It's helpful to think of marching band as a year round sport.
Timewise, it only runs June to November but season-wise? Your kid will wear everything from bikinis to parkas.
In the early days, send them in layers. It might be 900 degrees for the kids marching in the parking lot while the front ensemble shivers as they practice under the bleachers. And once the sun goes down, the hoodies all come out.
Yoga pants, tank tops, and athletic pants are good investments. They'll get a lot of use out of them. The kid that marches in jeans quickly starts to walk like a cowboy; they're simply too abrasive.
In peak practice season they need breathable clothing. They're either in the parking lot where you can see the heatwaves rise off the blacktop or they're on an athletic field (either the baseball outfield or the football field). We've asked the athletic director to plant shade trees on the playing fields but so far, he has declined.
The ratio of sunscreen should be inversely proportional to the amount of clothing they wear. Most of them bring spray-on sunscreen because it's quick to apply. And no kidding, I've seen an entire section stand in a line while the section leader sprays everyone down. All it takes is one kid to go lobster and they all learn from his mistake. Even the non marchers get a ton of sun. My front ensemble kid got one heck of a sunburn while standing in the shade all day. Apparently the bank of auditorium windows radiate better than a microwave.
No matter how much sunscreen your child wears, they'll still be french onion soup color by season's end. Band kids pride themselves on their band tans- they all have pale socks and gloves on, even when they're completely naked.
I should also warn you that tee shirts will undergo odd modifications in early August. The kids hack off the sleeves and slice downwards from the armpit to about 4 inches from the hemline. And once they cut off the the crew neck collar, it can hardly be called a shirt anymore. Don't accidentally throw a modified tee into the rag bag; I made that mistake once and I still hear about it.
Many kids wear brimmed hats (like ball caps or tennis visors) for the extra shade it provides. They're band kids, so the hat choices tend to be on the eccentric side. Sunglasses are essential too. Remember- they're in full sunlight, holding highly reflective instruments, and looking at music or drill instructions printed on bright white paper. Get good quality sunglasses with polarized lenses and a good UV rating.
Think seriously about high quality athletic footie socks for these months. They can't go without shoes or socks so whatever goes on their feet must be moisture wicking and definitely not thermal.
Late Summer, Early Fall:
When school resumes in September, the rehearsal days get longer and practices start earlier. They head outside every day around 1pm so the kids need to pack practice clothing. My kids are lazy and they just go to school in their practice clothing but if you've got a fashion plate in the house, watch out. You might want to issue a warning about how many times you'll deliver missing practice shoes or suitable clothing.
9 to 9 practices can be chilly at the start and finish. Buy a band hoodie, I guarantee it'll get a lot of wear. It's absolutely worth the extra fee to put have their name printed on all shirts and hoodies- when 150 kids are wearing the same exact thing, someone's bound to take the wrong one home.
This is the schizophrenic season for clothing. The air temp takes a backseat to their activity level. It's all about how much they're sweating, even if it's 40 degrees out. I've seen girls wearing knee high thick socks, shorts, a tank top, and a winter hat. Let them wear what they're comfortable with, just don't ever count on taking them out to a fancy dinner directly from rehearsal.
You're going to hear about band jackets, especially if you have child in percussion or guard. They're not asking for a varsity jacket, although many band kids have them. A band jacket is a black, three season waterproof jacket with an embroidered logo on the back. Kids love having their name + instrument on the front. They're sold through the spirit shop and the kids all love them. They wear them everywhere; I suspect some boys shower in theirs. I once paid my son $5 to take his jacket off long enough for me to wash it; he sat in the corner and cried until it finished the dryer cycle.
For football games and competitions, students MUST wear their show shirt underneath their uniform. If they don't have a show shirt on, they are not allowed to remove their uniform jacket. All students receive one show shirt, the price is worked into your seasonal fee. But when the spirit shop starts selling extra show shirts for family members, I highly recommend that you purchase an extra show shirt for your student. There are many times in a season when they have to wear the show shirt on Friday for football and then need to wear it again the next day for a competition. Unless you love doing late night laundry, a second show shirt is a good idea.
Black socks! Black socks are a uniform requirement. All socks must rise to at least mid calf- no skin should ever show below a pant cuff. For early season games and competitions, they need to be fairly thin and absorbent.
Late Fall (or Frozen Tookus Season):
I've seen the kids practice in snow.
Make sure they dress for the weather and take spare items for when something gets damp. It's hard to stay warm in wet clothing.
Pretty much everything from October onward is unpleasant after sundown. Several competitions are evening events and LOMB's flight is often the latest to perform. Long sleeved tee shirts, UnderArmour shirts and leggings (black)... basically anything you can get them to squeeze into underneath their uniform.
And remember the thin black socks I mentioned in the early fall category? Hide those puppies! Get them thick and thermal black socks as replacements. Marching shoes are supportive and comfortable but they're not warm when the temps dip below 35 degrees.
Kids will claim they're not cold at competitions or football games but I've worked pit crew and I've watched them shiver. Make a gift of a black ski cap, warm black gloves, and a box of chemical hand warmers- These are all things they can tuck into their bibber pockets or keep inside their instrument case. Your kid may protest but they'll happily use them when the air gets cold enough.
Hey veteran parents! I know I've missed more than a few clothing details.
Leave your tips and observations in the comment section below. This is definitely one of those conversations where we can all learn from each other, no matter how many years we've been in the system.