Anzac Day Dress Protocols and Traditions

The following is an excerpt from the Anzac Day Media Style Guide – Centenary Edition

Dress Protocols and Traditions

Conservative dress (smart/business attire) is the ‘norm’ at Anzac Day ceremonies although no formal protocol exists.

Wearing Medals

Legally, the only person entitled to claim medals, as their own, is the person awarded those medals. In this case, medals are worn on the left breast.

The relatives of men or women who have been awarded medals may wear them on their right breast. Some veterans may wear medals on both sides: their own and those of a relative. Media representatives may choose to wear medals in accordance with this protocol.

Wearing Rosemary

Rosemary grows wild on the Gallipoli peninsula and has a long-standing association with remembrance. Its usage has increased in popularity on Anzac Day. It is traditional to wear a sprig of rosemary on the lapel or breast (the left side is more common) or held in place by medals. Media representatives may choose to follow this tradition, or not.

Wearing a Poppy

Also known as the Flanders poppy, the red poppy was first described as a flower of remembrance by Colonel John McCrae, a Canadian who served in France as a medical officer during World War I. According to folklore, the poppies sprang from the devastation of war in France and Belgium and were red from the blood of fallen soldiers.

Increasingly, red poppies are widely used by Australians as a sign of remembrance, and are placed on war graves or next to names of soldiers engraved on memorials. This is very common on and around Anzac Day. Wearing a poppy (on the left breast or lapel) is more common in Australia on and around Remembrance Day, 11 November.

In the interwar years (1918-1939), many people also wore white poppies, symbolising their commitment to peace. This practice ended with the outbreak of World War II but reminds us that World War I, then known as the Great War, was thought to be the war to end all wars.

Colour Patches

It is not uncommon for service personnel (serving, retired or reserve) to wear a colour patch indicating which unit they are from. The patch, or some other sign, may appear on uniform, headgear, blazer pockets, pins or badges.

Although the number of colour patches can seem confusing, there is logic to their colour and shape. Historically, for example, the shape of a patch worn by an infantryman identified the soldier’s division; the background colour (or colour at the bottom) was the brigade colour and the foreground colour (or colour at the top) identified the battalion. If the line between the top and bottom colour ran diagonally across the colour patch, this identified a Light Horse unit. Artillery wore a patch with crimson (top) and blue (bottom). For more information check the Army’s Unit Colour Patch Register.

Service members can be very attached to their colour patches, which have historical significance. Classification of colour patches is complex and media representatives cannot be expected to know the significance of different colours. Similarly, the media are not expected to recognise particular medals or know different ranks. Asking about colour patches and/or medals is one way to build rapport with potential interviewees and find out more about veterans’ military backgrounds.

The Slouch Hat and Rising Sun Badge

The wide-brimmed khaki hat worn by members of the Australian Army is known as the ‘slouch hat’. The word ‘slouch’ refers to its sloping rim, which may be turned upwards (and clipped into place) on the wearer’s left-hand side on ceremonial occasions such as Anzac Day. When the hat has an upturned brim, the ‘Rising Sun’ badge is worn, also on the left-hand side.

The history of the slouch hat dates back to the nineteenth century. The brim was turned upwards to ensure it would not be caught, and removed by accident, during drill movements. For more information about the origins of the hat, click here. The Rising Sun badge also has a history that predates World War I.

The band worn around the slouch hat is called a ‘puggaree’. The six of the seven pleats in the band signify the Australian states; the seventh represents the territories.

Australian National Flag

For protocols concerning the raising and display of the Australian National Flag click here.

Wearing the flag – by draping it over the shoulders – has become a common practice at Anzac Day services overseas. While the practice is not illegal, according to protocol the flag should be displayed in a ‘dignified manner’ and not defaced in any way.

Debate concerning ‘flag wearers’ has become a recurrent theme in the media on and around Australia Day as well as Anzac Day. For more information about the history of the flag, click here.