The Button

When the Army transitioned from the Battle Dress Uniform to the Army Combat Uniform (ACU) one of the changes that surprised me was doing away with buttons in favor of velcro tapes to close the pockets. Velcro is handy, but it doesn’t last very well, particularly after repeated washings.

Not surprisingly, ┬áthe velcro tapes were popular in garrison, where they present a tidy appearance. But they weren’t very popular with grunts in the field, since the cargo pockets of soldiers in the field are almost always jam-packed with various and sundry items. And velcro just won’t hold them closed.

The Army is ripping space-age Velcro from its uniforms and replacing it with the humble button, which turns out to be tailor-made for the rigors of Afghanistan.

The Army isn’t quite as bad as the Navy or the Air Force when it comes to designing uniforms, but the decision to use velcro was stupid, and an entirely self inflicted wound. I can’t tell you how many man-years and millions of dollars were spent developing the ACU, but I can tell you this- a five minute conversation with an infantryman would have told the Army that velcro just doesn’t work for cargo pockets.

H/T: Hotspur at the H2.

10 thoughts on “The Button”

  1. Which is funny. You’re right, velcro does NOT hold up under repeated washings. Or even repeated use. The sleeves on my field jacket (which I wear when winter gets to AlGore levels of cold) bear witness to that fact. And yet, some high performance sports cars are held together with velcro. My biggest concern with velcro on the ACU was the noise issue. There is simply no way to quietly open velcro. Buttons… well, you know that answer.

    1. Of course, back in the old days when there was still such a thing as quartermaster laundry, they managed to break buttons every damn time.

    2. Of course, back in the old days when there was still such a thing as quartermaster laundry, they managed to break buttons every damn time.

      Oh, I remember QM laundry. And there’s a specific reason I used them only twice in my five years.

  2. Unbuttoned pockets discovered in the chow line resulted in a ‘friend’ having to run around the mess hall 50 times hoisting 25 lb. bags of sugar in each hand. Every time he passed the entrance he was required to scream, “I fucked up Mess Sergeant!”

    1. Unbuttoned pockets in garrison usually resulted in the offending pocket being torn off, with the offender being told that he must not have really wanted that pocket anyway.

    1. Zippers work well for the fly, but are problematic for the cargo pockets. And why add a $0.35 zipper, when you can use a two cent button?

  3. Yes, zippers can also jam and break. A soldier can carry a small sewing kit easily, and repair/replace any button problems in a couple minutes. Lord knows I always had a sewing kit in my seabag. It was easier to fix many things myself than find the time (and cash) to go to a tailor shop off base.

    I didn’t mind the velcro closures on the wrist and waist of my flight suit. However, they didn’t have the same stress that pockets will.


  4. The velcro wears out sooo fast. The fabric wasn’t ripstop on the first lots. many a new ACu dies after only a month in field conditions.

    The color? Don’t get me started on t he confederate gray digi pattern that came in DEAD LAST in the Army’s own cammo tests.

    At least this version of the ACU will last longer.

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