Dress for the 80’s- Trials No2 Dress Uniform

When a new piece of uniform is introduced, it has already gone through an extensive trials period and a number of different designs will have been evaluated and discussed. These trials uniforms are made in very small numbers, sometime just a couple of examples, to allow them to be evaluated by a committee to choose the best colour, cut and details. Examples of these trials uniforms rarely come up on the collectors market, partly because so few were made to start with and also because many are either archived or binned after the trials have been completed. Today we are looking at some trials clothing which I believe comes from the late 1970s when it was decided to update the No2 dress army parade uniform. A range of different colours were trialled including khaki, dark khaki, chocolate brown, dark green, royal blue and scarlet. Eventually the colour chosen would be very similar to that already in service, but clearly other colours were at least to be considered. Today we are looking at some pieces of uniform from this trial in the form of a jacket, forage cap and a selection of trousers.

The jacket is unfinished, without buttons or insignia and is made in a dark chocolate brown shade of fabric:

The epaulettes are pointed and the white stitched ‘X’ indicates where a button would be attached on a finished garment:

The breast patch pockets have pointed flaps, with exposed buttons:

The skirt pockets are internal with an external pointed flap:

The dark colour of the jacket is very pronounced when placed next to the previous in service pattern of No2 jacket:

A label inside the jacket indicates that it is a trials garment:

It is interesting it has already been allocated an NSN number, despite being for trials. Accompanying the jacket was a matching forage cap:

The interior of the cap followed standard practice, it was only the colour which was new:

Inside is a sticker with an NSN number and details written on by hand. A pair of chocolate brown trousers was also trialled:

When I bought this lot of uniform, another two pairs of trials trousers accompanied it in different, equally unpleasant colours:

All were made by different companies and have a variety of internal labels:

These uniforms were only part of a wider trial to find a new parade uniform for the 1980s and John Bodsworth has very kindly sent me these images of some of the other patterns that were under trial at the same time. Some were clearly very similar to those finally adopted, whilst others were a little further from standard British practice:

The programme was called ‘Dress for the 80’s’ and John’s examples seem rather more finished than mine suggesting that these examples went forward to troop trials, whereas mine were perhaps just for initial evaluation in front of a committee so did not need to be finished with buttons and badges.

It is always fascinating to see the process behind the final adoption of kit, and the fact that these uniforms were not adopted is probably a relief to many- the colours are not pleasant and however maligned the ‘ginger drinking suit’ is, it is probably a better choice than the shades of cloth considered in the trials! My thanks go to John for the pictures that allow us to show more fully some of the different prototype garments that were under evaluation.

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