U.S. MARINE CORPS SNCO WAIST PLATE (WREATHED EGA)

It is difficult to ascertain precisely when the United States Marine Corps first introduced waist plates (also “waistplates”) as a component of the dress uniform worn by enlisted personnel, in part because the enlisted cadre less likely be memorialized by portraitures in the days before photography became commonplace. Digging through our archives, we found and then scoured a copy of the 1912 United States Marine Corps Uniform Regulations, one of the oldest manuals readily available, only to discover no occurrence of the phrase “of waist plate” or “waistplate."

The earliest manual we here at The Salute Uniforms could find that describes the waist plate—a belt-and-buckle system worn over the dress-uniform that attaches to the coat buttons—was the 1922 edition of USMC regulations. The waist plates came in two styles; plain ones were worn by “first sergeants, gunnery sergeants, sergeants, corporals, lance corporals, first-class privates, trumpeters, drummers, and privates; musicians, Marine Band,” while the leader, second leader, and drum major of the Marine Band, as well as Staff Non-Commissioned Officers (Sergeants Major and Quartermaster Sergeants) wore a waist plate upon which was affixed imagery taken from the Coat of Arms of the United States wreathed with laurel.

Today, all enlisted personnel may have the opportunity to wear waist plates, but only SNCOs—enlisted personnel in grade E-7 TO E-9—have plates that still have the wreath of laurel found on the waist plates from nearly a century ago.
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