When Mischa Moscovitch started his military training in October, he had to learn – or relearn – how to get dressed.
"Deportment is a huge thing. It transfers over to everything else we do," says the 23-year-old Toronto native, who is midway through the basic military qualification to become a reservist in Canada's infantry.
There can't be any wrinkles, and no loose threads. In fact he keeps a lighter in his breast pocket to burn any errant threads off, for as he says, "Threads are death to you."
Then there's the system for socks. Black cotton socks first, then the green wool socks to prevent friction inside the boot to protect your feet. "In infantry, it's like your main tool. You're walking everywhere so you really have to take care of your feet."
His tunic, which is his top shirt, can't have any buttons loose, and the string around the middle has to be tied tight.
Pants need to be worn so that the "sand traps" at the bottom of the pants are tucked in to the boots to prevent debris from getting inside. The actual pant that goes down has to be rolled up and bloused over top his boots.
Another rule: No mixing civilian and military clothes, even down to military-issued underwear. The recruit who shows up at the Captain Bellenden Seymour Hutcheson VC Armoury, on a quiet road in Etobicoke, in the west end of Toronto, with a Blue Jays shirt underneath his uniform will get barked at. Worse, he and all his fellow recruits will likely be punished with "physical training." Some instructors like to dole out four minutes of planks, while others will make everyone cycle through holding their rifles above their heads and in front of them for 15 minutes.
Boots need to gleam. "They're very tough on polishing your boots," Moscovitch says. It took 11 or 12 coats of polish before his were up to snuff.
His black wool beret has to be folded to the right over his ear and worn one finger's width over his eyebrow. It took time to form it to his head. Moscovitch wore it in the shower day after day, getting it soaking wet and working it over so that it would form to his head just right.
The real lesson in getting dressed, of course, is not only learning to follow exacting standards, but that he is part of something much bigger than himself. Seeing himself in uniform for the first time brought that home.
"It kind of blew me away," he says. "I couldn't wait to get my stuff and put it on. And once it happens you're like, Wow, this is really happening."