Sunday, May 20, 2012

Uniform Bags, Offensive or Patriotic?

I recently encountered a new, interesting concept. Wives, mothers, and daughters of service members are having old, unserviceable uniforms turned into purses, handbags, and even diaper bags as a way to show support to their loved one and pride for our country.

Whether or not these bags are attractive in any way is a matter of debate we shall not get into at this point. But something I have noticed, after snooping around on the web a bit, is that there is some heated debate over whether or not these purses are disrespectful because uniforms must be cut up in order for them to be created.

One blogger, another military wife, has this to say:

"They want to take uniforms that my husband has earned the right to wear and cut them up. Really folks I am appalled. I get that after a while cammies aren't in such great shape. But uniforms mean something. Or they should."

She goes on to describe what the different parts of the uniform stand for: the blood stripe on the dress blues' legs, the seven belt loops symbolizing the seven seas and so on.

Another says:

"Totally inappropriate! They wouldn't make purses from scraps of aged US flags would they?"

Now I haven't seen anyone carrying around a bag made out of a uniform in the exchange or commissary. I'm still undecided about whether or not I consider them stylish. Digital cammie print is probably one of the least attractive fabrics one could imagine for making a female accessory. (Coach managed to pull it off with theirs... so who knows?)

But the real question is this: is it disrespectful? Is cutting up a uniform to make a purse on the same level as cutting up a U.S. flag to make dishrags?

In my humble opinion, no. For a few reasons. First, these women are wearing their purses to show respect and pride. Second, after reading around, I discovered that it is usually the service member ordering the bag to be made for his mother, wife, or daughter. And some women are not only carrying these bags out of respect, but also IN MEMORY.

One of my friends posted this letter on Facebook, written by one such woman. The story brought tears to my eyes.

"Just wanted to tell you about something that happened last week. As I was leaving the local Wal Mart a punk ran past me grabbing my Marine Mom Purse you made me, right out of my buggy. I tried to case him but he was too fast. Another lady saw what happened and called the police for me. 

The cops showed up and took a report, then drove me home to get another key for my car because my keys werein my purse the guy had just stole. The police man could not understand why I could not stop crying and said “it’s just a purse maim”. I then explain to him it was more than a purse, that purse had been made out of my son’s uniform who was killed two years ago in Afghanistan. I saw the cops face turn red and he told me he would get it back for me. I was sure it was gone for good.

That night at 10pm our doorbell rang and my husband answered the door because I was still crying my eyes out. I heard my husband yell “COME HERE HONEY, QUICK” fearing something had happened to our daughter who was out with friends I ran down stairs to the front door. There stood the police man and a Marine in is dress uniform. The handsome Marine was holding my purse in his white gloved hands like they held the American Flag at funerals. I hit my knees and that is when my husband carried me to the chair in our living room and asked the two men to please come inside.

After this police man had left me today he told every cop in the city about my purse and they all started looking for the punk who had stolen it. Once they had gotten it back the officer called the local recruiting station and asked if there was a Marine that would help him deliver the purse to me.

Once I had gotten myself back together I hugged them both and could not thank them enough. The police offer left but the Marine stayed and had coffee with us and talked for hours. Before he left he told me if I ever needed anything again to please call him and then handed me a card with his personal phone number on it. In some ways I feel like my son had just stopped by for a visit."

So, even though I can understand why some may feel cutting up a uniform, something that is more than just a bunch of fabric, to make a purse seems wrong. I believe the fact that the uniform is a powerful symbol and representation of sacrifice makes transforming it into a beloved representation of pride and faithfulness for a family member an appropriate fate. Much better than simply throwing it in the trash.


  1. I don't find it disrespectful. I plan to make one with my husband's old uniform. I thought it showed pride for our military and a way to show our support. LIke it or not, the lady that compared it to a flag. (insert head not) It's not a flag. They are a uniform. I think the patches on them maybe shouldn't be used unless they have meaning to the user of the bag.
    Anyway, my husband is about to retire and I don't want to just toss his uniforms, so I'm going to make one to show my support for my family that is full of military members.

  2. Well, as a Marine, I find them chintzy, basic, and all out irritating; however, they aren't disrepectful. Cammies aren't Veronica's veil that wiped the face of Jesus; they aren't the temple veil. They are mass produced fabric, that were mass made into uniforms, that are mass worn by a bunch or irate Marines and Sailors. We cut them up ourselves;mine are good for cleaning weapons. Just so you know,these purses are a running joke with us, as with most military wifeisms.