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M69 parade uniform - the chic of the Soviet military fashion

Soviet conscripts were not spoiled with uniforms, neither in variation, nor in looks. The regular M69 field uniform, which was, by far, the most common everyday costume did look like something straight of the first world war. Any other workwear used in the Soviet Army was just miserable. But there was one gem in that horrendous wardrobe - the parade uniform. This article is part of a bigger list of all uniforms and clothing used by the Soviets in Afghanistan, so if you are into the topic - check it out.

M69 parade uniform
M69 parade uniform from my collection

The historical roots of the M69 parade uniform

While Soviet conscripts seen this new type of uniform only after the introduction of 1969 regulation, the suit in such cut was not new to the Soviet Army in general. If you are familiar with the period of 50-60s, you will know that Soviet officers had a very similar type of uniform for everyday job. Well, at lest the jacket was almost identical - the trousers and breeches used to be blue, following decades old traditions of the Red Army.

M69 parade uniform
Soviet officer from 1960s

In 1969 it was decided to update the looks of the conscripts, to make them more modern. Some people now think that this was a very controversial decision - one can argue that standing collar jacket looks better. While I generally agree with this opinion, we have to take in the account the fashion trends of the era.

By late 1960s most Soviet people would already wear office-like suits, which were both common and popular at the time. Soviet soldiers were fond of the idea to wear this new type of uniform - the standing collar one felt a bit too archaic at the time. It was also very appreciated that the new M69 parade uniform was supposed to be worn with shoes rather than boots when on leave.

M69 parade uniform
"Weekends" uniform for outside the base

Overall, in terms of fashion trends and usability, I think that it would be for the best to leave both type of uniforms - and this is what was later done in 21st century in modern day Russia. It is a fact that standing collar jacket looks more appealing for any sort of traditionalistic military duty. At the same time, it is also very understandable why young conscripts wanted to look more modern. Absolute majority of soldiers were no older than 20 years old and looking fashionable is as important as it gets at this age. So, the best decision would be to M69 parade uniform to be worn when leaving the military base and the standing collar for parade inside the unit. However, Soviet light industry was not capable enough at the time to provide an extra set of uniform for every soldier in the Army, so cuts had to be made.

M69 parade uniform
Collection of various uniforms, including a number of parade suits

M69 parade uniform in everyday army life

By the rulebook of uniform wearing, there were quite a few occasions on when and where to use the M69 parade uniform. First and foremost, soldiers were supposed to wear it for most formal events, especially when people from outside the unit were present. We are talking about parades, celebratory days, funerals and so on.

M69 parade uniform
Typical M69 parade uniform

Apart from that, separate soldiers would have to wear the M69 parade uniform when on guard duty - protecting the regimental banner. In some units, usually those located in bigger cities and when in frequent contact with civilians, soldiers would wear this uniform on daily bases.

Notable exceptions

As with many cases regarding almost any Soviet uniform, there were instances when this uniform was worn not in the way it was initially intended to be worn. First of all, it is valid to mention how this uniform was worn by the airborne soldiers. In many cases, instead of wearing it with shirt and tie, they would instead wear it over the striped shirt. And this was actually done by the book - both options were allowed in the VDV. Same would go to GRU and any other forces related to airborne practices.

M69 parade uniform
Mega flex - bringing RPKS for sacred oath

A more interesting case is how, again, airborne officers would wear it on big parades. While the rules stated that airborne officers were supposed to wear the Airforce blues, for some occasions they would, instead, take regular soldier's M69 parade uniform and wear it with beret and white shirt. While against all rules - it does look rather sharp! And we will recreate this look in one of our future books on peacetime Soviet Airborne forces.

M69 parade uniform
Soviet Airborne officers at their finest

M69 parade uniform in Afghanistan

Even though Afghanistan was kind of a warzone with quite different rules to everything, soldiers still had the parade uniform. Given the climate in Afghanistan, it was rarely used for any parades or similar events, but it was very high valued for demobilization. The process would usually go like that - old generation of soldiers would take away the fresh parade uniform from younger conscripts and the next generation would have to do the same. These demobilization uniforms were usually decorated in very curious ways, but this is a story for another article.

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