The Evolution Of Soldier’s Kits in the Past Century
words Luis Cruz
illustration Mark Modimola
Soldiers in the army have always been allowed to carry personal items with them and have always needed to maintain a certain level of hygiene. Whilst the kit that soldiers have been allowed to carry has changed throughout the decades, the majority of it has stayed the same.
When it comes to packing light and ensuring a minimum level of personal care, we often refer to the essentials. It was no different a century ago. A bar of soap, razors/blades, tooth powder, shoe polish, brushes and a hair comb, seemed to have been the most popular items.
The basic principle of cleanliness of person and neat appearance of troops is a traditional policy of the Army. Personal hygiene is defined as the measures each individual must employ to keep in good physical condition and the precautions he must take to protect himself from a disease.
Depending on the uniform, soldiers are to perform specific duties when it comes to maintaining personal hygiene, as well as, keeping their uniform pristine. Some even had brass button polish. Often uniforms were designed according to weather conditions/location, the commander's preference or what was available, but it would also represent their nation and patriotism. In modern days, soldier’s uniforms are designed so they’re more articulate and appropriate for the job as well as to camouflage into the surroundings.
As we evolved with the times, our personal care has progressed with it, soldiers have a higher level of personal care, and are permitted to carry along with the usual toiletries, other items such as neutral scented deodorant, shampoo and conditioner, sunscreen, lip balm, a hand mirror, cleaning wipes, dental floss, nail clippers and ears plugs.
Along with this evolution, other aspects of a soldier's kit have also changed, back in the early 1940's, soldiers would have been allowed to take a deck of cards for the downtime, today, magazines, games, musical instruments, sports gear and all sorts of gadgets from tablets, smartphones, laptops to USB sticks and hard drives can be found among their personal items.
During the war, it is fundamental that soldiers enjoy their down as much as possible so that they can maintain a level of sanity and confidence. These are very difficult times for many people and families, would write letters and telegrams to soldiers. Today, they can quickly be in touch with their loved ones with a push of a button. Yes in some places they have Wi-Fi.
Downtime can be also a fun time. Soldiers feasts, drink, play music, sing and dance. As much as things change, some are still the same, in occasions of a slower pace, playing cards and gambling, writing and reading are still regular activities among our brave men and women, some even keep diaries of their journey, and interesting enough the bible still is today the most common book.
Comfort has also become more of a thing in the modern days, Soldiers during downtime can wear civilian clothes. Often these are of a personal discretion and soldiers tend to refer to comfort, so hoodies, shorts or sweatpants (according to weather and location), tees, sneakers are some of the most carried items of civil clothing, crocks are often used for the showers, and some even bring their own blankets.
Army and war have influence not only fashion and hairstyles but also men’s lifestyle. The constant need for hygiene and discipline has turned many of us into beauty freaks. Men, more and more care about their looks and appearance. Soldiers couldn’t feel any prouder of their nation as when they stand tall with their perfect and pristine uniform, clean shaven (and probably moisturised) face, neat haircut and a pair of shiny boots. Some of them may not return home, but at least they fight and they proud to serve our country.