The War on VFFs. This, too, shall pass.

I’ve been ardently striving to avoid the turmoil surrounding the recent ban on Vibram Five Finger shoes.  That’s no exaggeration, either.  Yours truly has proven most recalcitrant in the face of pressure to compose a blog post about this issue:

From: [REDACTED]
Sent: Friday, June 24, 2011 3:42 PM
To: Burke, Crispin J CPT MIL USA
Subject: FW: PT Uniform Clarification (UNCLASSIFIED)

Classification: UNCLASSIFIED
Caveats: NONE

Please tell me this will hit the blog.

But, with the controversy hitting The Best Defense, Kings of War, and even the Washington Post, I felt it was time to break my silence on the issue

Full disclosure: I’ve been a VFF fanatic for the last year.  Dr. Thomas Rid can attest to that.  My only complaint thus far has been that the phenomenon hasn’t quite caught on in Germany.  Indeed, my VFFs have gotten more than a few quizzical looks from the locals.

These people think I dress funny.

But despite their comfort, utility, and legion of dedicated fans, VFFs are verboten as per Army regs.  Last year, I was actually kicked out of a weight room for wearing VFFs in civilian workout clothes; the justification being that VFFs “aren’t really shoes”.  (Of course, this brings up the philosophical debate:  what constitutes “shoeness”?  Ponder that.)

But certainly, this isn’t the first time the Army’s banned a useful piece of equipment.  And in many cases, Army leadership eventually comes to its senses.

When I was a new lieutenant in the 82nd Airborne Division, Camelbaks were off-limits, despite the fact that they were, by that time, standard issue.  Actually, that’s somewhat misleading:  our brigade command sergeant major invoked a little-known clause in 82nd Airborne Division Pamphlet 600-2 and forbade soldiers from wearing Camelbaks on their, you know, backs.  Instead, soldiers during a JRTC rotation carried their Camelbaks in their left hand everywhere they walked.  After all, it would be unbecoming of the 82nd Airborne to not salute during a JRTC rotation.  A few years later, you’d be hard-pressed to find a set of body armor that didn’t have a Camelbak attached to it.

The same goes for the black fleece jackets soldiers wear during the winter months.  Initially designed to be worn underneath a Gore-Tex parka, the fleece jacket proved a comfortable outer garment.  Unfortunately, soldiers who donned the black fleece jacket as a standalone item of clothing were deemed “wronger than two choir boys fucking“.  (My response that there wasn’t necessarily anything wrong with two people taking part in mutually consensual activities wasn’t exactly helping my cause any.)

Fortunately, a few Army senior leaders were caught on camera wearing the black fleece jacket over their Desert Combat Uniforms (DCUs), paving the way for soldiers to stay warm in relative comfort.  (Sadly, this was General Tommy Franks’ one saving grace)

My fellow VFFers, remain patient.  Time (and history) is on our side.  If the Army can nix the beret, they can finally permit VFFs.  We shall overcome.

About Crispin Burke

US Army Aviator, Military Blogger. Self-described as a "Pocketful of Awesomeness". Does not represent the views of the Department of Defense.
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