How SAF Uniforms have evolved over time

How SAF Uniforms have evolved over time

By now, you’ve probably heard of the new SAF hybrid uniform for soldiers in combat, which is making its rounds on the internet.   The new uniform dries faster and is more breathable, which lowers the likelihood of heat injuries occurring. This is vital especially out on the field, where soldiers slog it out under the hot sun.   For combat units, this is a welcome change to the old uniforms.   Wearing heavy combat vests will now produce significantly less sweat than before, which is a relief given the days they might spend without a running water supply in outfield.   As an added bonus, these uniforms are also flame-resistant. They are made out of aramid fiber, which is highly lightweight and durable, not easily torn even in times of physical stress.
Although the uniforms aren’t very aesthetically appealing, comfort is of utmost priority when you’re stuck outdoors struggling through a muddy field, or trying to make a dent in the scorched earth while digging your shell scrape. The overall green colour also promises a refuge, against the backdrop of foliage and leafy plants.   Jokes and scrutiny aside, here’s a brief history of how the uniforms have evolved over time and the different types of present-day SAF uniforms.

1967: Temasek Green uniform, the first year NS was established

This uniform is a classic, and has served NS personnel well into the 1980s. The design ensures a clean look that transcends time. However, it was made of thick cotton, which for obvious reasons are impractical for Singapore’s climate. With the increase of global temperatures in recent years, uniforms made of more cooling material are pivotal.

1977: Modification of uniform, with the addition of shirt pockets and darker green in colour

As National Service progressed on, it was noted that soldiers needed more pockets for their army-issued items that they had to carry with them. Also, the darker colour of the uniform reflected the shade of green that the foliage was in.

1983: New camouflage uniform

1985: Lightweight, better air permeability

20 years later, a new uniform was introduced to better meet the changing needs of the soldiers. The camouflage pattern was a distinct break from the solid colour that distinguished the Temasek Green uniform. With this pattern, soldiers could better avoid detection by the enemy and stay safe even as they huddled out in the open.

2012: New SAF pixelated uniform

The switch to a pixelated pattern with blended hues of green, tan and black has emerged after many years of research & development. This has helped SAF soldiers blend into the background better, which is evident when war paint is applied (below picture, left). As the BBC notes, ‘Close up, the small patches mimic natural patterns on the scale of leaves on a tree, but from farther away, the clusters of squares create a macro texture that blends with branches, trees and shadows.’ This ensures high effectiveness even in different terrains and whether in combat or being shelled or attacked from far away.  
In sum, a visual representation of how the army uniforms have evolved can be seen below, in this army buff’s collection:
Here we can see that as Singapore does not have a desert landscape, the uniform has slowly evolved over the years to varying shades of green to blend in with the forested areas.   Also, if you’re about to enlist, here’s a guide to the different types of current SAF uniforms so that you don’t get mixed up and risk your entire platoon getting tekan-ed by the sergeant:  

SAF Number 1

The No.1 is normally worn during formal occasions, such as parades. It enables the wearer to look smart and distinguished while marching as a grand contingent in front of guests. In addition to the usual badges and insignias, officers wear a yellow Aiguillette while colour escort specialists wear a red sash, on their shoulder. For the Military Police, Military Band and Officer Cadets, they also wear a peak cap along with the rest of the No.1.  

SAF Number 2

  The No. 2 is normally worn during social occasions and dining-in. Men wear a bow tie with their inner shirt. In addition to the Aiguillete, which is also worn with the No. 2, a four-pleat cummerbund is worn. A gold chain is also attached to the third lowest button, with the chain below the jacket but fastening both sides of the jacket.  

SAF Number 3

The No.3 is the army’s office kit and is normally worn by clerks. A nylon belt with Services’ Crest embossed gold buckle is worn with the uniform. The other accessories, such as the arms badges, shoulder boards, headdress, foreign badges, SAF badges and medals, name tag, tab and proficiency badges, and lanyards are worn as per normal like on the other uniforms.  

SAF Number 4

The No. 4 is common, standard attire and is widely known as the ‘smart 4’. Like the other uniforms, the respective arms badge is worn on the right collar. Jockey caps are also worn by recruits and/or NSmen, when berets are not available. Inner shirts are also commonly worn inside the No.4, except during parades.  

SAF Number 5

The No. 5 is worn during less formal occasions where there are social opportunities to mingle around. All Army vocations except Military police and Military Band) wear berets with the No. 5, whereas other vocations wear the peak cap.The Vocation or Highest Precedence badge is also worn closest to the heart.   As military items cannot be disposed of normally aka by dumping them into the chute, there are 12 dedicated collection points at which you can dispose of your items after fulfilling your National Service requirements: the Khatib Camp entrance, various SAFRA branches, and SAF camp entrances.   On the other hand, if you’re looking to customise your uniform or accessories, customisation services are available here at The Noteway – visit our Uniform page or  email us to find out more.
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