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Gen. John Raymond, chief of space operations for the U.S. Space Force, showed off the latest prototype of the service's dress uniform during a Senate hearing Tuesday. The new version features notable changes after critics roasted an earlier iteration last year.
Raymond's well-tailored dress uniform, which he wore as he testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee about the service's proposed 2023 budget, is the latest version to be publicly displayed since the first was unveiled at the Air Force Association's Air, Space and Cyber Conference in September.
Noteworthy changes on the uniform that Raymond sported include "adding stripes down the pants, changing the pocket style, adding pockets on the lower half of the jacket, and decreasing the number of buttons on the interior enclosure of the jacket," Maj. Vicky Porto, a Department of the Air Force spokeswoman, said in an email.
A Military.com reporter who saw Raymond exiting the hearing found the trousers to look reasonably tailored, although the addition of the stripes made the pants reminiscent of track suits.
When the initial version of the uniform debuted at the Air Force Association's annual conference last year, critics took to social media to complain about its science fiction-inspired look and, particularly, how baggy the pants were.
"The new Space Force uniform ... A blend of the Star Trek Enterprise dress uniform, but with the Mirror Universe diagonal," Peter Singer, a noted commentator on the military and author of "LikeWar: The Weaponization of Social Media," tweeted during last year's rollout.
The criticism dominated the news cycle, and the Space Force promised to try again.
"We heard your feedback," the service tweeted shortly after the conference. "New pants, new fit coming soon."
Porto told Military.com that, after the first prototype was unveiled, the Space Force did a three-month "uniform roadshow" and visited 10 bases to "give Guardians the opportunity to see the uniform, ask questions, and provide feedback on the design."
Tracy Roan, chief of the Air Force Uniform Office at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, Ohio, helped spearhead a lot of the changes.
"We want to make sure that their fit is the best that it can be because it allows them to perform their job better," Roan told Military.com in February. "It also provides comfort, and it makes them proud of the way that they look and represent the country."
One of the main criticisms of the original version was the tight-fitting collar, which has now been reworked to "better frame the tie," Porto said in an email. In another change, the female version of the jacket was lengthened.
One of the main focuses of the design process was to create unisex pieces, something Roan said can be welcoming to nonbinary service members.
"As we look at their new service dress, we're looking at, in particular, options of neckwear that females, in particular, would be able to wear a tie, like their male counterparts," she said. "Especially if you're nonbinary, that you could wear a tie, and there's no relationship to either gender."
The pandemic has caused delays for the textile industry, pushing back the date the uniform will be available to the ranks. After the dress uniform is tested and finally approved, it likely won’t be available to all Guardians until 2025.
In addition to developing the dress uniform, Roan said her office is starting to prototype maternity wear for Space Force Guardians.
-- Thomas Novelly can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @TomNovelly.
-- Rebecca Kheel contributed to this report.