Velcro may be the material for the space age, but it doesn't do much in the sand pit.
After a collective 16 years of war since 1990 in combat zones that resemble the set of The Mummy, the military brass has figured out that Velcro, (or hook-and-pile tape, as it's called generically) has one fatal flaw: Sand.
For uniforms issued for soldiers heading to Afghanistant starting in August, the Army is replacing Velcro pockets on pants with an old-school solution: The humble button.
Clogged with sand and dirt, the Velcro strips slowly become less functional and, according to the USA Today, have an unfortunate habit of bursting open in high-stress situations. Soldiers have been advised to clean out the Velcro with small weapons brushes, but the process is time consuming.
Sergeant Kenny Hatten made the case for buttons on an Army website:
"Get rid of the pocket flap Velcro and give us back our buttons," Hatten wrote. "Buttons are silent, easy to replace in the field, work just fine in the mud, do not clog up with dirt and do not fray and disintegrate with repeated laundering."
According to an Army survey, 60 percent of soldiers favored button replacements, while only 11 percent voted to stick with Velcro. (29 percent preferred snaps.)
Another benefit of buttons? They will save the army 96 cents per uniform.