How to Wear Military Rank Insignia

Updated February 21, 2017

Uniform requirements vary for various job positions, rank and status for U.S. military personnel. What may be acceptable in one division of the military may not be a common practice in another. The Army and Marines have some similar uniform characteristics and can be easily confused in some cases. Generally, the placement of badges and pins is very specific to each branch and your status. To ensure correct placement use a ruler and space the needed insignias based on the uniform guidelines of that division.

Organise the different insignia and pins that you will need to attach to the uniform piece. Start at the top of the uniform and work your way down pinning and taping the correct positioning for medals the first time through. Once you have the layout of the insignia marked, retrace from top to bottom and pin and sew the attachments in place.

Start with the hat or beret of the uniform and ensure it is properly folded and that you have the correct patches you will need to sew on. For those in the Army a Beret is required for those in Class A, B, and C status. Officers wearing a beret wear rank insignia on the "flash," a shield-shaped light blue patch with white stars. Set aside the beret and continue with the next uniform piece.

Lift the shirt collar and measure the appropriate distances for any US or MOS insignia -- or other rank insignia -- on the uniform collar. Using a US or MOS pin will be determined by your completion of entry training in which case the MOS pin is used.

Along with rank insignia for certain positions, flag patches can also be centred on the shirt sleeve and is traditionally flipped, with the star side of the patch facing the right side.

Move to the body of the shirt or coat. To indicate rank or commissions, as well as medals, squared insignia are placed horizontally on the left breast above medals and awards which are only worn on dress uniforms.

Attach the U.S. Army tape across the top of the left breast pocket. Place the name tape on the opposite side. Depending on the length of a person's last name the type face of the name tape may be different from the standard in order to accommodate additional letters.


Enlisted privates and specialists (non-officers) in the Marines wear rank insignia along the sleeves and Army non-officers wear it on the shirt collar. Non-commissioned personnel wear insignia on their shoulders much like Army officers but Marines wear it on the collar.


Incorrectly attaching insignia and identifiers may be against regulations in any branch of the military. Carefully measure and place insignia and be sure to differentiate insignia use on standard daily uniforms from insignia only required on dress uniforms.

Things You'll Need

  • Ruler
  • Thread
  • Sewing Needle
  • Safety Pins
  • Tape
  • Heavy-duty clothes hanger
Cite this Article A tool to create a citation to reference this article Cite this Article

About the Author

Shannon Johnson has been a freelance writer since 2008, specializing in health and organic and green-living topics. She practiced law for five years before moving on to work in higher education. She writes about what she lives on a daily basis.