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A purple rectangle with thin white edges
The Purple Heart's service ribbon (to scale)[a]

A service ribbon, medal ribbon, or ribbon bar is a small ribbon, mounted on a small metal bar equipped with an attaching device, which is generally issued for wear in place of a medal when it is not appropriate to wear the actual medal.[1] Each country's government has its own rules on what ribbons can be worn in what circumstances and in which order. This is usually defined in an official document and is called "the order of precedence" or "the order of wearing." In some countries (particularly in North America and Israel), some awards are "ribbon only," having no associated medal.



According to the U.S. Defense Logistics Agency (DLA), the U.S. military's standard size for a ribbon bar is 1 3/8 in (35mm) wide, 3/8 inches tall (9.525mm), with a thickness of 0.8mm.[2]

The service ribbon for a specific medal is usually identical to the suspension ribbon on the medal. For example, the suspension and service ribbon for the U.S. government's Purple Heart medal is purple with a white vertical stripe at each end (see Photo).

However, there are some military awards that do not have a suspension ribbon, but have an authorized ribbon and unit award emblem. The Soviet Order of Victory is a badge that was worn on the military parade uniform. However, a ribbon bar representing the Order of Victory was worn on a military field uniform.


Ribbon bars come in a variety of colors. In the case of the U.S. military, it maintains a specific list of colors used on its ribbons, based on the Pantone Matching System and Federal Standard 595 color systems:

Colors used on U.S. military ribbons[3]
Name[3] Color[3] RGB value[3] Pantone MS value[3]
Air Force Yellow      255,205,0 116
Apple Red      213,0,50 119
Army Green (Uniform)      40,71,52 553
Aspic Green      191,184,0 397
Black      0,0,0 5445
Blue HQ      183,201,211 289
Blue HX      12,35,64 3105
Blue Turquoise      104,210,223 542
Bluebird      123,175,212 542
Bottle Green      17,87,64 343
Brick Red      134,38,51 202
Brittany Blue      163,199,210 551
Bronze      139,111,78 874
Brown      96,61,32 161
Buff      185,151,91 465
Burnt Orange      227,82,5 166
Cannes Blue      123,175,212 542
Cardinal Red      186,12,47 200
Chamois      242,199,92 141
Cobalt Blue      0,32,91 281
Corsaire Blue      0,45,114 288
Crimson      165,0,80 220
Dark Blue      0,38,58 539
Eggshell      221,203,164 468
Emerald      100,167,11 369
Flag Blue      4,30,66 282
Flame Red      255,88,93 178
Forget-Me-Not Blue      154,219,232 304
Garnet      111,38,61 209
Gherkin Green      74,119,41 364
Gold      133,113,77 872
Gold Brown      184,97,37 471
Golden Orange      255,158,27 1375
Golden Yellow      255,205,0 116
Goldenlight      255,198,88 135
Graphite Blue      0,38,58 539
Grebe Gray      84,88,90 425
Green      33,87,50 357
Grotto Blue      0,193,213 3115
Imperial Blue      0,61,165 293
Imperial Purple      152,29,151 254
Irish Green      0,132,61 348
Ivory      255,255,255
Jasmine      253,210,110 134
Khaki      176,170,126 452
Lemon Yellow      251,221,64 114
Light Blue      91,127,149 5415
Light Green      146,172,160 5575
MC Antique White      233,223,151 461
Mahogany      127,48,53 491
Marine Corps Scarlet      228,0,43 185
Maroon      87,41,50 504
Midnight Blue      0,38,58 593
Mintleaf      164,214,94 367
Mosstone Green      122,154,1 377
Myrtle Green      0,122,51 356
Natural      202,199,167 454
Navy Blue #1      4,30,66 282
Navy Blue #2      4,30,66 282
Nugget Gold      255,209,0 109
Old Blue      162,170,173 429
Old China Blue      123,175,212 542
Old Glory Blue      1,33,105 280
Old Glory Red      186,12,47 200
Old Gold      132,117,78 871
Olive      78,91,49 574
Olive Drab      105,91,36 455
Orange      252,76,2 1655
Oriental Blue      0,114,206 285
Oriole Orange      229,114,0 152
Ostende Blue      123,175,212 542
Paprica      250,70,22 172
Parrot Blue      136,219,223 318
Peacock Blue      0,146,188 313
Primitive Green      0,154,68 347
Prophet Green      67,176,42 361
Purple      95,37,159 267
Putty      178,168,162 407
Rally Red      111,38,61 209
River Blue      0,111,98 562
Scarlet      186,12,47 200
Silver Gray      158,162,162 422
Smoke      84,88,90 425
Soldier Red      111,38,61 209
Spicebrown      115,56,29 168
Spring Green      197,232,108 374
Spruce Green      0,76,69 3302
Star Yellow      253,218,36 115
Steel      124,135,142 430
Tarragon Green      137,144,100 5773
Teal Blue      0,62,81 3035
Terra Cotta      150,56,33 174
Toast      155,90,26 154
Ultramarine Blue      0,20,137 Reflex Blue
Victory Medal Blue #1      0,75,135 301
Victory Medal Blue #2      0,75,135 301
White      255,255,255
Yale Blue      0,114,206 285
Yellow      255,199,44 123


There is a variety of constructions of service ribbons. In some countries, service ribbons are mounted on a "pin backing", which can be pushed through the fabric of a uniform and secured, with fasteners, on the inside edge. These ribbons can be individually secured and then lined up, or they can be all mounted on to a single fastener. After the Second World War, it was common for all ribbons to be mounted on a single metal bar and worn in a manner similar to a brooch. Other methods of wearing have included physically sewing each service ribbon onto the uniform garments.


"Orders of wearing" define which ribbons may be worn on which types of uniform in which positions under which circumstances. For example, miniature medals on dinner dress, full medals on parade dress, ribbons on dress shirts, but no decorations on combat dress and working clothing. Some countries (such as Cuba) maintain a standard practice of wearing full service ribbons on combat utility clothing. Others strictly prohibit this. These regulations are generally similar to the regulations regarding display of rank insignia and regulations regarding saluting of more senior ranks. The reasoning for such regulations is to prevent these displays from enabling opposing forces to easily identify persons of higher rank and therefore aid them in choosing targets which will have a larger impact on the battlefield. In times of war, it is not uncommon for commanders and other high value individuals to wear no markings on their uniforms and wear clothing and insignia of a lower ranking soldier.

Service medals and ribbons are generally worn in rows on the left side of the chest. In certain commemorative and/ or memorial circumstances, a relative may wear the medals or ribbons of a dead relative on the right side of the chest. Medals and ribbons not specifically mentioned in the "Order of wear" are also generally worn on the right side of the chest. Sequencing of the ribbons depends on each country's regulations. In the United States, for example, those with the highest status—typically awarded for heroism or distinguished service—are placed at the top of the display, while foreign decorations (when allowed) are last in the bottom rows. When medals are worn (typically on the left side of a shirt or jacket), ribbons with no corresponding medals are worn on the right side.


The study, history and collection of ribbons, among other military decorations, is known as phaleristics (sometimes spelled faleristics by users of U.S. English).

Notable examplesEdit




For comparison, ribbon bar, two medals and a merit cross of a Lower Austrian fire brigade member (2018)








United KingdomEdit

Admiral of the Fleet Louis Mountbatten, 1st Earl Mountbatten of Burma (incomplete)











United StatesEdit

Commander Richard Marcinko's ribbon rack worn in the standard U.S. Navy style, rows of three with no spacing or staggering.

In the U.S. military, the different federal uniformed services have different methods of wearing ribbon bars on uniforms. In the U.S. Navy, they are worn in rows of three with no staggering or spacing between rows. For U.S. Navy members who have three or more ribbons, they can elect to wear only their three highest-ranked ones instead of all of them. In the U.S. Marine Corps, they can be worn in rows of three or four, with optional staggering and can be spaced between rows. In the U.S. Army, they can be worn staggered with spacing in between rows. A U.S. serviceman's complete ribbon display is known by a variety of nicknames. It can be referred to colloquially as a "ribbon rack" or "rack" for short, or a "fruit salad".

General George S. Patton's ribbon bars



See alsoEdit


  1. ^ When viewed on a 1920x1200 display.


  1. ^ U.S. Army Regulation 600-8-22, 2006, P. 72&73, 6--2 Service ribbons, a.
  2. ^ Defense Logistics Agency (2015). "MIL-DTL-11589". Defense Logistics Agency.
  3. ^ a b c d e "COLOR CONVERSION LIST-8/14/95". Archived from the original on December 7, 2018. Retrieved January 11, 2018.CS1 maint: BOT: original-url status unknown (link)

External linksEdit