Review Blog

May 15 2017

Badge, boot, button: the story of Australian uniforms by Craig Wilcox

cover image

National Library of Australia, 2017. ISBN: 9780642278937
Recommended as a Library reference book. Themes: Uniforms; Military Uniforms; Australian History; Clothing. Uniforms are probably not everyone's favourite item of clothing, as they are usually worn in response to the authority of others or as a symbol of authority. In this book, Craig Wilcox has looked at the changing nature of uniforms in military and civilian contexts within Australia. With pictorial evidence and magazine-style excerpts of detail from specific examples, the book meanders from the early convict experience, to the military and sporting arena, as well as giving a nod to the influence of military history to civilian work uniforms and government emergency services. Read from cover to cover, there are difficulties in following the historical or chronological thread (particularly when there are multiple pages of pictorial content or sidebar examples interrupting the flow), but this will be an interesting resource for those interested in the way clothing reflects changing social priorities. References to everything from 'The Baggy Green Cap', to Sir John Kerr's Top Hat and topcoat appearance, to volunteer outfits at the Sydney Olympics and the changes of the attire of Flight attendants in an Australian context are all given attention. Surprisingly there is no mention of Cathy Freeman's unusual sporting 'uniform' and running outfit at the Sydney Olympics, nor does Wilcox address the nature of fabric technology changes and the subsequent impact in sporting fields. Understandably in a book of this size (166 pages), it is not possible to discuss every uniform permutation, and the social pressures that lead to change are addressed only briefly. What this book does do well though is to demonstrate that uniform can be reflective of social and political change.
Carolyn Hull

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