Letter: Starched Military Camouflage Uniforms

Good morning, Hugh,

I read your Thurs 9/18 post on using camo clothing that’s never been starched; how does one tell if a garment has ever been starched? I supposed this may apply to all garments, not just camo. (I reference the common military phrase “breaking starch” on utilities laundered by base personnel.)

Is there a way to purge the starch, to make sure it’s not affecting IR detection, since it may be difficult to tell if a particular garment has ever been starched? Or, does starch affect fabric fibers in such a way that the IR susceptibility cannot be eliminated? Thanks. – Nosmo

JWR Replies: Typically when a BDU uniform has been starched and pressed, the outlines of the buttons show distinctly through the pocket flaps, there are sometimes remnants of vertical creases, and garments generally take on a whitish sheen that is noticeable even to the naked eye. The best way to train your eye for these telltales is to visit a large thrift store. Take a few minutes to look through all of their surplus utility uniforms, and find a shirt that is obviously starched, and examine it closely. Then compare that one with other uniforms. Once you’ve developed “the eye” for it, you can easily spot other uniforms that have previously been starched, even if they have been subsequently laundered several times. The button outlines showing through the pocket flaps are the key indicators.

I am not certain if the IR-reflective sheen from starch can ever be fully removed. To be safe, it is best to buy uniforms that show no signs of ever having been starched or pressed.

By the time the U.S. Army reached the ACU-issue period, starching was not allowed. You can be relatively certain that none of the OCP (“Multicam”) uniforms that you buy surplus have ever been starched.