Even though movies and television are supposed to be an escape from reality for a little while, veterans watching military movies will often have a hard time looking away from the train wrecks of military uniforms in those shows.
The offenses can be small, such as uniforms wearing the wrong service’s ribbons and medals, to the egregious, like wearing uniform items that don’t even exist. Some movies even feature characters wearing the camouflage of a different country.
The Rumor Surrounding Hollywood and Stolen Valor Charges
One rumor that has persisted for decades is that Hollywood actually has to get military uniforms wrong in some ways, lest they be on the wrong side of some stolen valor charge. The rumor says that there is a federal statute of Department of Defense litigation that prevents studios from using proper uniforms.
With some of the terrible uniforms depicted in some movies and shows, who could blame anyone for seeing the logic in that? The truth is that there is no such law or regulation; Hollywood is just really bad at military uniforms. Sometimes, they would rather their character look cooler with his OCPs hanging open than looking like a real troop.
This belief isn’t entirely false, however. 10 U.S. Code § 772, the law that dictates when military uniforms are authorized to wear, used to have a section that restricted when actors could wear them onscreen. They were allowed only “if the portrayal does not tend to discredit that armed force.”
Well, it wasn’t long before someone challenged that portion of the law. In 1970, a man named Schacht was convicted of breaking that law in a skit that was demonstrating against the war in Vietnam. He was sentenced to pay a fine of $250 and to serve a six-month prison term.
Schacht took his case to the Supreme Court, which overturned the conviction and ruled that part of the law unconstitutional on First Amendment grounds. Specifically, it was based on his First Amendment rights to criticize the government.
Wrong Military Uniforms: Striving for Accuracy with Help from the Armed Forces
With that law out of the way, Hollywood (and pretty much everyone else) were free to wear uniforms however they wanted. As we all know, they sometimes get them terribly, terribly wrong. Other times, the shows are being made by people who want as much truth and accuracy as possible.
These productions enlist the help of the armed forces or hire a military advisor to do that kind of work for them, making it much, much easier on the eyes and souls of the veterans who watch them.
Read About Other Military Myths and Legends
If you enjoyed learning about the wrong military uniforms, we invite you to read about other military myths and legends on our blog. You will also find military book reviews, veterans’ service reflections, famous military units and more on the TogetherWeServed.com blog. If you are a veteran, find your military buddies, view historic boot camp photos, build a printable military service plaque, and more on TogetherWeServed.com today.