Why do Pilots Wear a Uniform?

Why do Airline Pilots Wear a Uniform?

Recognisable. Professionalism. Authority.

Why Do Pilots Wear a Uniform?

Airline Pilots wear uniforms to make them instantly recognisable when at the airport or in the aircraft. The flight crew are in charge of the aircraft and therefore need to command respect and authority from passenger and colleagues.

Pilot uniforms are typically similar in design to that of some military officer uniforms as traditionally, military and commercial aviation share the same heritage. Each airline has a unique uniform design for its pilots, some more subtle than others, although they are clearly generally similar in their make-up.

They are worn for a number of reasons:


It’s important that the flight crew and their rank can be easily identified by passengers and staff, whether this be in the terminal or on-board the aircraft. Either through first-hand experience or through exposure to uniform in the news, films or pictures, almost everyone has a good idea what a pilot uniform looks like, making them instantly recognisable.


The flight crew may need to give time critical safety related instructions. If an individual look’s like they have a high level of authority, the instructions being issued will be more likely to be followed.

Professional Image

The travelling public quite rightly expect their pilots to operate to the highest professional standards. Flying is a safety critical industry where passenger need reassurance that everything associated with the act of flying a plane, is done so professionally and to a high standard.

Portraying a professional image by looking smart and presentable helps to reassure passengers of the flight crews professional standards. If a pilot turned up looking scruffy with their shirt not ironed, loose tie with the top button un-done and not well groomed, how would you this make you feel about their professional standards?

You want your pilots to be looking tip top as their consciously or subconsciously, their uniform standards will reflect their overall standard of operation of the aircraft.

What does a Pilots Uniform Consist of?

A typical pilot uniform consists of a jacket which is usually decorated with a set of the airline’s wings to help identify the individuals as pilots. A name badge is normally also present along with stripes on the arms to indicate the rank of the pilots.

Generally speaking 4 stripes indicates the rank of Captain, 3 Senior First Officer and 2 First Officer. There are some variations on this depending on the airline; for example, some airlines only have 3 stripes for their First Officers.

There are also variations in what some airlines deem to qualify someone as a Senior First Officer as some are based on time within the company whereas others are based on total hours flight time.

The contents of the jacket such as the wings, name badge and rank indicators (through epilates worn on the shoulder) are usually duplicated on the pilot’s shirt.

Material matching the jacket will usually make up the trousers.

Shoes should typically be plain black leather without any intricate patterns or contrasting colours for the stitching or laces.

Why do Pilots Wear Hats?

Not all airlines still require their flight crew to wear hats as part of their uniform. Low cost airlines do not usually include hats as part of the pilots uniform, but most legacy carriers do.

Many airlines still require their pilots to wear hats for the same reasons that they require their pilots to wear uniform; recognition, authority and professionalism.

Pilot Grooming Standards

Many airlines set out minimum grooming standards and guidelines for its flight crew.

For men, neat and well-groomed facial hair is usually allowed but beards must typically be short if the donning of a full-face oxygen mask was required (triggered by a depressurisation or smoke/fumes event).

Hair is required to be well groomed with no ‘extreme’ cuts or colours such as a ‘Mohican’. Any ‘non-normal’ colouring, like red, blue, green etc. is also prohibited.