U.S. ARMY MAJOR PIN-ON METAL RANK INSIGNIA

U.S. Army Majors are authorized to wear nonsubdued (i.e., gold) pin-on grade insignia on the shoulder loops found on the black windbreaker and the black all-weather coat and on the sleeves of the Blue Mess and White Mess jackets. The pin-on metal insignia is also authorized for wear on the flash of the beret worn with the Army Service Uniform. Visit our page for beret rank insignias to learn more or to purchase.

When the insignia is removed from the windbreaker and the all-weather coat, both of these garments may be worn with civilian clothing. (This also applies to the Major shoulder marks worn on the shoulder loops of the black Cardigan and black pullover sweaters.)

When worn on the Blue or White Mess jackets, the nonsubdued grade insignia is centered in the area formed by the bottom two curves of the trefoil knot meeting the jacket’s sleeve braid. However, we recommend either the embroidered or embroidered bullion rank insignia for these two dress-uniform jackets because the pin-on metal does not provide as consistent an appearance with the embroidered sleeve ornamentation.

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A single leaf was first used as the rank insignia for Majors in the United States Army in 1835, but at the time the leaf’s color was variable (either gold or silver, depending on the wearer’s branch) and, somewhat surprisingly, the leaf itself was generic. In fact, nearly 80 years would elapse before Army regulations revealed the type of leaf in its descriptions of the collar and shoulder-loop rank insignia for Lieutenant Colonels and Majors. “Oak leaf, point up” was the prescription for both ranks, with the color of each one’s leaf (silver and gold respectively) having been decided forty years earlier in 1872.

But perhaps the reason the Army didn’t specify that the Major’s golden leaf was from an oak was because they didn’t deem it necessary.

On the New York Metropolitan Museum’s Web site devoted to The Cloisters Museum and Gardens, we find that “In heraldry, the oak is the tree and the tree is the oak. It’s seen as a symbol of strength and endurance; even its leaves display a tenacity, less easily shed in the fall than the leaves of other trees. Lesser heraldic species, such as the linden or the holly, must be mentioned by name, despite being readily recognized.”

It's easy to see how Army officials, having chosen a leaf as symbol for the ranks of Lieutenant Colonel and Major, would simply assume everyone would know that it came from an oak, especially in light of the oak’s renowned strength and tenacity. Just as a tree without any description in heraldry is assumed to be an oak, a heraldic leaf not immediately identifiable as coming from another source is almost certainly an oak leaf.
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