The United States Army Special Forces are generally known as "green berets" for the color of their headgear. Other United States Army units can also be distinguished by the color of their headgear, as follows:
- Jungle green Special Forces
- Tan 75th Ranger Regiment and Ranger Training Brigade
- Maroon paratroopers (82nd Airborne Division and 173rd Airborne Brigade)
- Black all other Army units
Berets were originally worn only by elite units of the U.S. Army. Hence, there was controversy when in 2001 the United States Army adopted the black beret, previously reserved for the Rangers, as standard headgear for all army units. The Rangers are now distinguished by tan berets.
The wearing of berets in the United States Air Force is somewhat less common, but several career fields are authorized to wear berets of differing colors, as specified in the following list:
- Maroon Pararescue
- Scarlet Combat Controllers
- Pewter grey Combat Weathermen
- Royal blue Security Forces
- Pewter green Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape specialists (SEREs)
- Black Air Liaison Officers (ALOs), Air Mobility Liaison Officers (AMLOs), Tactical Air Control Parties (TACPs)
Black berets are also authorized as an optional-wear-item for women E1-E9 in the United States Navy.