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The Red Serge refers to the jacket of the dress uniform of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. It consists of a scarlet British-style military pattern tunic, complete with a high-neck collar and blue breeches with yellow stripe identifying a cavalry history.
Constables and non-commissioned officersEdit
Constables (Cst) and non-commissioned officers (NCOs) wear the red serge tunic with blue gorget patches on their collars and epaulettes of navy blue. Metal collar dogs of the RCMP badge are worn on the neck. Constables and NCOs wear embroidered firearms qualification badges on the bottom of their left sleeve, and their embroidered specialist trade badge on the right sleeve. If a second specialist badge is earned, the least current is worn below the firearms qualification badges. Embroidered NCO rank badges of corporal (Cpl), and sergeant (Sgt) are worn on the right sleeve below the specialist trade badge (if any). Staff sergeant (S/Sgt), sergeant major (S/Maj), and staff sergeant major (S/S/Maj) are worn on the bottom of the right sleeve. With RCMP badges, no badge is worn directly above a badge containing a crown. Service stars, each designating 5 years of service, are worn on the left sleeve.
In "review order," the riding breeches (jodhpurs) are "midnight blue" (virtually black) which bulge at the thigh in keeping with traditional cut with a yellow strapping (stripe) down the outside seam of each leg, and laced closed beneath the boots. The breeches are worn with braces. Finishing off the Red Serge are brown leather riding boots, known as high browns or Strathcona boots, with spurs, and a brown wide-brimmed felt campaign hat with a glass-flat brim. The ever-present side-arm, currently either a Smith & Wesson model 5946 or 3953, is carried in a brown leather holster on a brown Sam Browne belt. There is a brown leather pouch for carrying handcuffs and another for two spare pistol magazines. The Cst, Cpl, Sgt, and S/Sgt Sam Browne cross strap travels over the left shoulder. A S/Maj may have a whistle and chain on the cross strap. A white pistol lanyard is worn around the neck and connected to the side arm. "Review order" may be worn with "full" Sam Browne, or "stripped" Sam Browne where no lanyard, pistol, holster, or pouches are worn. Female RCMP members formerly wore a modified version of the Red Serge for review order without the high collar but now wear the same pattern of tunic as their male colleagues.
"Walking-out order" is worn for more formal occasions. Walking-out order consists of the red serge tunic, a blue and gold waist belt with brass buckle, stirrup overalls, pants known in RCMP slang as "banana pants", with congress boots and spurs.
Formerly, female RCMP members wore the same tunic and waist belt as their male counterparts, as well as a long skirt and black shoes. However, a 1990 an order in council stipulated that female members of the RCMP would wear the same Review Order uniform as male Mounties.
Junior commissioned officers (inspectors and above) wear similar red serge tunics; however, their collars are solid blue as are their sleeve cuffs. Officers do not wear any qualification, specialist, or service badges on their tunics. Rank is worn in the British style of metal "pips" and "crowns" on the epaulettes. The yellow stripe on officers' breeches and males' overalls is finer material and wider than Cst and NCOs. Officers' "high brown" boots are different from the Cst and NCOs. Officers' Sam Brownes have D-rings for sword frogs, and the cross straps travel over the right shoulder.
Senior officers wear a metallic belt—not a leather Sam Browne—and gold-plated shoulder cords in full dress.
Officers have the option of wearing a campaign hat or forage cap with Red Serge.
The mess dress worn by commissioned officers has a scarlet cutaway jacket.
Prior to 1904, a white, topi-style of pith helmet was standard issue; however, plainsmen often preferred to ride wearing non-regulation cowboy hats and these subsequently became uniform issue in the form of the campaign hat.
An RCMP officer wearing the Red Serge is an internationally recognized Canadian icon.
The Red Serge is not worn as working dress when an officer is on normal duty, but is reserved for occasions such as civic ceremonies, musical rides, ceremonial parades, as a visual representative of the security force for government dignitaries, and during public relations—related special events such as school career days or guard duty at Parliament in Ottawa. Members also march in funerals for police officers wearing the traditional Red Serge.
The Red Serge is also worn by RCMP members during special personal events, such as the wedding ceremony of a fellow officer, where it is not uncommon for an entire detachment of a small community to wear the Red Serge as an honour guard for the bride and groom at their wedding ceremony. Usually, if the groom is a member, he will be married in his Red Serge, in lieu of civilian formal attire.
The red serge was adopted as part of its standard uniform by the NWMP from its establishment in 1873. In its first form, it consisted of a loose-fitting "Norfolk jacket" supplied from Canadian Militia stocks. While comfortable and practical, the Norfolk jacket lacked smartness and it was replaced after 1876 by scarlet full-dress and undress tunics manufactured by British suppliers. An elaborate ceremonial tunic of hussar style was prescribed for officers but infrequently worn. Scarlet continued to be the base color for all occasions; partially to distinguish the new Canadian force from blue-clad US Army units and partially because of the significance of red coats in the British military culture inherited from the Militia.
The NWMP Dress Regulations of 1886 provided for a simpler officers' full dress based on that of British and Canadian dragoon regiments. The 1890 regulations authorized the adoption of white patrol jackets for summer wear and brown duck (khaki) for patrol duty. The red serge was by now sufficiently well-established to serve as an icon of the NWMP, though increasingly relegated to dress and garrison wear. Photographs, however, show red serge still being worn by individual constables on field duty into the early 1900s. A dark-blue, patrol "frock tunic", of the same design as the red serge, was adopted in 1904 as alternative wear for ordinary duties. A mixture of scarlet, blue, and brown tunics were worn, according to circumstances, until after 1920 when the red serge became a dress item, with brown tunics as a standard part of the normal work uniform. This remains the practice to the present day.
In popular cultureEdit
During one of his stints in the World Wrestling Federation, Jacques Rougeau wore a modified red serge outfit to play his character of "The Mountie"; however, due to protests by the RCMP, the WWF mentioned repeatedly during his matches that he was not a "true representative of the Mounties." Eventually litigation prevented Rougeau from appearing in Canada as The Mountie and the gimmick was dropped.
In the Canadian-produced series Due South, produced from 1994 to 1999, the character Constable Benton Fraser of the RCMP wears the Red Serge on a normal basis. The character is a traditionalist who firmly believes in wearing that over the blue or brown uniforms, though he is seen wearing all three in the series.
- Bonny Reilly Schmidt, 2013, "Women in Red Serge: Female Police Bodies and the Disruption to the Image of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police" unpublished PhD thesis, History Department, Simon Fraser University, p.149