Dress instructions | Chapter 2 Policy and appearance Section 1 Dress policy


  1. The uniforms, accoutrements, accessories, insignia, optional items and orders of dress set out in these instructions are those authorized for wear by all ranks of the CAF, pursuant to QR&O 17.01. See Chapter 1, paragraph 1.
  2. A military force’s uniform is an outward symbol of its commitment, identity and ethos. Coupled with overall appearance, the uniform is the most powerful visual expression of pride by the individual service member, and is the primary means by which the public image of the CAF is fashioned.
  3. CAF uniforms identify all personnel as members of a cohesive, armed body in the service of Canada.
  4. When a uniform is required to be worn, all CAF members shall wear the applicable uniform described in this manual in accordance with the instructions contained herein.
  5. Approval of new or modified dress items or orders shall recognize the need to provide protection and comfort over a wide range of climatic conditions, and support the complete spectrum of activity from ceremonial duties to strenuous labour. Items and orders shall be designed for wear by the total CAF population, though inherent and customary differences between men and women shall be given appropriate consideration in detailed design and tailoring.


  1. Dress policy recognizes both the military requirement and the individual need to identify. A spectrum of identity exists which includes: country, environment, branch, corps, regiment, unit, and military occupation. The emphasis placed on each differs in accordance with custom. Symbols of primary identity are a military requirement and, therefore, should be provided at no cost to the individual.
  2. The CAF identity system reinforces the chain of command, and strengthens organizational morale, cohesion and operational effectiveness.
  3. Overlaying the organizational system is one for personal identity, i.e. identifiers which indicate personal qualification, experience, and “family” memberships. These include environment, branch or corps, occupation, and flying and specialist skill badges; rank insignia; decorations and medal.
  4. CAF members are allocated environmental identity and uniformed according to the functional branch to which they belong, with each branch manned by individuals from one or more environments. In addition, Reserve members of a branch identified with more than one environment are allocated an identity on initial enrolment which:
    1. for the Primary Reserve, matches that of their unit, i.e. Navy in the Naval Reserve; Army in the Army Reserve; Air Force in the Air Reserve, unless the initial unit’s assignment is in the functional Navy or Air Force; and
    2. for direct entry Supplementary Reservists, matches that of their initial assignment or is in accordance with instructions by the Branch Adviser.


  1. Once assigned, environmental identity is normally retained for a career. Thus, while the majority of members in environmental commands and units are uniformed alike, some differ, reflecting the unified nature of the CAF.
  2. Four uniforms or uniform categories are worn in common by all CAF members, whatever their personal environmental identity:
    1. full dress (No. 1B order), worn only by RMCC officer cadets and members of certain Army and Air Force organizations (see Chapter 6);
    2. tropical tan service dress (No. 3D order, see Chapter 5, Annex C);
    3. operational dress (see Chapter 5, Annex D); and
    4. occupational dress items (see Chapter 7).
  3. For cultural reasons, special dress practices apply to the following specific groups:
    1. Bands. Each musical band is allocated both an environmental and branch/regimental identity, and the appropriate DEU is worn by all. See Chapter 5, Section 2.
    2. Cadet Instructor Cadre (CIC). CIC officers are allocated an environmental identity which matches that of their cadet corps/squadrons.
    3. Canadian Rangers. Canadian Rangers, who are members of the Reserve, have no environmental identity or uniforms beyond basic identification as part of our military force.
    4. Women. Women may wear:
      1. skirts, blouses, and other gender-specific items as described elsewhere in this manual, unless otherwise ordered; and
      2. if required by the tenets of their religion (see Section 3, paragraph 1.):
        1. long trousers, long skirts and long-sleeved shirts when skirts, shorts, or short-sleeved items are otherwise prescribed; and
        2. an environmentally-coloured hijab, covering the hair, and tucked into the shirt collar.
    5. Aboriginal and Visible Minorities. Additional guidance for all members concerning religious and spiritual accommodation are included in sections 2 and 3.


  1. Categories and orders of dress and their occasions of wear are listed in Annex A to this chapter.
  2. Detailed instruction on the design and composition of orders of dress is in:
    1. Chapter 5 for ceremonial, service and operational orders of dress issued to and worn by all CAF members; and
    2. Chapter 6 for full dress and undress uniforms;
    3. Chapter 7 for occupational dress items.
  3. Only service dress is designed for unrestricted wear on all occasions. With jacket and tie (No. 3 duty order), it equates to a civilian business suit. With medals and accoutrements (Nos. 1 and 1A orders), it is formal attire suitable for all ceremonial occasions.


  1. Non-operational dress items are designed for and are worn during the year-round temperate climatic conditions experienced in static locations throughout Canada. Specifically:
    1. environmentally-coloured service dress and its ceremonial derivatives may be worn in all seasons;
    2. Navy ceremonial and service dress includes alternative white clothing items worn during the summer or in tropical climates. Details are in Chapters 5 and 6;
    3. Army and Air Force service dress is not differentiated by season;
    4. Army white undress jackets (optional and alternative Nos. 1C and 1D orders) are only worn during the summer or in tropical climates. Details are in Chapter 6; and
    5. white mess dress jackets (No. 2A summer mess dress) are only worn during the summer or in tropical climates. Waistcoats are not worn during the summer unless otherwise ordered.
  2. Winter dress. parkas, Yukon caps, winter fur cap, toques and scarves may be worn only when winter dress is in effect. Operational Gore-Tex parkas may be worn with No. 3 orders of dress as follows:
    1. Navy personnel - Navy Gore-Tex parka, NSN 8415-21-920-2414, and Naval Wind Raingear (jacket only);
    2. Air Force personnel - intermediate jacket, NSN 8415-21-910-8219 and cold weather parka, NSN 8415- 21-910-8195.
    • This is the sole instance where operational clothing may be worn with the No. 3 orders of dress. The optional Service Dress Parka and topcoat (gabardine) are authorized for winter outer wear when in service dress. The topcoat will remain the outer wear for parades and other ceremonial activities.
  3. Changes into summer and winter dress shall be ordered by commanders of commands and NDHQ group principals for all subordinates within Canada and its territorial waters. Overseas commanders may conform to local circumstances.
  4. When authorized, special tropical clothing shall be issued to all personnel upon posting or deployment to a tropical or hot climate location. Special tropical orders of dress include:
    1. No. 3D tropical tan service dress; and
    2. No. 5D tropical shipboard, operational dress.


  1. Provision. All ranks shall  be provided with Service Dress to the authorized entitlement. See also paragraphs 32. to 34.
    1. Issue may be phased for due economy to match initial training and employment requirements.
    2. Army Reserve non-commissioned members (NCMs) shall not be issued Service Dress until one of the following conditions has been met:
      1. The member is MOSID qualified.
      2. The member has completed one calendar year of service.
      3. The member has transferred from another CAF component and MOSID, and has previously met one of the conditions stated above.
  2. Responsibility. Personnel shall have their issued items of Service Dress available and maintained for use at all times. Members are personally responsible for the care and custody of all items of uniform clothing, accessories, and accoutrements issued to them.
  3. Major Components. Major components of uniform, such as trousers and jackets, shall not be interchanged or mixed and shall only be worn with the uniform and order for which they are intended. Some accoutrements and clothing items, i.e. shoes, socks, waist belts, raincoats, topcoats (gabardines), gloves and short-sleeved shirts may, however, be worn with various categories and orders of dress as described in these instructions.
  4. Maintenance.Maintenance and/or replacement of Service Dress for the Regular/Reserve Force shall be in accordance with the policies for Clothing On Line. There is a Tier system that designates points allocations to CAF members in accordance with their employment UIC. After enrolment, members will get access to their points once their online profile has been created at clothing stores. If the member has not yet completed one year of service, points will be prorated according to the number of months of service completed. Also, within one year of the member’s initial order of Service Dress, the member can exchange items of Service Dress at clothing stores, without using points, as long as the exchange is required due to body measurement changes, or fair wear and tear.


  1. Certain clothing items, insignia and accoutrements, or variations thereof, may be authorized for optional wear, so long as they are obtained:
    1. without obligation on the part of individual members; and
    2. at no expense to the public, unless supplied exclusively through the CAF Consolidate Clothing Contract (Clothing on Line).
  2. To obtain approval of optional items:
    1. proposed designs shall be selected by command councils or branch/regimental committees/senates as appropriate (trials should be requested for major items of clothing to ensure acceptable fit, design and quality); and
    2. selected designs shall be submitted as a recommendation through the chain of command to Command Dress Committees, who shall, once agreement on design is reached, obtain or grant final approval depending on the item involved.
  3. Members can only be ordered to wear those optional items which are issued or loaned from a non-public distribution account under the control of a commanding officer. Accordingly, optional items which may be required for parades or other purposes, such as ceremonial accoutrements or full dress uniforms, should be brought onto charge according to regulations.


  1. To ensure uniformity and quality of dress, all CAF clothing items, whether issued through the CAF Supply System or purchased from civilian tailors, shall be made according to the approved master sealed patterns which govern the official specifications for each uniform. The necessary specifications may be obtained from National Defence Headquarters, Director Soldier Systems Programme Management (DSSPM), through the CAF Supply System.
  2. CAF personnel shall not wear any item of dress which does not conform to the approved sealed patterns for the item concerned. A commanding officer is forbidden to introduce or sanction for experimental or other purposes any unauthorized deviation from the sealed pattern of clothing, equipment and badges, and shall be responsible for the cost of replacing or restoring to the approved pattern any articles worn in the unit that may be found not in conformity therewith.
  3. The approved pattern of optional items may be either:
    1. sealed for design and technical specifications, if the item is to be procured and stocked by the supply system – this is only done if the demand for the item is wide-spread and continuous; or
    2. sealed for design only if the item is to be procured and stocked under command or branch/regimental arrangements, such as through CANEX, kit shop, or by individual purchase directly from a manufacturer or tailor. In this case, approval includes delegated authority to the command or branch/regiment concerned for technical specifications beyond the design itself.


  1. CAF items of clothing shall not be altered or modified, except to obtain a reasonable fit, for religious accommodation, or to convert service dress jackets to doublets as authorized in Chapter 5.


  1. Whenever an item of dress in a new pattern is authorized and introduced, an amendment to these instructions shall be issued by NDHQ/DHH, advising the conditions under which the superseded or obsolescent items may continue to be worn and the procedure for taking the new item into use.


  1. Supply and issue of the various orders of CAF uniforms shall be in accordance with CFS-2 Material Authorization – Scales of Issue, Volume 2, and A-LM-007-014/AG-001, Canadian Forces Supply Manual.
  2. CFS-2 also outlines the scales of issue of operational, environmental, specialist and occupational clothing provided and maintained at public expense. CAF personnel requiring this type of clothing shall determine their entitlement by reference to CFS-2, or by contacting their unit or base supply section.
  3. Supplemental non-operational clothing scales shall not be approved for any personnel, except tropical tan service dress (No. 3D order). Individual clothing items for tropical service dress and for all operational clothing are issued in the quantities needed for the mission or activity concerned. Relevant training scales and operation or administration orders contain details.


  1. Regular Force, and Class C Reserve Force. Unless otherwise directed, all ranks:
    1. on duty shall wear the prescribed uniform; and
    2. when not on duty may wear civilian clothes.
  2. Secondment. Personnel seconded or loaned to other government departments or civilian agencies or establishments:
    1. shall not wear a uniform when performing civilian duties for such departments or agencies;
    2. shall wear a uniform when performing military duties in special employment; and
    3. the restriction in sub-paragraph a. shall not apply to CAF members seconded or loaned for duty:
      1. as or with a CAF or Assistant CAF Attaché/Adviser; and
      2. when serving with the military forces of other countries.
  3. Reserve Force (Class C excluded). Members of the Reserve Force shall not wear a uniform except when:
    1. on duty, or proceeding to or from their place of duty;
    2. attending a military function or ceremony at which the wearing of uniform is appropriate.
  4. Proceeding to or from Place of Duty. Commanding Officers may order members of the Regular and Reserve Force to wear uniforms when proceeding to and from their place of duty where it is considered appropriate to do so in the circumstances, having regard to the custom and practice of the CAF.
  5. Members Attending Educational Institutions
    1. Officer  Cadets  of  the  Canadian  military  colleges  shall  wear  the  uniform  ordered  by  the  college commandant during the academic year, and the CAF uniform during practical phases of training.
    2. CAF members attending civilian educational institutions shall wear CAF service dress, as ordered by their commanding officer.
  6. On Leave Outside Canada. Application to wear uniform on leave outside Canada shall be made to the authority having power to approve leave, in accordance with QR&O 17.04.
  7. Civilians. Civilians employed by DND, such as defence scientists and translators, or those accredited to DND for special duties, such as news media representative, may be authorized to wear certain items of military uniforms during the period of specific assignment. They will be identified by wearing on the uniform an appropriately marked brassard or armlet. See Figure 2-1-1. When CAF operational clothing is provided to civilians who accompany CAF units in operational or field conditions, issuing units must ensure that any badges, to which the civilian member is not entitled, are removed from the operational clothing. Such action will minimize the possibility that the individual will be mistaken for a member of the CAF.
  8. Former Members. A former CAF member released from the Regular or Reserve Force, other than by reasons of misconduct, may seek permission to wear a uniform on specific occasions as specified in QR&O 17.06. If permission is granted, they shall wear the uniforms and insignia which applied when they last served.


  1. When personnel wearing different environmental uniforms parade, attend functions or otherwise work together, they shall wear the same order of dress in accordance with the Table of Categories and Orders of Dress in Annex A to this chapter. An equivalent order of dress shall only be worn with the approval of the parade or event commander. (see also Chapter 1, Paragraph 8).


  1. Civilian clothes may be worn by members on duty as prescribed by commanding officers. Personnel wearing civilian clothes on duty or in public shall present a neat, clean and well-groomed appearance in accordance with the provisions of Section 2 of this chapter.
  2. Visible civilian items of apparel shall not be worn by members with any uniform, with the exception of required safety gear such as bicycle or motorcycle helmet and where specifically authorized in these instructions. Conversely, visible items of uniform shall not be worn with civilian attire, except for accessories (e.g. gloves, scarf and footwear) which do not include any CAF insignia and by themselves do not explicitly identify the wearer as a member of the CAF.


  1. Ecclesiastical, judicial, and academic clothing may be worn over an appropriate order of dress, or in lieu of uniform:
    1. by chaplains in the exercise of their religious duties and functions;
    2. by judge advocates or presidents of courts martial (dress of participating members of a court martial shall be as prescribed in A-LG-007-000/AG-001, Court Martial Procedures. Guide for Participants and Members of the Public; or
    3. by personnel entitled to wear an academic cap, gown and hood, when participating in or attending a university function.


  1. From Article 419 of the Criminal Code of Canada, everyone who, without lawful authority, the proof of which lies upon him:
    1. wears a uniform of the Canadian Armed Forces, or of any other Navy, Army, or Air Force, or a uniform that is so similar to the uniform of any of those forces that it is likely to be mistaken therefore;
    2. wears a distinctive mark relating to wounds received, or service performed in war; wears a military medal, ribbon, badge, chevron, or any decoration or order that is awarded for war services, or any imitation thereof; or wears any mark or device or thing that is likely to be mistaken for any such mark, medal, ribbon, badge, chevron, decoration or order;
    3. is guilty of an offence punishable on summary conviction.
  2. An officer commanding a command may grant limited, revocable authority for a former member, released for a reason other than misconduct, to wear his/her uniform when attending a military entertainment or ceremony at which the wearing of the uniform is appropriate. (QR&O 17.06).
  3. An officer commanding a command may authorize an officer or non-commissioned member to wear a uniform in a theatrical production, stage play or other public performance, where the officer is satisfied that no discredit to the service will ensue. (QR&O 17.065).
    1. by custom, veterans and other ex-service members may wear undress caps (e.g., berets, wedge caps), with badges, on remembrance and memorial occasions, subject to agreement of the branch/regiment concerned;
    2. civilian band volunteers may be authorized to wear uniform as noted in Chapter 5, Section 2;
    3. members of Sea, Army and Air cadet organizations may wear CAF uniform items and affiliated unit insignia; and
    4. historical re-enactment groups may be authorized to wear obsolete uniforms subject to the agreement and general supervision of the branch/regiment or environment concerned.


  1. Uniforms are optional items for members of the Royal Family holding Colonel-in-Chief or other Royal appointments. In general, units offering to provide full, undress, mess dress and service dress uniforms (which the Royal appointee may accept or decline) will be expected to specially tailor them. Operational clothing may be issued if required. Further information can be obtained from NDHQ/DHH through the chain of command.
  2. When acting in that capacity, other officers holding an appointment or honorary rank in accordance with QR&O 3.06, are authorized to wear:
    1. the current uniform, rank insignia, accoutrements and accessories applicable to the appointment or honorary rank held in accordance with entitlement in CFS1 D01-120; and
    2. obsolescent aircrew badges, in accordance with the provisions detailed in Chapter 3, Section 3, paragraph 11. of these instructions.
  3. Command, force and formation badges are not worn by persons holding Royal or honorary appointments, see Chapter 3, Section 5, paragraph 3.
  4. On other occasions, when not acting in the capacity of such appointments and when the wearing of uniform is appropriate, the provisions of QR&O 17.06(3) shall apply.


  1. Former uniforms of the Royal Canadian Navy, Canadian Army and Royal Canadian Air Force shall not be worn by CAF members, except personnel participating in special events as authorized by the commander of a command or NDHQ equivalent.
  2. Previous service manuals and any amendments or additional dress instructions subsequently issued regarding Royal Canadian Navy, Canadian Army and Royal Canadian Air Force patterns of uniforms shall be used as a guide on these special occasions. Information on these former orders and instructions can be obtained from NDHQ/DHH if required


  1. Acquisition
    1. All Regular Force officers are required to be in possession of mess dress No. 2, which shall be procured at individual expense. Newly-commissioned officers are required to obtain this order of dress not later than six months after commissioning.
    2. Mess dress No. 2 is optional for Regular Force non-commissioned members and all members of the Reserve Force. Acquisition is the responsibility of the individual.
    3. Army colonels, on promotion to that rank, may elect to continue to wear their previous branch/regiment mess dress, with current rank insignia, instead of the pattern authorized for army colonels (less honorary and Royal appointees) and described in Chapter 5, Appendix 1 to Annex B, paragraph 9.


  1. Medical, Dental, and Chaplain Services: Medical and religious personnel in possession of a Geneva Convention Identification card (Form CF 281) are required to wear on their left arm a water-resistant armlet bearing the distinctive emblem (Red Cross or Red Crescent on a white background), issued and stamped by the military authority to which they are attached.
  2. Persons who accompany the CAF. An armlet designating a civilian non-combatant shall be worn on the left arm of all persons accompanying the CAF. Examples of such persons are accredited war correspondents, scientific advisors, and/or supply contractors. See Figure 2-1-1

Figure 2-1-1 Civilian Armlet

Description of Figure 2-1-1 Civilian Armlet

The civilian armlet is an identifier displaying the words Canada and Civilian Non-Combatant. At the top of the armlet, under the word Canada, there is an area for the Identifier Badge (showing, for example, the credentials of a journalist, translator or scientist). The words Civilian Non-Combatant are embroidered in black lettering beneath the Identifier Badge. At the bottom of the armlet, there is an area for Combat Material.

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