What Are the Typical Features of Drum Major Uniforms?

Sheri Cyprus

Drum major uniforms, whether for military or school bands, typically share many common features. Pants, a coat and a hat are the main parts of virtually any kind of drum major uniform. Typical accessories include a whistle on a lanyard string and a baton. White or black tends to be the main uniform color, but school colors are also used. The details on drum major clothing are often in a contrasting color and/or material to the main uniform such as metallic sequins.

In some schools, a drum major uniform will closely resemble a regular school uniform.
In some schools, a drum major uniform will closely resemble a regular school uniform.

Sashes, shoulder embellishments and piping trim in striking colors or materials add glamour and drama to otherwise neutral-colored drum major uniforms. The drum major is the leader of the marching band and the person who the audience usually sees first, so these uniforms are typically designed to stand out from the rest of the group. Large silver or gold metallic pompom-like plumes on the hats, along with a matching sequined sash are often featured on white drum major uniforms. White piping trim, such as on coat pocket flaps, button sections and the side of pant legs, usually accents a black or dark blue uniform for a drum major.

Accessories such as a whistle and baton also typically stand out against the drum major's uniform color. Whistle covers, or guards, are sold in primary colors to fit over metal whistles. Lanyard cords in similar colors, plus black and white, can be mixed or matched with the guard to attach to the whistle so that the drum major can wear the piece around his or her neck. Tassels, also usually in primary colors as well as black and white, are often used to dress up a plain baton to make it coordinate with different drum major uniforms.

Bibber is the name commonly given to drum major pants. These are usually made of durable fabric and often feature suspenders in an overall style as well as elasticized side sections for fitting purposes. The pants may also have one or two pockets.

Many drum major uniforms include a coat that may be cut short on the body or have long tails like a formal dinner jacket. Uniform jackets often feature bands or stripes on the sleeves as well as military style epaulettes or shoulder covers that are usually quite decorative. Some uniform jackets have a cape that fits off of one shoulder.

The tall, cylindrical hats typically seen on drum majors may be embellished with tassels, braiding or unique visors, but a large metallic or feathery plume on top is a common dramatic feature. Gloves for drum major uniforms are usually white, as are the lower bands of cloth called spats that are often worn around the ankles. Drum major shoes are almost always either black or white although some uniforms are designed for tan or taupe footwear.

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