Why do SAF singlets come in different colours?

Why do SAF singlets come in different colours?
PHOTO: Danny Ng

You may have seen people wearing them in Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) camps and bases, or at gyms and stadiums around Singapore. Common? Yes. Ordinary? We’d say no. In fact, these singlets can be considered branded sportswear.

The brand? SAF. The sportswear? Physical Training (PT) vests. And there are 30 (that’s right, 30!) different PT vests altogether. There are 17 from the Singapore Army, four from Joint, eight from the Republic of Singapore Air Force and one from the Republic of Singapore Navy.

Full-time National Servicemen (NSFs), Regulars and NSmen have made this colourful collection a part of their wardrobe since October 2003, and we recently found out that there is more to these PT vests than just the sheer number of them.

The brown PT vest was used from 2006 to 2009.
Photo: Cyberpioneer

PT vests have been a staple of the SAF since its early days. After all, keeping fit is an important part of military training, and soldiers need some form of standardised attire when they exercise.

In recent years, there have been quite a number of changes to the PT vest. From 2006 to 2009, a brown PT vest was used. Since June 2010, recruits are issued with green PT vests when they enlist, and can buy one of the 30 PT vests depending on which unit they are posted to after their Basic Military Training.

Photo: Danny Ng

Currently, the most popular colour is white, with 13 out of 30 vests using it, but with different colour combinations at the side.

Just so you can tell them apart, the 13 vests are: (From left) Army Specialist, the RSAF’s Air Combat Command, Military Intelligence Organisation, the RSAF’s Participation Command, SAFTI Military Institute, SAF Military Police Command, Headquarters RSAF, 2nd People’s Defence Force Command, Joint, Signals, General Staff, Republic of Singapore Navy and the SAF Medical Corps.

And then, there are these! The three most brightly-coloured PT vests: (From left) 3rd Division, Personnel Command and Commandos.

Photo: Danny Ng

Why the different colours? It is to foster identity among the respective Services, formations and commands. This is why they propose the colours that they want and the SAF Dress Committee, chaired by the SAF Sergeant Major, approves them.

Photo: Danny Ng

For some of the PT vests, identity is shown not just in the colour of the vest and logo at the front. There are also mottos or slogans on the back.

(Clockwise from top):

The Singapore Army: Ready, Decisive, Respected

The RSAF’s Air Power Generation Command: Air Power Starts with Us

SAF Medical Corps: Seek, Save, Serve

Air Force Training Command: Team AFTC

Republic of Singapore Navy: Team Navy

MINDEF Intelligence Organisation: Silent Warrior

Personnel Command: Excel to Serve

Looking at these one-liners, you can probably guess what these Services, formations or commands do or aim to be. And in the case of AFTC and the RSN, it’s the importance of teamwork.

Photo: Danny Ng

While colour, design and words are important, they won’t matter at all if the PT vest is not functional. After all, as its name suggests, soldiers wear this for their physical training.

This is why the SAF’s Headquarters Supply works closely with agencies such as the Defence Science and Technology Agency, ST Logistics and the various formation headquarters throughout the entire process, which includes design, proto-typing, procurement and production.

The result? All PT vests are made of a lightweight fabric that is resistant to ripping. Some PT vests also have reflective strips (as seen at the top of the maroon singlet on the left, which belongs to the 9th Division and Singapore Infantry) to keep soldiers safe when exercising at night.

So, the next time you see someone wearing an SAF PT vest, you’ll know that it is not just any vest, but one with a special balance of form, function and identity.

This article was first published on ConnexionSG's Facebook page.

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