What to Do With Old Military Uniforms

November 27, 2022
What to Do With Old Military Uniforms

A team of around 20 volunteers are ripping apart old uniforms to make a teddy bears. Credit: spectrumnews1.com

You wore your military uniform with pride when you were in the service but now that you no longer need it, it’s probably just taking up space in your closet. It’s time to get rid of it but you have no idea what to do with old military uniforms. Fortunately, you have a couple of different options.

What to Do With Old Military Uniforms After Retirement

Retirement from the military is quite the accomplishment. No matter which branch you served in, you faithfully served your country for 20 or more years. Now, it’s time to explore life in the civilian world. One of your first steps may be making more room in your closet by getting rid of your old military uniforms.

After 20 plus years in the military, you may have a hard time figuring out what to do with old military uniforms after retirement. For starters, don’t be too quick to get rid of all your old military uniforms. Retirees are allowed to wear their uniforms even after retirement for certain events. Here’s a look at some of the events where retirees can wear their old military uniform:

  • Official functions
  • Memorial services
  • Weddings
  • Funerals
  • Balls
  • Patriotic or military parades
  • Ceremonies where the military participates
  • Meets or functions of military associations

If you choose to wear your old military uniform at any of these events, you wear the insignia and uniform that corresponds to your rank when you retired. It’s also important to keep in mind that although you might not have to adhere to military grooming standards on a regular basis anymore, you do when you put the uniform back on.

So, after retirement, the first thing to do with your old military uniforms is to consider keeping one or two for special occasions where you can still proudly wear the uniform for your particular branch.

Most of the functions mentioned would require your military dress uniform, which still leaves you to figure out what to do with the rest of your old military uniforms.

What to Do With My Old Military Uniforms

Any uniforms you don’t plan on wearing for special functions will just take up space in your closet until you do something about it. You have a few options when it comes to deciding what to do with old military uniforms:

  • Toss them in the trash
  • Donate them
  • Use them for something crafty
  • Give them to a relative

Toss Uniforms in the Trash

Tossing your old military uniforms in the trash is probably the easiest option when it comes to getting rid of your old uniform but it’s also probably the most disheartening. After dedicating some period of your life to service, you might find it difficult to just toss your uniform but it is an option.

If you toss your old uniforms in the trash, make sure you remove insignia or name patches from the uniform. Some people even cut their old uniform or burn it so there’s no chance someone will find it and wear it after it hits the trash.

If you just don’t have the heart to toss your old military uniform in the trash, check with your local military base if you live near one. Some military installations have special programs to get rid of old uniforms.

Donate Old Uniforms

Your next option, which doesn’t require too much effort on your part, is to donate your old military uniform. Just as with tossing your uniform in the trash, you should remove any insignia or name patches before donating your uniform.

While you can certainly give your old uniform to any thrift shop that’s convenient for you, it might be a good idea to check your local base for a military thrift store first. Your donated old uniforms might help out a young service member without much money.

It’s also important to keep in mind that military thrift stores almost always charge less, keep a smaller percentage of profit for themselves, and give back to the military through scholarships and contributions to organizations like Red Cross.

There are a few other organizations that accept donated old military uniforms:

  1. Bands For Arms: Makes bracelets with a piece of a service member’s uniform.
  2. Sword & Plough: Recycles uniforms and incorporates the material into tote bags. Any uniform scraps are donated to Goodwill and the Threadcycle program where they are recycled into clothes, sound-proofing, or insulation among other things.
  3. Museum of American G.I.: Keep badges, ribbons, and patches attached to uniform if donating to this organization.

Your local school’s drama department, VFW or American Legion posts may also appreciate a uniform donation.

Use Uniforms for Something Crafty

Finally, if you have enough time on your hands or money to pay someone else, you could repurpose your old uniforms into something crafty. There are dozens of ideas online of ways you can turn your old military uniforms into something crafty. Here are just some of those ideas:

  • Wreath
  • Duffel bag
  • Diaper bag
  • Apron
  • Purse
  • Quilt
  • Pillow
  • Bibs
  • Barrettes

There are plenty more crafty ideas on top of these. You can almost always find someone to do the job for you if you lack the time or creativity.

You can also choose to keep one uniform and put it in a shadow box along with your medals and ribbons. This is a great way to keep a small memento of your time in service without taking up too much space.

Give Uniforms to a Relative

If none of the above options are appealing to you or you just have too many uniforms to know what to do with, you can always consider giving some of your relatives a uniform or two.

That doesn’t mean every relative will want a uniform because they might just consider it a space taker but your mom, grandmother, or mother-in-law may appreciate a uniform to remember your service.

Plus, you might want to hold onto one to show your kids down the road someday if you plan to have a family.

What to Do With Old Military Dress Uniforms

Some of the above crafty options may work better for other service or working uniforms but not with your old military dress uniforms. If you’re still not sure what to do with old military dress uniforms, consider one of the first two options mentioned.

It can feel like a total waste of money just tossing your old military dress uniforms so donating them to a military thrift shop might be your best and most appealing option.

It can be very disheartening for a young service member to need a dress uniform for one or two events a year and have to shell out at least $100 if not more for their dress uniforms. Then, they’ll have to pay for adjustments to the uniform as their rank changes. So, finding a discounted uniform at the thrift shop on base could be a very welcome opportunity.

Controversial Selling of Old Military Uniforms

While donating old uniforms to thrift shops doesn’t seem to be frowned upon, selling your old military uniforms outright does seem to generate some controversy. If you do choose to sell your old uniforms, you can do so online or to various military surplus stores.

It’s not illegal to sell your old uniforms and you most likely bought the majority of them anyway but some people have concerns about stolen valor. Stolen valor is when someone wears your uniform or medals dishonestly.

Hopefully, most criminals are deterred by the fact that federal legislation prohibits this act and criminals face fines and a possible prison sentence if convicted but it’s still a concern.

Whatever you choose to do with your old military uniforms and wherever they end up, never forget the time they represented of your service to your country.

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