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Military uniform goofs in tv shows / documentaries etc...

Article about: I don't know if this is the right place to post this, but was just curious about something. I'm retired military (serving from 1991-2015) and I watch a lot of documentaries, crime shows, etc

  1. #1

    Default Military uniform goofs in tv shows / documentaries etc...

    I don't know if this is the right place to post this, but was just curious about something. I'm retired military (serving from 1991-2015) and I watch a lot of documentaries, crime shows, etc. For some reason it seems like I'm always seeing re-enactors wearing SGT/E5 stripes upside down on their uniforms. This drives me crazy seeing these kind of goofs. Do the production people even research how the military uniform is worn? Just curious as I see this a lot.
    Yesterday I was watching an episode of "I (almost) got away with it." It shows a squad of "soldiers" going through boot camp. They are all wearing DCU's for some reason. The drill sergeant is wearing MSG/E8 class a stripes on his arms, and also wearing SSG/E6 stripes on his collar. And the soldiers are wearing gray/black shirts under the DCU's. Some are wearing headgear while others are not. This kind of stuff just really irks me.
    Is there a reason why these TV shows are so bad with military uniforms? Do they not research or seek out a military advisor?
    Just curious if anybody else notices these terrible mistakes. Thanks.

  2. #2

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    Sure; I notice such goofs in films and TV series all the time and they bug me as well.

    But let's face it: The simple truth is, conducting research, hiring expert consultants and getting the details right would
    result in investing extra time, work and money, which eats into the profit margin.

    And since the average audience member probably won't even notice these errors - let alone care about them - why bother getting things right, eh?

    (Although, in all fairness, I guess low-budgeted productions in particular often really can't afford to get things right. If you operate on a shoestring budget and under a tight schedule, you have to make do with what is cheaply and readily available (especially if you have to use existing studio stocks or rented props and costumes) whereas a major production could even afford to have things custom-made.)

  3. #3

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    wharfrat57,

    A good question.. First,,, thank you for your service..

    You were partially correct in the assumption that some of these TV shows and documentaries do not hire a military advisor, one reason is due to the cost in hiring them... Take Dale Dye for example.... as well as the cost of uniforms and equipment, so much of what you see is contracted out to costume companies at a lower price. Since there are no "military advisors" on set, most of the fabrication of the uniforms is done by using photos and other sources.. In some cases the US sergeant stripes are upside down on uniforms, and one reason is that the casting crew, production crew and costume and set designers are British and they wear their chevrons upside down...

    On the other side of this.. Historical interpretational movies and mini series such as Band of Brothers, The Pacific, etc. had scores of military and historical advisors to ensure accuracy with uniforms and equipment as well as tactics.. The production and movie companies also reached out to actual veterans to share their knowledge and expertise when it came to particular battles ect..

    I have a good working relationship with a gentleman who provided the technical expertise for the SS unit in the movie Fury.. He worked tirelessly in ensuring the most accurate depiction of the SS troopers uniforms, camo smocks and other items.. I also work with a gentleman who provided the technical expertise for the flamethrower scenes in the Pacific mini series...

    Here is some legal requirements that actors and companies must follow when using actors to portray Armed Service members...

    "Title 10 US Code 772: (f) While portraying a member of the Army, Navy, Air Force, or Marine Corps, an actor in a theatrical or motion-picture production may wear the uniform of that armed force if the portrayal does not tend to discredit that armed force".

    Here is a Stars and Stripes article on just this topic...

    Why can't Hollywood get military uniforms right? - Stripes

    Hope this answers some of your questions

    Smitty

  4. #4

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    Thank you for the replies. Smitty thanks for the attachment. It's very interesting. Heck I'd do some military advising for free so I wouldn't have to see these kind of mistakes. I am glad to see that the more serious type of movies such as Fury, Saving Private Ryan do go the extra distance for accuracy. And I guess at the end of the day it's mostly TV shows I'm seeing with the upside down chevrons and such. But it still looks ridiculous to me. ( and probably to all that served in uniform at one time or another) Thanks again for the input.

  5. #5

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    Quote by Rakkasan187 View Post
    You were partially correct in the assumption that some of these TV shows and documentaries do not hire a military advisor, one reason is due to the cost in hiring them... Take Dale Dye for example....
    But worth it, I think. The man is a legend.

    I am an admitted film geek, but even casual moviegoers and TV audiences who are wholly unfamiliar with his biography, service record and behind-the-scenes work in the film industry and who have never heard his name will probably recognize his face from some of his countless acting roles over the past three decades, almost always as a military officer and many times in movies for which he also worked as a consultant.

    Dale Dye - IMDb
    Last edited by HPL2008; 08-23-2019 at 07:40 PM.

  6. #6

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    Really interesting reading this, I was an extra on Band of Brothers 19 years ago, I did about 5/6 days work on various episodes, which was quite interesting (I worked in a Royal Mail Depot, adjacent to the Hatfield Airfield site). I felt that all the US uniforms were spot on to detail, us extras had plastic M1s & i remember that the german tunics were Swedish 50s tunics which the costume dept dyed, but as previously said, not the sort of thing the average viewer's going to notice ! Sure all the principal actors had genuine WW2 M1s, close up shots etc, I remember that we had to have our hands, faces, fingernails 'dirtied' by the make-up dept (no watches were allowed to be worn, can't have a digital watch show up !), as everyone involved could be close up to the camera !
    Regards
    Paul

  7. #7
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    As said above, it all comes down to budget and the wardrobe department (if, indeed, there is one), cannot be experts in everything. Ultimately, they have to trust the people they hire the stuff from.

    Incidentally, Smitty...
    I think you will find that the British wear their stripes the right way up.
    It’s you yanks that wear them upside down.

    All the best,
    Bob

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    Thanks for the correction Bob...

    We Yanks do dare to be different....


    Smitty

  9. #9

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    Quote by Kohima View Post
    Incidentally, Smitty...
    I think you will find that the British wear their stripes the right way up.
    Itís you yanks that wear them upside down.
    Haha, I'm glad you bit there Bob, I nearly did but I know Smitty was "tongue in cheek" there

    I certainly never wore my chevrons "upside down"

    I must drive my family insane because glaring uniform errors in the entertainment media drive me nuts especially when the portrayal is supposed to be of historical events.

    But to be fair I am sure there are such errors in period costume dramas set in Victorian or Edwardian circumstances and I can't spot those (well not all of them but the history nerd does stick his neck out sometimes!!). I think the worst ones are the "war" movies made in the '70s with Afrika Korps troops rattling along in M60 Patton tanks and M3 half tracks! Sometimes if the screenplay is good enough such nonsense might be forgiven (where eagles dare with the Bell 47 helicopter or the browning .50 disguised as a DShK in "The Beast") but in most cases it drives me away from the screen!

    Maybe we should start a thread on the biggest "howlers" in this area. Might be a laugh or even just a little educational.

    Just a thought

    Regards

    Mark
    "War is an ugly thing, but not the ugliest of things. A man who has nothing for which he is willing to fight, nothing he cares more about than his own personal safety, is a miserable creature with no chance of being free unless made and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself."

  10. #10
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    With a lot of the tank and vehicle type films (Afrika Korps, Patton, &c.), they tended to borrow them and their crews from the then current and local armies, depending where it was shot. Cheaper than sourcing, restoring, transporting, import/export licensing, perhaps training crews, and so on... Oftentimes, practicalities win out.
    Budgets are finite, after all.

    Like you say, Mark, it makes you wince, but there are lacemaking experts all around the world who cringe every time they watch an Emily Bronte film... “Oh, no! They never used that weave pattern back then!”
    To the rest of the world, “Who cares?”

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