Get ready to see green-gray onesies from the base exchange to the bowling alley.
Effective Dec. 3, commanders in about a dozen career fields can now allow their airmen to wear the new maintenance duty uniform — one-piece coveralls in “sage” with brown patches and chest pockets. A slideshow confirming the new threads were authorized, was leaked to a popular Facebook page for enlisted airmen on Jan. 18.
When the service announced the upcoming change last June, Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force JoAnne Bass argued MDUs would avoid unnecessary dress code complications during the workday and cultivate a shared, inclusive culture among maintainers.
“This is the first version of the maintenance duty uniform and will evolve as we receive feedback over time,” Air Force spokesperson Laurel Tingley told Air Force Times on Monday. “We feel this is a step in the right direction to give service members a standardized maintenance uniform aligning us with our sister services.”
Airmen are allowed to wear the coveralls throughout the day, while commuting from home to work, at restaurants with similarly casual patrons and anywhere on base, according to the slideshow, dated Jan. 16.
“It must be worn in serviceable condition,” the service cautioned. “Do not wear off-base to eat in restaurants where most diners wear business attire or at establishments that operate primarily to serve alcohol.”
That’s a change from earlier policy, which only let airmen wear coveralls in an aircraft hangar or on the flight line. Locally approved versions of coveralls are still allowed in those areas but can’t be worn as widely on- and off-base as the new uniform.
They’re only available to troops in 11 career fields: aerospace maintenance, fuels, logistics planning, missile and space systems maintenance, precision measurement, material management, transportation and vehicle maintenance, munitions and weapons maintenance, security forces, civil engineering and cyberspace support. Coveralls are off-limits for people tasked with office work.
After seeing the coveralls online, people groused that routine repair duties, like changing a tire, would stain the light-colored uniform to the point that it’s too unsightly to wear. Others criticized the decision to tuck in the bottom of the pants, and likened the design to a janitor’s outfit, a Halloween costume and Vietnam War fatigues.
“Looks like a Christmas tree storage bag,” Facebook commenter Wayne Cramer wrote. “I wouldn’t be caught off any installation in that.”
Alan Morris, another Facebook commenter, chimed in: “Looks like the Air Force had a warehouse full of these and said, ‘F*** it, let’s give them to [maintenance]. This, to me, is the dumbest uniform the Air Force has ever put out.”
The coveralls “will be worn with nametape, service tape and rank, along with the higher headquarters patch on the left sleeve and a subdued U.S. flag and organizational patch on the right sleeve,” the Air Force added.
Allowing uniform patches on a flight line could spell trouble if one falls off and gets lodged in an airplane or sucked into an engine, Reddit user Targetsb griped.
But not everyone in the online peanut gallery thinks the new duds are a dud.
While Facebook user Steve Runge called them the “absolute worst coveralls” he’s ever worn, commenter Quincy Tolliver said they’re not that bad in real life.
“They do run a bit big on the bottom half of this uniform, but a trip to alterations will get it looking good,” he said. “I’ve been wearing it for about a week now and it’s good for cold weather and those jobs that can get a bit dirty.”
At the end of the day, Reddit user CharlesXIIofSverige wrote, “I’m not here for a fashion show.”
“If it’s functional and comfy, I’ll take it,” they said.
Rachel Cohen joined Air Force Times as senior reporter in March 2021. Her work has appeared in Air Force Magazine, Inside Defense, Inside Health Policy, the Frederick News-Post (Md.), the Washington Post, and others.