Do Commandos Go Commando?

Daniel Engber has an amusing Slate Explainer answering the age-old question, “Do Commandos Go Commando?

Do our commandos really go commando?

Many commandos do forgo underpants when they suit up in the field, but the practice is by no means limited to the special forces. With limited rucksack space and infrequent opportunities to wash up or change clothes, American troops sometimes decide that clean underwear is more trouble than it’s worth. In addition, going without can increase ventilation and reduce moisture in a soldier’s battle dress uniform, which in turn can minimize his chances of getting a rash or crotch rot, a fungal infection of the groin. (Whether or not they wear underpants, many soldiers use Gold Bond Medicated Powder to prevent these ailments.)

There’s no ban on underwear from Central Command, of course, but a number of advisories on military safety do offer tips that could be construed to support the practice. Web sites for the armed forces’ safety programs warn that tight-fitting uniforms reduce cooling air flow around the body, and the Manual of Naval Preventive Medicine suggests that heat injury can be avoided by wearing the “least allowable amount of clothing.” In addition, pilots and armored vehicle personnel are told during training never to wear underpants made from synthetic fibers. The U.S. Army Safety Center explains that the flame-retardant Nomex suits these combatants use can still transmit enough heat to melt any briefs that aren’t 100 percent cotton.

Hilarious. I can attest from personal experience that the combination of underpants, extended field duty, and a wet environment is not a pleasant one. Certainly, one wouldn’t want to wear briefs while patrolling in a swampy terrain. On the other hand, it’s advisable to wear some sort of support down there while engaged in parachute operations, given the location of the straps and the sudden, upward force exerted when the ‘chute deploys.

FILED UNDER: Environment, Military Affairs,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. jen says:

    This is way more information than I ever wanted to know about the military uniform. 😆

  2. Maggie says:

    Well, dear Jen, here comes some more TMI:
    My grunt informs me there is only one reason to wear skivvies… that you have something to cut up and use when you’ve run out of toilet paper in the field!

  3. notherbob2 says:

    Ah memories. Learning the hard way is part of military life. I remember how I learned to make sure the bottom straps on the ‘chute were tight. I left them too loose. Two nice “strawberries” resulted, one on each inner thigh. That drove home the lesson. These details add up in combat. That’s part of the reason why seasoned troops perform better than rookies.

  4. jen says:

    I was kidding, actually. Being a Navy brat, I’m aware of this and the toilet paper thing too.