U.S. ARMY CAPTAIN COAT RANK INSIGNIA

The nonsubdued (silver) pin-on metal insignia for Army Captains is authorized for wear on two outerwear garments—the black all-weather coat and the windbreaker—and two Mess Dress jackets (Blue and White). However, most Captains opt for embroidered bullion rank insignia for Mess Dress jackets because it complements the sewn-on sleeve ornamentation (trefoil and sleeve braid) worn on them. Like other Company-Grade Officers and Warrant Officers, Captains also wear the nonsubdued pin-on grade insignia on shirt collars, positioned lengthwise so that the bars parallel the shoulder seam on the shoulder loops.

Nonsubdued pin-on insignia is centered on the shoulder loops of the all-weather coat and windbreaker, equidistant from the outer edge of the shoulder-loop button and the shoulder-loop seam.

These pin-on insignia are also authorized for wear on the beret flash, providing more precise rank identification than found on the Service Cap, which identifies officer categories (Company-grade, Field-Grade, General) rather than specific rank. Visit our page for Captain rank insignia for berets to learn more.
 
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At first glance, something just doesn’t seem right about the progression of the designs of rank insignia for company-grade officers in the Army. A 2nd Lieutenant wear a single gold bar, a 1st Lieutenant wears a single silver bar, and a Captain wears a single…no, make that two silver bars. How did the highest-ranking of three consecutive officer grades wind up with only one more bar than the lowest, and what’s more in a color that would seem to be inferior? Surprisingly, the answer can be traced back to the brief use of epaulettes to display rank insignia during the first half of the 19th century.

In 1832, new regulations mandated that all officers wear epaulettes, with Infantry officers assigned silver epaulettes and officers from all other branches wearing gold. At this time, however, only Colonels and higher had an insignia on the epaulettes, and the insignia was embroidered on the color opposite of the epaulette: Infantry Colonels, for example, wore silver epaulettes with a gold eagle, while all other Colonels sported gold epaulettes with silver eagles. Officers ranked Lieutenant Colonel down to 2nd Lieutenant were identified by the size and length of the fringe on the epaulette.

Just four years later, epaulettes gave way to shoulder straps and insignia was introduced for officers who had previously lacked them—but the “reverse color” system was maintained, at least to a point, based upon the color of strap’s border which represented branch. The only difference between the insignia for Lieutenant Colonels and Majors was the color of the leaf: a Lieutenant Colonel’s matched the border of the silver or gold strap, while a Major’s was the opposite color.

This was when two bars were introduced as the rank insignia for Captain, and specified to be the same width and color as the border: an Infantry Captain would have a shoulder strap with a silver border and two silver bars. A 2nd Lieutenant would have one appropriately colored bar, while a 1st Lieutenant would be identified by the strap alone—i.e., there was no insignia for the rank.
 
But the color scheme began to collapse in 1851 when the Army announced that a Colonel’s shoulder straps would always have gold borders and a silver eagle regardless of branch, while the Captain’s strap would feature a gold border and two gold bars, also regardless of branch. At this time, the insignia for Major became a gold leaf irrespective of the officer’s branch. In 1872, the Army changed the color of the bars of the Captain’s and 1st Lieutenant’s insignia to silver to match the color of senior officer insignia—except of course, that of a Major, which was gold.

When the decision was made to establish an insignia for 2nd Lieutenants rather than have them continue being identified by an empty shoulder strap, the Army briefly considered reworking the insignias for both Lieutenants and Captain into a simple 1-2-3 progression: 1 bar for 2LT, 2 bars for 1LT, and 3 bars for CPT, all silver. But this would mean changing two existing insignias, so the Army instead opted to simply create one new insignia and follow the example of the Major/Lieutenant Colonel insignias and make the color of the insignia the differentiation between the two ranks.
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