“Party suits” originated with USAF fighter pilots in Thailand during the Vietnam War. These highly personalized jump suits were worn by fighter pilots when they, you guessed it, partied. And party hard they did! The modern morale patch can trace its origins to the party suit. While they existed before Vietnam, the party suit ushered in the wide-scale use of morale patches by the USAF flying community. With the adoption of VELCRO on flightsuits in the 1970s, the flyers transitioned morale patches from party suits to flightsuits.
In today’s Air Force, party suits are not that common. There remain a handful of Fighter Squadrons, mostly on the Korean Peninsula, who continue this tradition.
The National Museum of the United States Air Force host a display of Party Suits. For those of us who can’t visit in person, he’s the NMUSAF’s official fact sheet on the topic:
Sawadee! The Party Suit Tradition in Southeast Asia
Here’s also an article by Lieutenant Colonel John E. Norvell on his person blog about his personal experiences with party suits:
Party suits, Patches, and Jewelry — the well dressed Fighter Jock