Medal ribbon

A medal ribbon, service ribbon, or ribbon bar is a small ribbon, mounted on a small metal bar equipped with an attaching device, which is generally issued for wear in place of a medal when it is not appropriate to wear the actual medal.[1] Each country's government has its own rules on what ribbons can be worn in what circumstances and in which order. This is usually defined in an official document and is called "the order of precedence" or "the order of wearing." In some countries (particularly in North America and Israel), some awards are "ribbon only," having no associated medal.

The U.S. Purple Heart's service medal ribbon


According to the U.S. Defense Logistics Agency (DLA), the U.S. military's standard size for a ribbon bar is 1 38 inches (35 mm) wide, 38 inch (9.5 mm) tall, with a thickness of 0.8 mm.[2]

The service ribbon for a specific medal is usually identical to the suspension ribbon on the medal. For example, the suspension and service ribbon for the U.S. government's Purple Heart medal is purple with a white vertical stripe at each end (see photo).

However, there are some military awards that do not have a suspension ribbon, but have an authorized ribbon and unit award emblem. The Soviet Order of Victory is a badge that was worn on the military parade uniform. However, a ribbon bar representing the Order of Victory was worn on a military field uniform.


Ribbon bars come in a variety of colors. In the case of the U.S. military, it maintains a specific list of colors used on its ribbons, based on the Pantone Matching System and Federal Standard 595 color systems:

Colors used on U.S. military ribbons[3]
Name[3] Color[3] RGB value[3] Pantone MS value[3]
Air Force Yellow    255,205,0116
Apple Red    213,0,50119
Army Green (Uniform)    40,71,52553
Aspic Green    191,184,0397
Black    0,0,05445
Blue HQ    183,201,211289
Blue HX    12,35,643105
Blue Turquoise    104,210,223542
Bluebird    123,175,212542
Bottle Green    17,87,64343
Brick Red    134,38,51202
Brittany Blue    163,199,210551
Bronze    139,111,78874
Brown    96,61,32161
Buff    185,151,91465
Burnt Orange    227,82,5166
Cannes Blue    123,175,212542
Cardinal Red    186,12,47200
Chamois    242,199,92141
Cobalt Blue    0,32,91281
Corsaire Blue    0,45,114288
Crimson    165,0,80220
Dark Blue    0,38,58539
Eggshell    221,203,164468
Emerald    100,167,11369
Flag Blue    4,30,66282
Flame Red    255,88,93178
Forget-Me-Not Blue    154,219,232304
Garnet    111,38,61209
Gherkin Green    74,119,41364
Gold    133,113,77872
Gold Brown    184,97,37471
Golden Orange    255,158,271375
Golden Yellow    255,205,0116
Goldenlight    255,198,88135
Graphite Blue    0,38,58539
Grebe Gray    84,88,90425
Green    33,87,50357
Grotto Blue    0,193,2133115
Imperial Blue    0,61,165293
Imperial Purple    152,29,151254
Irish Green    0,132,61348
Ivory    255,255,255
Jasmine    253,210,110134
Khaki    176,170,126452
Lemon Yellow    251,221,64114
Light Blue    91,127,1495415
Light Green    146,172,1605575
MC Antique White    233,223,151461
Mahogany    127,48,53491
Marine Corps Scarlet    228,0,43185
Maroon    87,41,50504
Midnight Blue    0,38,58593
Mintleaf    164,214,94367
Mosstone Green    122,154,1377
Myrtle Green    0,122,51356
Natural    202,199,167454
Navy Blue #1    4,30,66282
Navy Blue #2    4,30,66282
Nugget Gold    255,209,0109
Old Blue    162,170,173429
Old China Blue    123,175,212542
Old Glory Blue    1,33,105280
Old Glory Red    186,12,47200
Old Gold    132,117,78871
Olive    78,91,49574
Olive Drab    105,91,36455
Orange    252,76,21655
Oriental Blue    0,114,206285
Oriole Orange    229,114,0152
Ostende Blue    123,175,212542
Paprica    250,70,22172
Parrot Blue    136,219,223318
Peacock Blue    0,146,188313
Primitive Green    0,154,68347
Prophet Green    67,176,42361
Purple    95,37,159267
Putty    178,168,162407
Rally Red    111,38,61209
River Blue    0,111,98562
Scarlet    186,12,47200
Silver Gray    158,162,162422
Smoke    84,88,90425
Soldier Red    111,38,61209
Spicebrown    115,56,29168
Spring Green    197,232,108374
Spruce Green    0,76,693302
Star Yellow    253,218,36115
Steel    124,135,142430
Tarragon Green    137,144,1005773
Teal Blue    0,62,813035
Terra Cotta    150,56,33174
Toast    155,90,26154
Ultramarine Blue    0,20,137Reflex Blue
Victory Medal Blue #1    0,75,135301
Victory Medal Blue #2    0,75,135301
White    255,255,255
Yale Blue    0,114,206285
Yellow    255,199,44123


There is a variety of constructions of service ribbons. In some countries, service ribbons are mounted on a "pin backing", which can be pushed through the fabric of a uniform and secured, with fasteners, on the inside edge. These ribbons can be individually secured and then lined up, or they can be all mounted on to a single fastener. After the Second World War, it was common for all ribbons to be mounted on a single metal bar and worn in a manner similar to a brooch. Other methods of wearing have included physically sewing each service ribbon onto the uniform garments.


"Orders of wearing" define which ribbons may be worn on which types of uniform in which positions under which circumstances. For example, miniature medals on dinner dress, full medals on parade dress, ribbons on dress shirts, but no decorations on combat dress and working clothing. Some countries (such as Cuba) maintain a standard practice of wearing full service ribbons on combat utility clothing. Others strictly prohibit this. These regulations are generally similar to the regulations regarding display of rank insignia and regulations regarding saluting of more senior ranks. The reasoning for such regulations is to prevent these displays from enabling opposing forces to easily identify persons of higher rank and therefore aid them in choosing targets which will have a larger impact on the battlefield. In times of war, it is not uncommon for commanders and other high value individuals to wear no markings on their uniforms and wear clothing and insignia of a lower ranking soldier.

Service medals and ribbons are generally worn in rows on the left side of the chest. In certain commemorative and/or memorial circumstances, a relative may wear the medals or ribbons of a dead relative on the right side of the chest. Medals and ribbons not specifically mentioned in the "Order of wear" are also generally worn on the right side of the chest. Sequencing of the ribbons depends on each country's regulations. In the United States, for example, those with the highest status—typically awarded for heroism or distinguished service—are placed at the top of the display, while foreign decorations (when allowed) are last in the bottom rows. When medals are worn (typically on the left side of a shirt or jacket), ribbons with no corresponding medals are worn on the right side.


The study, history and collection of ribbons, among other military decorations, is known as phaleristics (sometimes spelled faleristics by users of U.S. English).

Notable examples






United Kingdom

Admiral of the Fleet Louis Mountbatten, 1st Earl Mountbatten of Burma (incomplete)

United States

In the U.S. military, the different federal uniformed services have different methods of wearing ribbon bars on uniforms. In the U.S. Navy, they are worn in rows of three with no staggering or spacing between rows (with the exception of the top row, which may be staggered to the wearer's left if covered by a lapel). For U.S. Navy members who have three or more ribbons, they can elect to wear only their three highest-ranked ones instead of all of them. In the U.S. Marine Corps, they can be worn in rows of three or four, with optional staggering and can be spaced between rows. In the U.S. Army, they can be worn staggered with spacing in between rows. A U.S. serviceman's complete ribbon display is known by a variety of nicknames. It can be referred to colloquially as a "ribbon rack" or "rack" for short, or a "fruit salad".

General George S. Patton's ribbon bars


See also


  1. U.S. Army Regulation 600-8-22, 2006, P. 72&73, 6--2 Service ribbons, a.
  2. Defense Logistics Agency (2015). "MIL-DTL-11589". Defense Logistics Agency.
  3. "COLOR CONVERSION LIST-8/14/95". Archived from the original on December 7, 2018. Retrieved January 11, 2018.CS1 maint: BOT: original-url status unknown (link)
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