Second Lieutenants wear nonsubdued (gold) rank insignia on the shoulder loops of the AGSU Coat, All-Weather Coats (Black or Green), and Windbreakers (Black or Green), as well as on the sleeves of the Blue Mess and White Mess jackets. On the AGSU Coat, the insignia is placed 5/8-inch from and parallel to the shoulder seam; this is presumably the orientation for wear on the other shoulder loops, but this isn't explicitly stated in the manual. On the two Mess Dress Jackets, the insignia is worn vertically, centered in the space that’s formed by lower curves of the trefoil and the top edge of the braid (see Figure 16-9 in DA PAM 670-1).


Just how the insignia for the lowest-ranking commissioned officer in the Army came to be gold-colored can be confusing even for uniform and insignia afficionados. Regardless of the cause, however, the result is that the Army’s most inexperienced officers are also burdened with a nickname that is unfortunately accurate as far as a physical description of an emblem is concerned: “Butter bar.”

Until 1917, 2nd Lieutenants did not have an insignia of rank, but the veritable tsunami of junior officers flooding into the service as the U.S. entered World War I made it essential that these officers had some type of rank identification. One of the first proposals was to expand the system of bars that had been in place since 1936 for First Lieutenants (one silver bar) and Captains (two silver bars), starting 2nd Lieutenants off with one bar and adding a bar to the 1st Lieutenant and Captain insignias.
More Army 2nd Lieutenant Rank Insignia
But this would have involved making changes to two existing insignias to accommodate one new one, and the official policy was to introduce as few changes as possible. Consequently, 2nd Lieutenants were given a single bar but in a gold color to distinguish them from their higher-ranking one-bar counterparts.
It’s easy to see how the gold-colored insignia was quickly compared to a stick of butter. But while it’s little consolation for all the 2nd Lieutenants who’ve had to endure the ignominy of the “butter bar” tag, things could have been worse: They might have been dubbed “Oleo Bars” if some thirty-plus states hadn’t passed laws outlawing production of yellow margarine during the years leading up to World War II.

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