Combat shirts are an essential piece of military uniform wear. Versatile, durably made and well suited for battle, these shirts are unique for their rare combination of comfort and utility. To pick the right one, it will help to understand why they came to be a part of the Army uniform, their overall construction, and the long list of useful features they offer.
Combat Shirt Overview
A combat shirt is essentially a t-shirt / uniform coat hybrid: the body of the shirt is made of soft, stretchy fabric while the arms are made with tough, abrasion-resistant materials. Combat shirt prototypes for the U.S. Army first debuted in 2002. They underwent years of testing and changes before they first saw battle in 2007.
Due to their light weight, breathability and moisture-wicking properties, combat shirts are optimal for use in hot-weather environments. The rise of using improvised explosive devices (IEDs) against the American military necessitated uniform clothing that provides protection from fire. Combat shirts made from flame-resistant fabrics were the solution and, as a result, combat shirts became a part of the Army and Air Force's OCP uniform. In addition to these lightweight and flame-resistant properties, combat shirts are also excellent for accommodating plate carriers and other types of body armor.
Combat Shirts in Law Enforcement
While combat shirts were originally developed for military personnel, they've seen increased use in law enforcement operations over the years. In many instances, law enforcement officers and military personnel have similar duties: dealing with potentially hostile adversaries, attaining proficiency in weapons training, de-escalation techniques and keeping civilians safe from harm, among others. As a result, military apparel, footwear and equipment tend to trickle into the law enforcement field.
Combat shirts in law enforcement are generally reserved for specialized agencies and units who make use of their rugged construction and combat-oriented features. It is not uncommon for SWAT teams and ICE agents to wear combat shirts for their operations. There are even bright orange styles available for search and rescue teams who need tough clothing to fit the harsh environments in which they work.
Combat Shirt Materials
The unique, specific design of a combat shirt differs from other military clothing in that the same material is not used throughout the entire garment. Rather, the torso and sleeves of a combat shirt are made from different fabrics to meet different needs.
The torso (or body) portion of a combat shirt is typically made from a 40% Cordura nylon / 60% cotton mix. This particular fabric blend ensures that the shirt is lightweight, breathable and maneuverable for soldiers operating in hot, humid climates. The torso fabric works to wick moisture away from the body to keep the wearer comfortable and dry. This fabric blend is also ideal for accommodating a soldier's body armor. Using more cotton than nylon ensures that the shirt won't melt if exposed to flames.
A combat shirt's sleeves are usually made from a 50% nylon / 50% cotton ripstop blend. This tough, abrasion-resistant material is similar to the material that makes up standard military uniform coats. It provides extra protection to the extremities that body armor doesn't cover, and many styles are seamless for added mobility.
Combat Shirt Features
Because combat shirts are designed for battle, they come with a number of versatile, combat-ready features built in. From extra storage to extra reinforcement, these features are added to give soldiers an edge when they need it most.
A simple yet very effective design, a quarter-zip collar provides soldiers with extra ventilation, should they need it. When zipped up, it can protect from the sun, wind, bugs and a number of other inconveniences.
A longtime U.S. military uniform staple, a mandarin collar is designed to close around the neck when zipped or buttoned. Like a quarter zip, it is designed to eliminate minor hindrances when closed, offering yet another layer of protection for the wearer.
You never know when you're going to need to take notes or write out a report. Typically located on the sleeves of a combat shirt, pen pockets are specific slots for storing writing utensils. The pockets' location on the sleeves makes pens and pencils easily accessible.
Closed either by a zipper or hook-and-loop Velcro, shoulder pockets offer much-needed storage on the sleeves of a combat shirt. These pockets are perfect for carrying small essentials with convenient access.
The elbows of a shirt tend to wear out quickly. Combat shirts often have reinforced elbows that fight against both normal wear and tear and the rigors of combat.
Loop Velcro Fields
A spot to display your rank insignia or other identifying patches is a uniform must-have. Like the traditional uniform coat, combat shirts have a space to do just that. These loop Velcro fields are typically located on the shoulder of the shirt.
If your deployment takes you to a hot and humid climate, a regular uniform coat can be very uncomfortable. Combat shirts offer an effective solution through their breathable, lightweight fabric and endless versatility. With the knowledge of what a combat shirt is, what materials it's made from and which features they have, choosing the right one is a much easier task.
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