or everyday situation.

Special rules

There are some special rules for wearing your uniform out, that you might not know about! One being, if you’ve received a medal of honor, there are some places you cannot wear it.

  1. Participating in public speeches, interviews, picket lines, marches or rallies, or in any public demonstration which may imply official military sanction
  2. Furthering political activities, private employment, or commercial interests
  3. Working in an off-duty civilian capacity
  4. Participating in civilian court proceedings when the conviction would bring discredit

There are also rules concerning civilians wearing military wear, the big rule being: you can’t. In terms of family, the rules can get somewhat foggy, and sometimes awards can be worn in representation or respect. However, if you have no direct relation to anyone in the military, it’s incredibly discouraged and even illegal.

There are even special rules depending on your branch. If you happen to serve in the U.S. Air Force, you’re not allowed to wear your flight jacket, with any civilian clothing. Only other uniforms or on base.

If you have uniforms specifically related to deployments, such as an Iraq or Afghanistan uniform, these are restricted and not to be worn outside of those deployments. Often times, the military will ask for them back before your retirement. If you happen to still have them, it’s extremely discouraged to wear them. For some veterans, they are given specific formal uniforms related to their deployment, or awards and decoration to wear with already purchased formal uniforms.

It is also illegal to wear a uniform or any uniform, not in your branch of the military. If you served in the Navy, but not the Air Force, purchasing and wearing an Air Force uniform is illegal. In fact, you can be punished under the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) for wearing anything that is unauthorized. Even wearing awards or rankings that you have not earned is prohibited. It can result in fees, and even jail time.

You also shouldn’t wear only one part of your uniform, without the rest. Most uniforms come with multiple parts, and it’s discouraged and frowned upon to wear a piece of your uniform aside from the whole. For example, to wear your hate, without the rest of the uniform, or the cargo pants without the top, are all situations that would be inappropriate. It’s considered offensive.

There are special decorations such as sabers, or swords, that are only required for certain events. These decorations are only permitted at these events, and nowhere else. Frequently, these decorations are taken back by the military before your discharge, but also, walking around with a sword is awkward and uncomfortable, and not something you’d want to do. This also applies to any other weaponry that may have been given during the time served.

Where Can Retired Military Buy, or Rent Uniforms?

If you’re looking to purchase a new uniform, there are a few places you can look. Most retired military members still have access to military bases, and on base shopping, where you can purchase uniforms at the Exchange.

You can also purchase uniforms online at a number of websites such as and

You can also often buy pre-used uniforms from other members either on base, or through websites. It is important again to note, that to wear a uniform and not being a veteran, or military member, is illegal and incredibly discouraged.

In Personal Experience

In personal experience, there have been few situations where retired uniforms have been worn. The two biggest ones being funerals, or weddings. Once a member is retired, they can either donate their old uniforms or use some as a display. Often hats, badges, rankings, all can be displayed properly within a home. However, very rarely are they taken out and worn, even if the uniform itself is being worn.

Whilst it’s often a rule of thumb, it is important to note when, and where, wearing your uniform is appropriate. Hopefully with this new information, you find things to be a little clearer!

Recent Posts