The concept of uniforms was historically created to construct a distinction between members of society. It is a device that gives organizations the ability to control these members as they are elected to carry out the organization’s intended goals (Joseph and Alex 719). While the uniform may only be a material item, as a result of wearing it, these individuals come to be identified in a collective group status. Thus, “in a sense, the uniform becomes the group, and it rather than the group is often the focus of thought and affect” (Joseph and Alex 720). The idea of the uniform influencing the attitude of its owner can be applied specifically to military uniforms. A military uniform develops a soldier’s status in different ways, depending on the phase the person is in; they may struggle to embrace its influence during their initiation. Yet during war, the uniform status can be all consuming. In contrast, at the end of war the uniform status may be something a soldier struggles to break away from. These three transitions can be seen in the films All Quiet on the Western Front, La grande illusion, and The Best Years of Our Lives. The soldiers’ status developments are tangible through the interactions between their uniforms and the settings of the films. The meanings in the components of the shot connect to the themes of the film, “making important the way of seeing, or a certain way of needing to see” the setting (Hodsdon 68). The setting connects the soldiers’ feelings of their uniform status to viewers, thus explaining the evolution soldiers make as they manage their invented societal standing.
By Kelsey Knight