Uniforms are an integral part of armies everywhere in the world. They speak volumes about the wearers’ traits, characters, as well as their countries culture. The style, color, appearance, even the fabrics used are all carefully planned and put together to maximize their use, comfort, practicality, and protection that could affect the soldiers’ morale and performance. Some uniforms, like those of the British Army are so iconic that they form the model for the uniforms of other countries(U.S. Army, Navy and Marine Corps uniform are all based on the British models. But there are some nations that dress their soldiers in uniforms that are like nothing we’ve ever seen. there were some that went out of the way and stood out. Here are some of the oddest military uniforms we have ever seen.

Papal Swiss Guard

Swiss guard swearing-in ceremony at the Paul VI Audience Hall. (Paul RongaCC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons)

The Papal or Pontifical Swiss Guards are among the oldest active military units ever and started in 1506. Their main tasks were to protect the pope and the Vatican Palace in the entirety of the Vatican City. Known for their colorful blue, red, orange, and yellow dress uniform that gives a Renaissance period vibe, this design that we know was a revision of commandant Jules Repond in 1914. Putting on the uniform is not easy-breezy as it is composed of 154 pieces (excluding the weapons) and takes nearly 32 hours and three fittings to complete. It might also be the heaviest to wear at 8 pounds.

Swiss Guardsman in regular duty uniform. (Simone Casadei User: Wappi76CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons)

Thankfully, the modern regular duty service dress uniform is less-complicated with a solid blue version paired with a black belt, white-collar, and a black beret. However, there’s no denying that the colorful tricolor grand gala uniform catches our attention.

India’s Border Security Force

The BSF Camel Mounted Band playing the tune “Hum hain seema suraksha bal” while passing through the Rajpath during the full dress rehearsal for Republic Day Parade -2004, in New Delhi. (Government of IndiaGODL-India, via Wikimedia Commons)

BSF Camelry was established in 1965 in the wake of the Indo-Pakistani War. Soon after, the male camels (around 1200 in total) were dispatched as an equivalent of the usual cavalry team to be used in the desert border with Pakistan and Bangladesh. The camels used in ceremonial duties are trained to get used to loud music and also 75 different pieces of decorative items, including their riders’ outfits. The uniforms and colorful harnesses of the camel contingent are different from the rest of the BSF.

Greek Evzones

Evzone in ceremonial clothing, Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, Athens, Greece. (Jebulon, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons)

Historically speaking, Greek Evzones were elite light infantry and mountain units. Today, they are part of the presidential guard of the Tomb of The Unknown Soldier in Athens, Greece, as a ceremonial unit. Their unique uniform could be traced back to the clothes worn by the klephts who fought against the Ottoman Empire for Greek independence from the 1400s to 1800s. Prior to that, they wore blue trousers, tailcoats, and shako (tall military cap) until it was changed in 1837 to be worn by the native light infantry battalion. Due to its popularity, it became the official uniform of the Evzones in 1868.

French Foreign Legion Pioneers

Sappers of the 1st Foreign Regiment take part in the Bastille Day 2013 military parade on the Champs-Élysées in Paris. (© Marie-Lan Nguyen / Wikimedia Commons)

With the Legion’s bearded pioneers wearing buffalo leather aprons and carrying polished axes on their shoulders, it’s hard not to notice this unit and its unusual gear. During the 18th century, this engineering unit served with the grenadier companies of the infantry regiments of the French Royal Army. Their main purpose was to demolish the obstacles and barriers created by the enemy using their axes. Outside wars, the pioneers worked as tradesmen, constructing and repairing buildings or clearing access through thick and grassy terrains.

Fiji’s Presidential Guard

Rear Adm. Bruce Gillingham, commander of Navy Medicine West, receives a presidential salute from the Republic of Fiji Military Forces Quarter Guard at the RFMF Strategic Headquarters during Pacific Partnership 2015. (Senior Airman peter reft, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)

Yes, the island nation of Fiji has a military with about 6,500 troops on active duty. It has even deployed some 500 troops to Iraq to join coalition forces.  What may be more surprising is the contribution they have made to the UN’s peacekeeping missions around the world since 1970. According to the UN, Fijian peacekeepers have served in virtually every major conflict zone in which the UN was present, including Angola, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Cambodia, Croatia, Darfur, Iraq, Kosovo, Lebanon, Liberia, Sinai, Namibia, the Solomon Islands, Kosovo, Rwanda, Somalia, South Sudan, and Timor-Leste. As a percentage of their population of about 900,000 people, Fiji has contributed more personnel to UN Peacekeeping missions than any other state.  The UN pays Fiji over $1,400 a month for each soldier assigned to Peace Keepin duty and Fiji lets the individual solder keep most of it, which spends pretty well in that country. For this reason, serving in the miitary in Fiji is a very attractive career to young men on this tiny island.

Drawn from the armed forces is a small unit that protects Fiji’s Government House and the President in residence there. Fiji’s Presidential Guards wear a Red military shirt and a traditional Fijian kilt-like garment called sulu which is starched to stiffness. These guards are members of the Fijian Army, Navy, and Air Force chosen for ceremonial duties and security duties at the Government House in the Suva capital. Note please that their footwear is open-toed sandals.