Is it legal to wear seargant stripes without being enlisted?

I sewed Staff Seargant stripes to a white shirt I have. I know it’s illegal to represent yourself as an officer. Does this carry over to wearing stripes without being in the Army? I am not enlisted, never have been, God willing, never will be. The shirt is obviously not military and I definitely won’t be wearing it in that fashion. Laywers? Military types? Bueller?

Well, a Sergeant is an officer, a Non-Commissioined Officer, but an officer nevertheless.

I don’t think it’s illegal to wear any kind of insignia on your clothing – whether its military or civilian insignia – so long as you aren’t creating the impression that you actually hold that office. You can wear military officers’ rank badges without impersonating an officer.

IANAL, but as long as you’re not in the military and misrepresenting yourself, I think it’s fine. I’ve never heard of any civilian law saying you can’t wear military insignia.

What acsenray and flyboy88 said, as long as you’re not try to represent yourself as a military person you’re in the clear. However, I wouldn’t wear that shirt while on a military base. You’ll probably catch more flak than it’s worth. IIRC, Army wear and appearance standards forbid a service member from displaying a rank they do not hold on any clothing, civilian or military, in public.

I believe the crime of “impersonating an officer” is only in the military codes, not in civil law. Still, there is probably some kind of law that prevents you from pretending to hold a kind of authority that you don’t hold, whether military or civil.

Monty, it’s true that a sergeant is a non-commissioned officer, but in common parlance, the word “officer” usually means a commissioned officer.

Not interested in common parlance when discussing legalities, acsen. At any rate, insignia seem to be safe use items so long as one’s not “creating the impression that you actually hold that office.” After all, numerous police departments around the country have Sergeants. Now, wearing military medals and ribbons would be a completely different story.

Rhode Island has a statute:

Criminal Offenses
False Personation
SECTION 11-14-4
§ 11-14-4 Unauthorized wearing of organizational insignia. – Any person not a member of the society of Cincinnati; society of the war of 1812; Aztec club of 1847; military order of the loyal legion of the United States; grand army of the republic; national association of naval veterans of the United States; society of the army of the Potomac; society of the army of the Cumberland; society of the army of Ohio; society of the army of Tennessee; society of the Burnside expedition; society of the ninth army corps; sons of veterans, United States of America; national society of the sons of the American revolution; sons of the revolution; united Spanish-American war veterans; women’s relief corps; ladies’ aid society; national society of the daughters of the American revolution; benevolent and protective order of elks of the United States; knights of Pythias; dramatic order of knights of Khorassan; American legion; military order of foreign wars of the United States; veterans of foreign wars of the United States; fraternal order of police; international brotherhood of police officers (IBPO), the international association of firefighters (IAFF), whether it be IAFF windshield decals or IAFF license plate emblems or both; or any person not a member of any other society or association or of any labor union; which shall have registered in the office of the secretary of state a facsimile or duplicate or description of its name, badge, decoration, insignia, button, emblem, or rosette, who shall use or wear the name, badge, decoration, insignia, button, emblem, or rosette of that organization, unless entitled to use or wear it under the constitution, by-laws, or rules and regulations of that societies or order, shall be fined not more than one hundred dollars ($100) for each offense.
I’ve found other statutes that forbid impersonating an officer using a uniform or badge, but wearing stripes on a piece of civilian clothing doesn’t seem to be covered.

Damn. And my Society of the Army of the Potomac outfit was purchased for the express purpose of wearing to Rhode Island.

“Wannabes” are esp. despised in the military, not surprisingly. Those little patches and ribbons and accouterments might not seem like a big deal, but they are. Military members wear their resume on their uniforms, essentially.

It is legal for civilians to wear military garb, to a point. Of course representing oneself as a member of the military fraudulently is illegal, and I believe nametapes and official “US ARMY” or branch equivalent is a no-no. In general, though it is in poor taste.

So my “I AM THE PRESIDANT” T-shirt isn’t illegal, but might be in poor taste with some?

Nobody is going to confuse you with Presidential Material, I presume. With military garb, what is especially bad is wearing combat awards – CIB, Silver Star, etc. In other words, passing oneself as a combat veteran, even though never having served, for example. Can result in serious bodily injury if worn at the wrong place at the wrong time.

Tedster - one little nitpick. Nametapes are okay, and probably desirable if you belong, say, to a non state-sponsored militia group that likes to wear military garb. The US ARMY, US AIR FORCE, etc., tapes do need to be removed. That’s the part that can get you in trouble where you might be trying to misrepresent yourself. The part about wearing awards you didn’t earn (if you’re military) is painfully true and I have seen more than one person kicked out with a general discharge for doing just that. IIRC, the reverse is okay, i.e. you are allowed to not wear awards that you’ve earned. I don’t wear my combat patch because it’s extremely hard to get a hold of it through regular channels.

“IIRC, the reverse is okay, i.e. you are allowed to not wear awards that you’ve earned. I don’t wear my combat patch because it’s extremely hard to get a hold of it through regular channels.”

AFAIK, this is a yes and no answer… My experience is that for some reason officers don’t wear all their ribbons, etc. Perhaps some don’t want to be seen as implying to superiors that they have more and perhaps better experience (~qualifiactions). Generally, for everyday wear, they limit to two rows of ribbons. But for full dress, you must wear all your ribbions, badges, etc. (So far as I understand it.)

Among enlisted (especially senior enlisted) my experience is that the sentiment generally is that if you earned them, you should wear them. With pride.

As to the OP, common sense interpretation is that:

  1. You can’t wear the stripes with the implied or express intent of passing yourself off as a sergeant or other military person. John Lennon appeared several times in public in an old army shirt with sgt. stripes on it; given the rest of his attire and so on, no one would have thought he was passing himself off as a military member. But if you wore an entire uniform with the rest of the “military grooming”, etc., it could easily be inferred that you want to be take for a soldier.

  2. In a time of terrorists lurking under every rock (so we are led to think), what otherwise might have been seen as a fashion statement could be stretched by some hard-assed persons in authority to read that you want to be taken for a soldier when you are not, and thus should be detained as a suspect.

  3. Some veterans might think nothing of it, others will see it as support, and a few will get all bent about “desecration” and stuff.

  4. Don’t wear military attire (flight jackets, cammos, etc.) on a military base. First, they have rules about “uniform of the day”, and you may be mistaken for a military person and then get stopped and collect grief for not being in full uniform. Second, becuase that’s where people wear their military garb as working clothing, wearing some part of military attire will much more reasonably be interpreted as your intent to be taken for a military member, and that would bring down the military law on you.

Heckler and Horseflesh:

The US Navy provides for an option regarding award ribbons: either wear all of them (for the everyday uniform/obviously not including the “dungaree” uniform) or wear the “top four.”

The US Army, IIRC, requires the wear of all organizational elements of the uniform except that it is optional for the member to wear the divisional patch of the last combat division in which the member served. Either the member wears that patch (on the right sleeve) or no patch at al.