US Military Academy at West Point/Uniform

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Question
What is the purpose of the shoulder cape on the over coat of cadets? What is the origin of the cape?

Answer
Hi, Margaret, it's good to hear from you.  Thanks for your interest in West Point.

You ask a very interesting question.  The uniform piece you refer to is the Long Overcoat.  I did a quick Internet search and found an interesting article on the Academy website revealing the history of Cadet Uniforms.

    http://www.usma.edu/news/SitePages/West%20Point%20Cadet%20Uniforms.aspx

The following excerpt is from that article:

    "The winters are long and hard at West Point so some type of heavy overcoat is needed much of the academic year. Overcoats were first issued to cadets in 1828; before that they wore any kind they pleased. "Such a mixture of scotch-plaid and camlet cloaks and cloth surtouts was probably never seen elsewhere on parade," one graduate recalled. Superintendent Thayer adopted the long gray overcoat in 1828 and it has changed only in the fact that the present overcoats are double-breasted. Women cadets have the option of wearing high leather boots with overcoats in winter."

While this doesn't directly answer your question regarding the cape, I may be able to shed some light on that from my personal experience.  In contemporary times the long overcoat is usually worn with the cape folded over the shoulders and buttoned in the back.  In it's natural position the cape surrounds the shoulders and provides "some" additional protection from the weather.  

While this is not a definitive answer, it's the best I can offer at the moment.

Thanks again, Margaret, for your intriguing question.

Best Regards,

US Military Academy at West Point

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Bill Taylor

Expertise

I can answer questions about admissions to West Point; about the history of West Point; about how to travel to West Point, where to eat, where to stay, etc.; and about West Point`s alumni organization, the West Point Association of Graduates.

Experience

I am a 1970 Graduate of West Point. I served six years on active duty and another 8 years in the active reserve. I have been actively involved as a Field Admissions Representative for over 20 years and have participated on my Congressman's Academy Selection Panel for over 25 years. I am actively involved in West Point Alumni affairs, serving in roles both with the West Point Association of Graduates and the local alumni chapter in Annapolis, MD. I also have two sons who graduated from West Point in 1995 and 2001. Both are veterans of the Iraq War and Afghanistan War. The 1995 Grad continues to serve on Active Duty in the Army.

Education/Credentials
Bachelor of Science, US Military Academy, 1970 Master of Science (Computer Science), The Johns Hopkins University, 1980

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