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The Battle Dress Utility or BDU is the official combat uniform of the United States Forces. From the late seventies to early 2003 It was worn by all the American military branches. In 2002 the Marines developed a new uniform. Many police forces, emergency medical services, and security guard companies have selected the BDU for daily uniform use. Special teams such as dog units and Search & Rescue teams use the BDU. The BDU ultimately traces it's roots to the U.S. Airborne Paratrooper Uniform of World War 2, which in turn evolved into the Jungle Fatigue of the Vietnam conflict and finally the BDU of today.
Today the BDU has become so popular in paramilitary and civilian circles that many commercial sewing houses have tooled up to make copies! Some copies are good (common) and some copies are very good (rare) Other copies, very bad (very common).
The reasons for the BDU's popularity are varied, but the most common reason cited by everyone from civilians to soldiers is the garments comfort factor. Being a combat uniform the shirts (often called jackets as they are bloused over the pants) are a full roomy cut with four, handy, large, cargo pockets. The pants are full cut as well and feature adjustable waist tabs so the trouser may be sized for the perfect fit.
Hunters like the BDU because of the wide range of earth tone coloring and camouflage prints available. Hunters have noted that all the pockets are double flapped, preventing the pocket buttons from snagging on bushes. The pleats on the pants cargo pockets are swept back to resist snagging as well.
Tradesmen point out that the seat, knees, and elbows are double layered for extra durability. Stressed areas are bar tacked or backstitched further increasing durability.
There are many fabric types, but only two basic weaves are used in the construction of BDU's. First, a 100% cotton in a ripstop weave is used for hot weather wear. This fabric is extremely comfortable, but unfortunately not that durable. A polyester/cotton blend ripstop has been developed and is phasing out the cotton ripstop, but it is an expensive fabric when compared to the pure cotton ripstop.
The second basic fabric is a twill weave, almost always a cotton synthetic blend. Either a cotton nylon 50/50 blend or a cotton polyester in various percentages. The cotton nylon blend is specified by the military and is the most durable blend. It is also the warmest, making it too warm for jungle or desert wear. The 50/50 cotton nylon is also very expensive, because it is only the military that uses it and it is printed in special dyes to help defeat night vision equipment! The cotton polyester blends are usually not military specified, but in fact produced to satisfy the demands of the commercial markets that include civilian, police and security users. The cotton polyester blends are more durable than pure cotton fabrics, almost as durable as the nylon cotton blends but are available in the greatest variety of colours and somewhat less expensive.
In the late seventies all one could find available on the commercial market was used genuine issue BDU's in Woodland, 6 Colour Desert, Olive, and Black or new BDU's from government contract overruns and factory seconds from the same contracts. In those days supply was spotty, and size availability was inconsistent, but you were getting the same BDU's as the soldiers were issued.
In the early eighties, shrewd makers of BDU's began to build commercial copies of the genuine BDU, using the military fabrics, but cut corners to reduce costs. Buttons were not attached as well, pocket linings were not as durable, drain holes were eliminated, and straight stitches replaced backstitches & bartacks. These cost cutting measures did not affect the utility of the BDU for commercial and civilian use adversely and it did help to increase size and color availability.
In the nineties, military spending had been cut back, hence uniform contractors were looking to civilian markets to keep sewing machines humming. The BDU had been on the commercial market for almost 30 years and had become a fashion staple. With the addition of more manufacturers producing product, the market became extremely competitive.
The buyer of the BDU now faces a hodge podge of BDU choices ranging from the top of the line better than military specification to cheap copies made from low grade fabric in foreign sewing mills. To confuse things even more, some of the contractors that build the genuine article have two quality levels!
At Drop Zone we build BDU's for commercial sale. We build our BDU's in the same facility that builds the famous Drop Zone military products, on the same computer controlled machines, by the same fastidious operators. We use heavy polyester/cotton twill fabrics that wear very well and dry very fast. We use the famous Canadian Military specification buttons that are held on with seam binding tape rather than thread so you should never require a replacement button!
Military BDU pants have button flies, a hold over from the sixties when zippers were poor and failures had to be field repaired. Times have changed and zippers are reliable. We use a much handier, heavy duty nylon coil zip for the fly.
All military BDU pants have waist adjustments, that take the waist in four inches. It is made of narrow 5/8" cotton webbing and a metal tabular buckle. Our BDU pants use 1" nylon webbing and hook and pile with a six inch adjustment!
Who should buy BDU's?
- Travelers should purchase BDU's for the excellent breathability and sweat absorbing characteristics, we recommend, tan or navy for colour choice as these colours do not look as military as black, green, or camouflage. After all many countries are not that stable politically and tourists do not want to be mistaken for mercenaries!
- Landscapers and others that work outdoors cotton poly blend for durability in the trousers. Again colour selection is important, it your working directly with your customers you may wish to avoid camouflage.
- Treeplanters will wish to go with poly/cotton blend BDU's for durability. These BDU's will protect legs and arms from bug bites, shrub scrapes, and sunburn, yet will be almost as comfortable as shorts and t-shirts. After all if you are comfortable, you'll be more productive.
- Tradesmen should look seriously at BDU's for the longterm durability provided by the heavier polyester cotton blend fabric and more attentive sewing details.
- Campers and Backpackers will appreciate the mobility provided by the full cut legs. Cargo pockets will be handy for gloves and hats, while the poly/cotton fabric blend will dry quickly!
- Hunters and Paintballers should select the camouflage pattern that most closely matches their area of operations. To maintain the crispness of the camouflage print the BDU's should be laundered, inside out, in a mild soap that is scent removing or at least scent neutral. The BDU's should hang dry, away from the sun. If machine drying, use a low heat.
Tactical Shirt & Ops Shirt Size Selector Shirt Chest Size
|Small:||33" to 37"|
|Medium:||37" to 41"|
|Large:||41" to 45"|
|Extra Large:||45" to 49"|
|Double Extra Large:||48" to 52"|
BDU Pant & Ops Pant Size Selector Waist Size
|Small:||27" to 31"|
|Medium:||31" to 35"|
|Large:||35" to 39"|
|Extra Large:||39" to 43"|
|Double Extra Large:||43" to 48"|
Leg Inseam Length
|Regular:||29" to 32"|
|Long:||32" to 35"|