KINGFISHER, OKLAHOMA — His closet, or a big part of it, isn’t at home now.
So to get there, T.S. Akers has to drive all the way to Kingfisher from Oklahoma City, walk through a set of doors, down a hall, and through another set of doors.
This is a special closet though, full of other people’s clothes, very important people’s clothes, general’s uniform clothes.
“Starting with dress blues and continuing through service uniforms,” says Akers pointing out a series of outfits in glass cases.
He thought it was a unique enough hobby but was surprised at how many people keep up and collect military fashion.
“In the 20th Century the American Army uniform saw a lot of changes.”
In might all look the same but Akers and other experts can point out hundreds of changes over the pst century of military uniforms.
Frock coats held sway for generations.
U.S. Army generals borrowed elements like the Sam Brown Belt from British officers first.
“They were still used into the 1940’s until the Arm switched to cloth belts,” says Akers.
Akers is most interested in Oklahoma generals like Atway Autry who commanded the 45th Infantry through two wars.
There is a piece of decoration on his left pocket that Akers says is a statement all his own.
Akers says, “That is a distinctly non-regulation piece. It’s a combat artillery badge.”
It turns out that generals can, and often do, fly in the face of convention and military code, thus setting trends.
The ‘Ike’ jacket became a thing after General Dwight Eisenhower gave it a name.
General H. F. Gregory, the Army’s first helicopter pilot kept gold buttons and trim on his dress jackets even though military code called for silver.
General Alden Sibley liked to display his medals in one row like British generals did.
An exhibit visitor says, “Generals seem like they have a lot of leeway to do whatever they want.”
Akers agrees, “Yeah. No one is going to question a general.”
Uniforms look the same but fashion trends often begin with subtle differences.
T.S. Akers knows where to look, just as he knows they often come from the top down.
A large portion of Akers’ Army general officers’ uniforms are on display at the Chisholm Trail Museum in Kingfisher through May, 2016.