Know the Types of Marching Band
Attire and the Best One for Your Band

If it's marching band season, then it's time to start thinking about what kind of attire your band will be wearing this year. Whether you're a school marching band getting ready for football games, or a student band at a competition, there are a few key pieces of attire that you should consider for your group. Learn a bit about the most common types of uniforms for band performances and some advice on how to select the right one for any band competition or presentation this marching season.

Are There Different Types of Marching Band Uniforms?

In the school marching band industry, there isn't a universally standardized classification system for types of marching band uniforms. But we can provide a general overview of the most common types of marching band uniforms that are often seen in schools:

The Traditional Uniforms

These uniforms typically feature a formal and timeless design. They often consist of a jacket or coat with distinctive lapels, trousers or a skirt, and a hat such as a shako or a beret. You can find embellishments like epaulets, braiding, and decorative buttons in traditional attire.


Drawing inspiration from the traditional dress of the military, these uniforms often have a more disciplined look. Common features include a double-breasted uniform jacket, high collars, ornamental cords, and colorful braids. Topping off the ensemble is usually a peaked hat or a busby. This timeless combination of items makes for a regal and dignified outfit.


Contemporary Look

It's increasingly popular and common to see updates on the traditional look by incorporating elements of the classic attire, like streamlining the silhouettes of concert pants into a more modern slim cut. Or uniform jackets that no longer have a lot of the collars, cords, and ornaments of the classic style but retain the pockets and shoulder pads. You can now even find bands with print and tie-dyed shirts. In many cases, exaggerating the size of the plume even more is an option to also stand out from the classic attire.

Materials are also updated for more comfort and versatile use. With the performances and music becoming more and more complex and bold, you need uniforms that are comfortable but also visually striking more than ever.


While not a new phenomenon, in an age where going viral is important for a student band or a band contest itself, choosing a popular theme or concept is more common than ever.

Some marching bands adopt uniforms that align with a specific theme or concept. These uniforms can vary widely depending on the theme chosen. For example, for a show inspired by a particular era or popular movie, performers may wear costumes that reflect that theme, incorporating unique colors, patterns, or accessories, especially on the color guard.

Casual Attire

In some less formal settings or for specific events, marching bands may opt for more casual attire. This can include band t-shirts or polo shirts bearing the school's name or logo, paired with appropriate bottoms such as khaki, black, or white pants and jeans. Casual attire is often worn during rehearsals, pep rallies, or parades where a more relaxed atmosphere is desired.

Times are Changing in Band Competitions

Ultimately, know that they can differ a great deal between schools, regions, and even countries. Every marching band has its own special style, so that the differences may extend beyond the usual categories. And each new marching season brings innovations and new traditions.

Nowadays, directors and organizers are much more accepting of innovating, and every band geek can't wait to mix it up with cowboy hats, tennis shoes, and even pop-culture costumes and references.

That's not to say that traditional attire isn't still the go-to look for bands, far from it. Every band has to first start with the typical uniform jacket, white glove, hat, and comfortable concert pants before deciding to be bold and introduce a new look at a band competition.

Choosing the Right Attire for a Performance

marching band blue

Band directors have a lot on their plate, including music, choreography, training, and program planning. On top of that, they have to help decide if the drum major, color guard, and everybody else will wear white or black pants, a dress, athletic shoes, or just a T-shirt!

So, when deciding on the attire for marching band performances, several factors come into play to ensure a cohesive and visually appealing look that aligns with the band's identity and performance goals.

Here are some of the most important factors to consider:

School Traditions and Program

The marching band's ensemble should embody the customs and beliefs of the school or program. When selecting uniforms, it is critical to consider the existing school colors, aesthetics, and history. By incorporating school colors, logos, or other visual elements, that help promote a cohesive and consistent image and is a great way to demonstrate the group's spirit and identity.

Comfort and Functionality.

One of the important things you should look for in a marching band uniform is comfort. Make sure that you and your fellow performers are comfortable in the attire. Some groups have skirts, while others have pants or shorts because a marching band uniform must provide comfort and freedom of movement for the performers. Consider the fabric choice, fit, and breathability to ensure that musicians perform their best without feeling restricted or uncomfortable. And don't forget all attire should be durable and easy to maintain, considering the wear and tear they may experience during band practice and performances.

Context of Performance

Understanding the performance context is crucial. Consider the venues and events where the band will perform, such as for football games, parades, competitions, or concerts. The attire should be practical and appropriate for the specific performance settings, taking into account factors like weather conditions, mobility requirements, and visibility from a distance. For example, you don't want to pick the colors of the visiting team at football games.

The Theme

If the plan is to put on a themed show or incorporate a particular concept, the attire should support and enhance that theme. Whether it's historical, cultural, or artistic in nature, the uniforms can play a significant role in conveying the desired message and immersing the audience in the performance.

Consider the Budget

Every marching band season there, every band geek will have dozens of great ideas, but band directors should always focus on what's feasible and, more importantly, what's possible with the budget on hand.

Cost is an important factor when selecting marching band attire. Finding a balance between quality, aesthetics, and budget constraints is essential. Working closely with uniform suppliers like Cousin’s Concert Attire, exploring different options, and considering factors like longevity and customization can help make informed decisions within the available budget.

The key is striking the right balance. Make sure that you don't skimp on quality, yet don't go overboard on a budget, either. Consider all the options open to you and choose one that allows you to make an informed decision.

In the end, the most important thing is that you get the best possible marching band attire within the available budget. Maybe all you need are dark pants or white pants with an extra flourish on the entire ensemble, like combining a tuxedo jacket with regular athletic shoes and not specific marching band shoes or a crazy color for only the snare drums in the drum line. Be creative and resourceful.

Cousin's Marching Band Selection Can Help You Decide

Ultimately, the decision-making process for marching band attire involves careful consideration of tradition, performance context, comfort, budget, and any thematic elements. Collaborating with band members, band directors, uniform designers, school administrators, and suppliers like Cousin's Concert Attire can help ensure that the selected attire aligns with the band's vision and effectively represents the program.

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