A Glimpse on How a Letter Carriers’ Uniform Evolved with Time
Monday, 28 December 2020

The United States Postal Service is an independent federal agency and is the lone delivery service which reaches every address. The USPS continues to be a driver of commerce and a helper of the people of America in connecting with one another in an affordable, safe, and reliable way.

What is a Letter/Mail Carrier?

The USPS hires federal employees who collect as well as deliver mails and packages. These people are called the letter/mail carriers. It is not uncommon for these workers to wear a uniform which serves as their identity and pride.
This article aims to give honor and tribute to these professionals by showcasing how their uniform evolved with the passage of time.

• 1868: Cadet Blue-Gray

Official uniforms were not worn until after the 27th of July 1868, when the Congress passed legislation allowing the usage of uniforms by letter carriers.
On the 31st of October 1868, Postmaster General Alexander W. Randall issued an order that uniforms must be worn while on duty. It was around that time that postal uniforms for USPS employees were first established.
This required a single-breasted blue mixed cadet cloth which was up to two thirds the distance from the top of the hip bone up to the knee. Its coat was round with a good plain black Alpaca design with five brass buttons that bears the department’s seal.
The pants were made with fine black broadcloth stripe that was one-half inch wide down each leg. It also had a cap with a navy pattern. Additionally, it came with a reversible cape (may be separated from the coat) that extended to the coat sleeve’s cuff.

• 1873: Summer or Rain Wear

They allowed a lighter material for summer use. They even introduced summer coats with three buttons down the front and pants that are gray flannel.
Panama hats were also accepted for use as long as the letters P.O.D. (for Post Office Department) are placed on the buttons of the uniform.
For rainwear, the carriers were permitted to wear anything that matches the standard of the actual uniform.
When the desires of the carriers were made known to their office heads. The Postmasters were the ones who decided which style of clothing all city carriers used.

• 1887: Numbered Hat Badges

Postal Laws and Regulations agreed on the non-compulsory use of a helmet. They mandated the wearing of numbered badges on helmets, caps, or hats. The badge comprised of nickel-plated figures on top of a metallic wreath.

• The 1890s: Double-Breasted Winter Coat and Service Stars

A double-breasted winter coat was permissible as long as it has ten brass buttons with the seal of the department. Straw hats were authorized, and the summer coats were single-breasted with five buttons. A brass hook was also customized on the sleeve to hold the mailbag strap.
They approved the use of service stripes (one stripe signifies five years of service) on the uniform. Individuals working only as substitutes were required to place the letter "S" on their sleeves.
In 1899, the “S” was replaced by the black cloth bar. Meanwhile, the service stripes were changed to service stars which were 3/4 inch in diameter and were located a half-inch above the black braid on each uniform sleeve.

• 1901: Coatless

A neat shirtwaist or loose-fitting blouse was worn along with a dark tie, turn-down collar, and belt as outerwears during the hot weathers. This began the requirements for certain postal uniforms to be worn by certain crafts.

• The 1920s: New Badge

The mail carrier’s badge had a new design. It was made of nickel-plated metal and was elliptical and more solid. It was surmounted with a half-inch tall eagle emblem that has two-inch-wide wings.
The five-pointed stars at the right and left sides were a little bit elevated. The badge was slightly curved to complement the shape of the headgear.

• The 1930s–mid-1950s: Safari-Style Helmet, Jackets, and Sweaters

A sweater coat was worn in places who have mild winter weather provided that only one type of coat was allowed for carriers in each city.
Various styles of sweater coats were accessible to carriers. It evolved from the original sweater blouse, into the winter type, zipper style, and zipper jacket.
In 1942, the brass buttons of the coat were replaced with plastics or some other non-metal material. This was mainly due to a metal shortage during the war. However, eight years after, the metal ban was already lifted.
In 1947, safari-style pith helmets and zippered Eisenhower style jackets emerged.

• 1956: New Emblem Patch, New Maroon Trim, and Skirts for Ladies

Ties were changed to maroon from black. Shirts transformed from the color gray to blue. The trim, cap braid, and service stars were altered from black to maroon.
A patch with the departmental emblem was embedded on the left sleeves. It had the words "POST OFFICE DEPT." on the top portion and "USA" at the bottom.
Moreover, the uniform wear for lady letter carriers was first deliberated. The uniform sets for female were made with the same material as the winter jackets whereas the summer skirts are out of the material for summer trousers.

• The 1960s: Tailored Women’s Wear, Emblem Patch Flipped

There are fur caps for the winter and nylon mesh caps for the summer season. The women’s wear was tailored with shirts that have a maroon string tie, slacks, men’s style cap, and a beret. A pillbox cap for women was also approved in 1969.
On 1st of February 1965, the emblem patch was flipped with the direction of the rider and horse on the to face forward (left). The center of the patch was also altered to blue.

• The 1970s: A New Service Means Revisions in Design

Revisions were made once again in the form of a dark blue chin strap on the fur cap, braid on the pith helmet, necktie, neck tab, and round cap.
During the 12th of 1970, President Nixon signed the Postal Reorganization Act which changed the previous Post Office Department into the new United States Postal Service. On October of the same year, uniform patches and buttons were transformed to showcase the new emblem of the bald eagle above the words "U.S. Mail".

• The 1980s: Baseball Cap

The numbered metal badge that worn on hats since was now dropped while a baseball-style cap was added to the uniform set.

• The 1990s: New Look for the New Century

During 1991-1992, the US’ letter carrier uniform undertook a massive transformation.
Outer garments were restructured to a navy blue tone. A baseball cap and visor with the new design: eagle and bar emblem of the US mail.
Short and long-sleeved shirts, shirt-jacs were introduced along with the eagle and bar U.S. Mail emblem. They also included winter parkas (with hoods and without hoods), winter vests in postal navy blue that have a gray and stripe trim, and the cozy winter trooper fur cap.
Maternity wear was added for the female carriers. They were also approved to go for neutral-colored nylon stockings provided it is worn with jumpers and skirts. The shorts, skirts, and jumpers must not be more than 3 inches above the mid-knee.
The bomber jacket with a zip-out liner and a reflective trim and logo was also introduced. The new corporate logo which was the “sonic eagle,” appeared in 1995.
Many of these requirements can be found on this USPS uniform guide.

Final Thoughts

With the advent of time, massive changes can be seen in the uniform specifications of our beloved mail carriers. These transformations will always be a reminder that the USPS wants only the best for its workforce and customers.
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