The First Responder Ceremonial Uniform

DrillMasterColor Guard/Color Team, Honor Guard, Honor Guard Training, Instructional Leave a Comment

A short time ago, I was sent a uniform question by an Assistant Fire Chief regarding creating the unit’s new ceremonials for the honor guard members. I thought it would be a relatively quick answer. It turned into three days of research and ten pages of text and images. I didn’t mind it a bit, thanks Chief!

My uniform, in the picture at right, is a firefighter or law enforcement Class A uniform from Lighthouse Uniform Company that has a great uniform creator on its website. (  It was a basic uniform and I added the aiguillette and the stripes around each sleeve with matching stripes down each trouser leg. I had the option of several types of buttons, I chose generic gold colored. I have 1/8th inch sewn creases at the front and back of the trouser legs, front and back of the sleeves, and down each quarter panel of the blouse which helps the material lay flat when I’m “bloused” wearing a ceremonial belt.

The same with the service cap (cover), I added the gold ceremonial chin strap with the blood red stripe for the front and a buckle chin strap in the back which is the one that goes under my chin when working colors.

Due to costs involved, my suggestion to first responder units is to take the standard Class A uniform that the department wears and make it distinct. Even so, creating an entirely different ceremonial uniform say, a Marine Corps styled tunic as opposed to the department’s double-breasted Class A uniform is just fine, but can be very expensive.

Another suggestion is to have the whole team dressed alike except for awards and rank. This includes the color of uniform stripes, buttons and covers. If you choose to have the team wear a shoulder cord, there are different types from which to choose.

Shoulder Cords
An inexpensive and even temporary way to create a distinct uniform is to attach a shoulder cord. If you choose to have the team wear a shoulder cord, there are different types from which to choose.

Single cord, button loop shoulder cord

The circle braid cord

The single strand cord

The wide braid cord

The knot loop citation cord

The aiguillette

The ornate dress aiguillette that has a separate attachment

The citation cord

The double cord shoulder cord

While not a cord, there is also a shoulder knot

Cords that separate- useful when the epaulet button is only decorative

Images courtesy of

There is a difference between where the shoulder cord fits on the shoulder, whether it sits on the outside of the shoulder (usually due to no epaulet) or if it attaches to the epaulet button located more toward the neck.

Shirt Color

Blue seems to be more of a work uniform color; although nothing says that the blue dress shirt would not be acceptable. White may be the best choice for your team. I highly recommend a short sleeve shirt like the Army Service Uniform Shirt, pictured below. Get the sleeves altered so that they do not bunch up inside your blouse. Image from


Many female first responders wear the male tie instead of the tie tab. Still, here are some options. Along with a necktie, you will need to keep it in place. Tape works well (no one can see it) however, a tie pin, clasp, is an option – keep in mind that if there is any depth to the device that you use, it may cause a slight bulge in your blouse which is something to avoid. Uniform neckties come in Black and navy blue and male neckties come in two lengths.

Standard Necktie

Ladies Crossover Necktie (Navy-style)

Velcro Tab Necktie

Ladies Tie Tab (Army/AF-style)

Other images from

A properly fitted tie should have the tip centered, top to bottom, on the belt buckle, like the picture below. That is the goal but coming within one inch is fine. After all, you will be wearing your blouse.

Picture courtesy of

Instead of a necktie, the Bib Scarf or Ascot is something to consider for your uniform. I’m not a huge fan of them simply because they do not present a finished appearance. They do allow for movement (see the USAF Honor Guard Drill Team). Plus, depending on shirt color, the darker colored scarves can show through. Picture courtesy of

Double- or Single-Breasted Blouse?
Blouse defined: a loose upper garment that does not get tucked in. An upper garment that is tucked is called a shirt. A coat, for our definition, would be a long garment worn to keep warm.

Law enforcement agencies seem to go for the single-breasted style.

The traditional style for firefighters seems to be double-breasted, however, that is merely anecdotal as I have seen many firefighter ceremonial units with the single-breasted blouse. Note: the ceremonial units have single-breasted, while the Class A uniform might be the double. My suggestion is that, if you want to use a ceremonial belt for certain formations, a single-breasted blouse will be your best look with a ceremonial belt.



High Collar


Images courtesy of

Single, double or no vent?

My blouse does not have a vent, but it does have a vent of sorts centered on each side of the blouse that have brass zippers built in. I really appreciate the options that the zippers and the vent positions give me, although I rarely have used them.

Single and double vents were originally created to avoid wrinkling a coat while riding a horse. Suit jacket single vents are mostly American, double vents are mostly British, and jackets without vents are predominantly Italian.

Vents offer some freedom of movement. My blouse offers almost no freedom whatsoever, but that is not an issue due to the manufacturer, but rather my listening to a seamstress who did not know what she was doing.

My suggestion is to go with double vents, especially if you are going to wear a ceremonial belt. The vent positions allow for blousing (a rolled tuck) of the blouse without the material bunching up.

Image courtesy of

A must-have is a set of proper fitting gloves. Snap-close gloves or gloves that do not have a snap and just a slight gap do not present a finished ceremonial image at all. Flag bearer gloves present a terrible image with theit Velcro strap that wraps around the wrist. The best gloves to get are what calls Honor Guard Gloves. Before slipping them on, fold the excess wrist material down twice to the thumb (see below). Get the gloves lined, unlined, plain, or with a non-slip coating (like chicken skin).

Honor Guard Gloves

Snap Gloves

No, No, No, No, No

Flag Bearer Gloves

Absolutely no!

Properly folded honor guard glove

Images from and

Inclement Weather Gear

Depending on where you live, you will need to add to your uniform rack and add an overcoat and a raincoat. Below are images from Marlow White. The overcoat the offer comes in double-breasted and comes with excellent directions on how to convert it to single-breasted. The overcoat replaces the ceremonial blouse in winter weather. The belt is not worn (replaced with the ceremonial belt) and the belt loops removed, the same goes for the raincoat.



To Top it Off…
There are several covers from which to choose: bell cap, military service cap, cowboy hat, and the sheriff’s hat. For firefighter ceremonial units, the bell and military service caps are the standard choice.

Eight Point Cap

Bell Crown Cap

Pershing/Modified Pershing

Army/Air Force Style

Sheriff’s Hat

Campaign Hat

Trooper Winter Cap

Clear Rain Cover

Solid Color Rain Cover

Clear Rain Cover including bill

Front Chin Straps

Rear Buckle Chin strap

Images courtesy of,,, and

My cover, as an example

Accent Colors
The colors that are usual for the uniform stripes, shoulder cords, and covers for law enforcement, blue, gold/yellow, or white, and for firefighters and EMS personnel, red, gold/yellow, or white. This is not to say that another color would not be appropriate for your unit. It’s completely your choice.

Keeping it All Together
There are several types of straps that lock onto your socks and pull your dress shirt down.

Shirt Lock

This garter clamps to your shirt and fits around your foot

Images courtesy of

The Travel Uniform
No one wants to wear their ceremonials in the car on the way to the ceremony. By the time you arrive, your blouse would look terrible. In steps the travel/practice uniform. Replace your blouse with a lightweight jacket for traveling and practicing when you arrive at the ceremony site. There are two advantages to this: 1. your blouse remains clean and wrinkle free, and, 2. No one mistakes your practicing for the “real thing” sending others into a panic (it happens). The picture at right is of my USAF ceremonial travel uniform worn by all honor guard members; the blouse is replaced by the lightweight jacket and the rain cap cover is worn to protect the cover. The jacket and rain cover really mute the ceremonial uniform, while presenting a professional image. Note: now, all Airmen on the honor guard now have the embroidered USAF logo as shown below, something that your unit may want to use, or even sew a unit patch there.

But Wait, There’s More!
Now that we have looked at each item of the uniform (see Shoes for the Driller), we need to carry that uniform around. Look to for garment bags (Wally Garment Bags are great), gear bags (check out SKU 1190), and cover (hat) bags.

Images courtesy of

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