Ceremonial & Concert Full Dress
Marine Band musicians wear scarlet full dress coats, blue trousers with a unique red and white stripe, and white covers (hats) with gold Marine Corps emblems. The Marine dress uniform is traditionally blue with red trim, but the Marine Band wears these colors in reverse order with scarlet coats and distinctive braid. The tradition dates to the time of the Revolutionary War when field musicians were used to send signals on the battlefield and in camp and needed to be easily recognizable. This uniform has remained largely unchanged since John Philip Sousa was Director of the band.
Special Full Dress
The Special Full Dress uniform is worn by members of the U.S. Marine Chamber Orchestra, the jazz combo, and other small ensembles. It was introduced into the Marine Corps in 1904 for all Marines. Designed to be more formal in appearance than the full dress coat, it was to be worn at the more formal occasions. In 1912 the Marine Corps discontinued the use of the Special Full Dress coat for all except members of the U.S. Marine Band.
While similar to the Ceremonial and Concert Full Dress uniforms in color, the Special Full Dress uniform does not have extensive braid or epaulets on the shoulders, three rows of brass buttons, or the black mohair braid.
The Drum Major's uniform is often noted for its attractiveness. The ornate sash worn across his chest is called a baldric. Embroidered with the Marine Band's crest and the Marine Corps' battle colors, it signifies his position as Drum Major of the Marine Corps. He wears a bearskin headpiece and carries a mace, embossed with the battles and campaigns of the Marine Corps, which he uses to signal commands to the musicians.
The uniforms worn by the Director and Assistant Directors are similar in fashion to the Ceremonial and Concert Full Dress uniforms worn by Marine Band musicians. The Assistant Directors wear scarlet coats with gold braid. The Director wears a dark blue coat with gold braid. William H. Santelmann was the first Marine Band Director to wear this uniform. Prior to Santelmann’s tenure, Directors wore scarlet coats with gold braid similar to the Assistant Director’s uniform.