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‍Guide to the UK Police Uniform

Police officers have a job that requires them to be alert and always ready. Their job is not for the faint of heart, and it’s not for everyone. Police officers must be presentable, smart, and, most importantly, safe to do their job. 

The police uniform is a vital to help identify an individual as a police officer. Depending on the department and location, there can be slight variations in the style and design of the police uniform. 

However, there are some universal standards for what makes up a typical police uniform. Therefore, this article touches on different pieces of a police officer’s uniform.

History of the Police Uniform

The first police officers to carry out a uniform patrol were probably Bow Street Horse Patrol. By the early 1800s, the Patrol comprised around 50 officers who all wore a blue coat and trousers, a black top hat and a scarlet waistcoat. These uniforms were styled after military outfits, as the police force was created to serve as a type of civilian militia.

During the 1800s, many European police departments adopted dark blue uniforms to distinguish themselves from the military and as a sign of trustworthiness. Later, when the police force transitioned from a military-style organisation to more law and order-focused group, many departments adopted the more recognisable blue and black uniform. The blue uniform has remained a staple for many years.

From the early 1900s onwards, women began to join the police forces in more significant numbers. Because it was seen as challenging for a woman to wear a man’s uniform, some departments created a female-specific uniform that was more practical for women. Women wore skirts and were given a “handbag” style bag to carry their equipment.

What is the British Police uniform?

In the United Kingdom, Police Officers wear various uniforms depending on the role or department they work in.

On a day-to-day basis, most officers wear a standard uniform that includes a black t-shirt, black trousers, black boots and a stab-proof vest. Officers may also wear a high-viz vest over their body armour, which clearly identifies them as an officer. In colder weather, officers may add a high-viz jacket to their uniform.

Officers who are assigned to bike patrol or foot patrol duties may wear different uniforms that are designed for comfort and function. For example, bike patrol officers often wear shorts and reflective vests, while foot patrol officers may wear comfortable shoes and lighter clothing.

However, regardless of the uniform, all UK police officers wear a badge that displays their name, rank, and ID number. They also all have epaulettes on their shoulder to display their rank and ID number.

What Uniform does the London Metropolitan Police Wear?

The uniform that the London Metropolitan Police wear does vary slightly from most forces. They wear dark blue combat trousers, a white collared shirt with a black tie and a black stab vest over the top. Officers from the Met also wear a large hat, called a custodian hat.

What is the Police Scotland Uniform?

Police Scotland uniform includes a black t-shirt, with a stabvest and high-viz vest. They have black or dark blue trousers and black boots. Police Scotland officers are easily identifiable due to the high-viz vest they wear with the word Police on the back of it. Police Scotland officers wear either a baseball cap or Police cap and are usually seen in a high-viz jacket.

What equipment does the UK police carry?

The British police officer’s uniform is more than just their clothing. It includes all the equipment they carry.

Several pieces of equipment are standard components of a police officer’s uniform. The traditional belt is used to carry various bits of equipment, such as handcuffs, pepper spray, a baton and a taser. Officers have recently moved away from the weight-bearing belt to a carry system on their stab vest. This helps to spread the load of the equipment.

Officers are also required to wear a hat. The hats they wear depend on their location and role. Some of the hats British police officers wear are a baseball cap, a bowler, a custodian or a crash helmet. 

Police also wear items to help protect them from extreme weather conditions, such as a woolly hat, a snood or leather gloves.

Officers must often wear a visible badge that shows their name and department. Badges accompany a name tag, usually worn above the left breast pocket on the uniform.

Black Police equipment belt with baton and taser

Do Police Officers Take Their Uniforms Home?

Police officers generally don’t take their uniforms home. Some departments require officers to take their uniforms home as they start their shifts from different places. You do always have to take home your t-shirt and trousers to wash, as most Police stations do not wash your uniform.

If you are a police officer, you should find out how your department wants you to handle your uniform. For example, different departments have rules about keeping your uniform at work and taking it home to wash. Some departments have lockers where you can keep your uniform and change clothes.

How To Dispose Of Old Police Uniforms?

If you are no longer a police officer, you should dispose of your old uniform professionally and respectfully. Some departments have specific ways of disposing of uniforms. If your department has a particular way of disposing of uniforms, follow the rules so that you don’t end up breaking any laws.

Is It Illegal For Civilians To Wear Police Uniforms?

Yes, it is illegal to wear a Police Uniform. You can get in serious trouble for wearing a police uniform if you are not a police officer. It is a criminal offence to impersonate a police officer. You can be charged for this type of behaviour. 

Police uniforms are unique because they are meant to show authority and show trust. Therefore, civilians mustn’t confuse people by wearing a police uniform. 

Some websites specialise in selling police uniforms designed to look real. You can also buy replica police equipment to use for cosplaying or reenacting. Ensure you don’t confuse people by wearing the uniform outside your hobby or in public.

Can A Police Officer Buy Alcohol In Uniform?

If you are a police officer, you can buy alcohol in a uniform if you absolutely have to. You should try to purchase alcohol while off-duty if you can. Some people might complain if they see an officer buying alcohol while in uniform. Also, an officer purchasing alcohol in a uniform could make some people uneasy.

Can A Police Officer Drink In Uniform?

This is definitely a No-No; you shouldn’t be wearing your uniform off-duty. You will get in trouble if you are a police officer and drink whilst wearing your uniform. It’s a quick way to lose your job. 

Do Police Detectives Wear Uniforms?

Most police departments have different uniforms for different types of officers. Detectives and other specialised officers may not wear a uniform when on the job. In some departments, detectives wear a suit instead of a uniform, and other Detectives wear plain clothes to blend in with the public. Other departments have specific uniforms for specialised officers.

Do Police Officers Wear Their Uniforms At Home?

Police officers don’t (and shouldn’t) wear their uniforms when they go home, and some departments have strict rules about officers’ appearance when off duty. Wearing your uniform at home could put you at risk for your safety.

Do Police Officers Wash Their Uniforms?

Some police departments will wash police uniforms in-house, while others expect officers to wash their uniforms at home.

Are Police Officers Allowed To Smoke In Uniform?

Officers should not be smoking while on duty if they’re in uniform. More importantly, they should avoid being seen smoking, as this could be damaging their reputation as a role model.

The rules surrounding smoking are often different in each department, so officers should check with their supervisor before lighting up. If you need to smoke whilst on duty, you can at your home station. 

Officers who wear plain clothes may be able to smoke in certain situations. However, this can vary depending on the situation and location.  

Can You Commute In A Police Uniform?

It is not recommended to wear your uniform while commuting. The Police Federation, representing officers in England, warned that wearing uniform whilst commuting would be impractical and could put them in danger.


The police uniform is an essential part of the job. It helps to identify a police officer as authority and ensures they are easily identifiable. It also helps to protect the officer from the hazards they may face while on the job. 

Officers must always ensure that they are wearing the correct uniform for their department and that it is clean and presentable. Uniform symbolises the police and their commitment to serving and protecting the public.

Tom Brook

Tom Brook

I am a former Police Detective with years of knowledge and experience in investigating serious crimes across Scotland, working with communities and keeping the public safe. I aim to give back to the Policing community with this site!
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