A SOLDIER OF A NEW TIME
December 8, 2021
Uniforms embody recognition. They bring immutability in form and quality; they symbolize something regular and repeated, and they represent a special set of clothes worn by members of the organization to show others that they are its members. However, there are personal uniforms that an individual implements in his wardrobe, in which the so-called statement pieces stand out, with equal silhouettes, lines, and cuts that define one's style and thus, one's attitude. Personal uniformity is fundamentally different from intentional and functional uniformity: work uniformity helps observers define one's role, while personal uniformity is an indicator of one's values and preferences.
Work uniforms, in general, stop at the functionality and do not deviate from the established framework. One uniform, on the other hand, was adopted for reasons other than its original purpose. It is a soldier's uniform, a standardized and recognizable piece of clothing that symbolized military discipline while also meeting the criteria of comfort and easy and quick movement of the soldier. Military clothing has evolved over time, and modern uniforms were developed during World War I.
Old military uniforms are now worn by people other than soldiers. New generations accept the "military style," but interpret it in new ways, resulting in soldiers of the new millennium. Those drawn to military items (shirts, glasses, caps, etc.) play with the power of these garments and the meaning they once held. The distinctive green colour, which was used to make soldiers more difficult to see, is now combined with other notes in ways unimaginable for military uniforms. There are many variations on military uniform models, and each army has a different theme - but this article is inspired by two shirts from the late phase of the Yugoslav People's Army in the 1980s.
The JNA was formed in 1941. During its fifty years of existence, it has changed several models of uniforms. The constant colour was green, and the material was changed so that lighter materials were used, allowing the soldiers to move more easily and quickly. It was also critical to use materials that are easy to care for, dry quickly, and do not shrink in the wash. In short, the creators of the military uniform were guided by free principles: the uniform should be durable, functional, and neat. Historians interested in the Yugoslav army are still more interested in wars and military campaigns than in the uniforms worn by soldiers and conscripts. However, thanks to nostalgic who comment on their military service on specialized portals and share photos of uniforms that they keep in their wardrobes, we can reconstruct several styles of Yugoslav uniforms.
This shirt was made at the Vranje Cotton Mill in 1985 (just a few years before Yugoslavia's disintegration) and is a classic model of shirts worn by JNA soldiers. The shirt is made of extremely strong cotton, and the green colour can still be seen after more than twenty-five years. The thread and buttons on the shirt are the same colour, grey and green. Buttons on the shoulders, known as epaulettes, are a traditional military uniform detail that was designed to keep the weapon belt from slipping off the soldier's shoulder. The collar, here in the shape of a rhombus, adds a formal note to the uniforms, and the large pockets on the chest reveal the shirt's main purpose as part of the “Praznična” uniform (without overcoat) for cadets of military academies and other schools for active officers of the KoV.
Slovenia was known as the most industrialized federal republic in Yugoslavia, thanks in large part to the production of cotton textile products in Maribor. Three Maribor textile factories merged at the end of the 1950s and continued to operate under the name MTT - Maribor textile factory. JNA was a significant customer of their fabrics. The image shows a soldier's shirt made in 1988, notable for its sky-blue colour, the shades of which, along with green, were dominant, and with which the soldiers wore pants and jackets in a darker, lead colour. That blue uniform was known as the “Praznična” uniform, and it was worn by cadets from military academies and other schools who were active officers in the RV.
It's a special feeling to wear clothes while being aware of their history and the role they were designed for. An example of military shirt is truly made to last, made to last for long and difficult military tasks. Their creators probably could not foresee that military shirts would live on civilians long after the collapse of the military force for which they were made. Indeed, it is always intriguing to imagine how the future will accept certain garments and how some new generations will interpret them. These uniforms were a guarantor of recognition – uniformness – and belonging to a group. In the modern (civilian) context, they leave that framework, building one's character, that is, individuality.