Thin Ribbons vs. Standard Ribbons: An Overview


Thin Ribbons History

The use of military ribbons on military uniforms in the form of a ribbon rack began in the U.S. military during the early 1900s when the services sought a more functional way to display military awards. At the time, military awards and decorations saw a significant increase in creation and establishment and a more inclusive awards criteria was ushered in.

According to the U.S. Navy, in 1905 the U.S. Army with the support of President Theodore Roosevelt, created awards for wear on the military uniform which commemorated service in military campaigns. Three years later in June 1908, the U.S. Navy issued Special Order No. 81 which authorized awards from the Civil War, the Spanish-American War and the Boxer Rebellion.

Ordinarily, decorations had been reserved for formal uniforms, but in the 1900s the U.S. military’s uniform practices shifted and military personnel started to use ribbons on their duty uniforms to reflect awards and decorations they had earned. There was a functional need to display awards and decorations on the work uniform as more and more military personnel participated in expeditionary-type missions.

As time went by, the clunky and chunky ribbon racks of eras gone by gave way to the creation of thin ribbons in the 1990s.

The Rise of Thin Ribbons

Thin ribbons entered the military mainstream sometime in the early 1990s along with shorter military haircuts. Both were born out of the Gulf War. Military personnel cut their hair shorter to deal with the scorching desert heat when they deployed to defend Kuwait and Saudi Arabia and they started rocking a much neater look on their military uniforms as well. The new thin ribbons were crisper, more professional in appearance.

The Gulf War saw a rise in awards and decorations. Foreign medals and their accompanying ribbons were presented for the conflict and new U.S. medals were created to commemorate participation in the operation. As ribbon racks grew, thin ribbons were introduced into the uniform scene and many service personnel preferred them over the standard ribbon racks they could aseemble themselves.

Preference for Thin Ribbons

For starters, thin ribbons weigh so much less than standard ribbons, and if you’ve got a lot of ribbons, thin ribbons are the way to go. Thin ribbons also look much more professional and exude a stronger, crisper military presence.

Thin ribbons can also be mounted in two different ways, with magnets or with pins. USAMM offers both magnetic thin ribbons and pin-backed thin ribbons. The magnetic thin ribbons are better suited for uniform shirts and smaller racks, whereas the pin-backed thin ribbons are better for the service dress uniform jackets since the jackets are thicker. Pin-backed thin ribbons are hold in place better.

Standard Ribbons vs Thin Ribbons

Standard ribbons show military bearing; always have, always will. That’s why USAMM sells them and you can assemble a ribbon rack on our EZ Rack Builder. But thin ribbons for many service personnel, are the way to go. They give off a higher level of professionalism and they look much better than standard ribbons.

As a career military professional, thin ribbons are undoubtedly the way to go. It is a small investment into your appearance that can make all the difference in your career. In a promotion board, chunky, frayed, standard ribbons painstakingly assembled piecemeal from ribbons gathered from the first sergeant or supply, can cost you a promotion or a special assignment.

Thin ribbons make you look tighter, more put together and more professional. They also show that you are willing to invest in yourself and that your profession is important to you.

Still not convinced? Try them both and see for yourself. You can assemble a standard ribbon rack and also put together a set of thin ribbons. Try them on your Class Bs and Class As and see how they function for you in the workplace and for photos and promotions.

Ultimately, you need to select what works better for you. Maybe thin ribbons work best for more professional settings where a Class A or service uniform will be used. You can order thin ribbons for a graduation or some other special unit function.

The standard ribbon racks can be reserved for day-to-day use if you like to wear your ribbons at work. Perhaps you are an instructor or work in an environment where displaying your standard ribbons shows professionalism. Whatever the case, USAMM has the EZ Rack Builder that can help you assemble a standard ribbon rack or thin ribbons.

It’s important to note that USAMM is a company founded by a veteran, for veterans, and it employs veterans. Our EZ Rack Builder platform takes your order and then it is sent to rack builders who assemble your racks. Our rack builders are veterans and will assemble your racks with as much attention to detail as if it was their own.

You can definitely still buy or acquire standard thick ribbons on your own and then slide them onto the ribbon rack bar which can be a pain if you have devices. Even without devices, sliding those things on is a hassle. The ribbons pry open too far and then can be loose on the rack and while you are handling them, they can get frayed and soiled.

That’s why getting thin ribbons is the best thing you can do. In a few minutes you can order it on EZ Rack Builder and we will ship it to you ASAP. No fuss, no muss. Thin for the win.

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