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The Fascinating History of The Classic Letter Carrier’s Uniform

Perhaps the most familiar symbols of the USPS are their trucks and their letter carriers and postmasters in uniforms. Those living in the United States can easily recognize those who deliver mails to their homes by their outerwear! But did you know that their classic uniform has a really interesting history? Read more to find out:

Blast From The Past

It was in 1863 that the service of free letter deliveries to homes by salaried letter carriers became available in major American cities. Before that, people had to pick up their mail from post offices or had to pay an additional fee.

With the launch of this service, post office deliveries became even more popular and letter carriers increased in number. Introducing uniforms did not only make sense, but it became a critical necessity. In 1868, uniforms were made mandatory for letter carriers.

The very first uniform was a single-breasted Sack Coat of “Caded Fray” with 5 brass buttons that had the seal of the postal department. The pants and cap followed the same color and material route while the vest had 7 brass buttons and the letters “P.O” embossed on them.

The Postal Office Department embraced variety and acknowledged the need for weather-appropriate uniforms in the year of 1873. Stripes of pants were widened by one inch and lighter materials were approved for the summer months. Interestingly, Panama hats were introduced and overcoats made of gutta-percha cloth also received a thumbs up for the rainy days. While letter carriers could also choose alternate types of rainwear, the decision pertaining to the style of clothing lay with the postmaster to ensure that letter carriers in a particular city dressed alike.

In 1901, shirts were approved as outerwear for the summer months instead of coats and vests.

The old made for the new in 1922. . For starters, the carrier’s badge received a design update! It was made of nickel-plated metal and had a ½ inch tall emblem of a tall eagle. Raised pointed stars decorated the right and the left sides of the badge and the words “U.S. Post Office” were highlighted.

Until 1955, shirts were supposed to be light- or nickel gray in color. But then new colors - blue chambray and gray poplin - were introduced and each city had its own committee to recommend changes and study the styles.

Stylish Eisenhower jackets were added in 1953. Another big update was the change in the color of shirts from gray to blue. In 1955, sweaters were banned to make way for plain backed Eisenhower jackets instead of the earlier optional plains and pleated backs.

What about women’s uniforms? Pants were mandatory which actually prevented a lot of women from working in the postal department as this piece of clothing was considered to be “too masculine.” In 1957, skirts were permitted; it was also the first time that female uniforms were outlined in the 1957 Personnel Handbook!

The sixties was a fashionable time for the humble Postal Office Department. Fur caps, nylon meshed caps, and tailored uniforms especially for women, wind-resistant surcoats and jackets with hand warmers — clearly, great alterations were made!

The Big Change

In 1970, the Postal Office Department became the United States Postal Service and naturally, the uniforms of postmasters and letter carriers got upgraded! Now the emblem had a bald eagle getting ready for flight and uniform buttons too, featured this new design. A dark blue face mask was approved for the winters. The next year, blue shirts with the new emblem were made available.

No significant change was made to their uniform during the eighties, except for the introduction of the baseball cap in 1981. It seems as though that the USPS was gearing up for a whole new look for the new millennium!

In 1991-1992, the letter carrier’s uniform went through a design overhaul. Navy blue sweaters, maternity wear, and outerwear received the stamp of approval, along with visors and caps with the classic U.S. Mail emblem. These are some of the elements that we still see today.

These are just some of the highlights of all the changes that the classic letter carrier’s uniform went through over the past two centuries! Looking for union-approved post office sweatshirts and postmasters’ uniforms? Check out our extensive collection today!

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