New Navy Uniforms

March 3, 2006

From various sources comes news of the new uniforms for the Navy, which are perhaps the most sweeping change of uniforms since the 70’s.  My comments are derived from three articles: The Navy Times’ New working service uniforms approved, the Virginian-Pilot’s Unchanged Navy updates its look with new uniform, and  the Navy News Service’s New Navy Working Uniform and Service Uniform Concepts Approved.

 The new uniforms are the result of a three year study that the Navy conducted in which it put out different trial uniforms in different locations throughout the Navy.  I’ll try to clearly describe what the new uniforms are and what they are replacing (and work through some ambiguities in the articles).

The new uniform for all pay grades  (officer  and enlisted) is the battle dress uniform.  It will come in three varieties of color for shipboard, desert,  and forest use.  This  uniform replaces the utility uniform and at least partially supplants the coveralls.

My views on this change are mixed and depend somewhat on exactly how this change affects coveralls.

As far as replacing utilities go, I like it.  The utility uniform started to enter service in 1999 (replacing the bell-bottomed dungarees and denim shirt) and were not liked by most sailors.  They aren’t particularly sailorly or military (they made you look like a postal worker or perhaps a maintenance person).  Also jacket worn with it is not particularly warm; it sounds like the jacket for the BDUs will be a big improvement.  

It is not clear from the articles how the BDUs supplant coveralls; the Navy Times article says "coveralls will be downgraded for use only on ships and when necessary for what officials call ‘dirty work.’  It is not clear if this means ‘only on ships and then only when there’s dirty work’ or if it means ‘on ships, or where there’s dirty work’.  If the meaning is the former, then this will not be well-received.  Coveralls are an extremely comfortable hassle-free uniform.  Nothing can beat them for a uniform to wear while the ship is underway.

——————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————— 

The other uniform change affects enlisted personnel from pay grades E1-E6 (Seaman Recruit to Petty Officer First Class) and is probably the more controversial of the two.    It is the year round service uniform.  It consists of the black garrison cap with a khaki shirt and black pants.  This uniform replaces the Summer White and Winter Blue Uniforms.

The controversy derives from two things: One is its resemblance to a Marine’s uniform, and the other is the khaki shirt.  In the enlisted ranks khaki has hitherto been reserved for the Chief Petty Officers. 

My views are split on this change as well, but lean towards favoring it.

As far as replacing the whites go I could not be happier.  The whites seem like they always need washing.  Eating a meal while wearing them is always a dance with danger (and I have to do that twice a month as we wear whites year round in Orlando).  They aren’t particularly  sharp looking, particularly the cotton version that is the standard issue (the Certified Navy Twill version is sharper, but more expensive).   When you are wearing that uniform and haven’t any ribbons yet, you look like an ice-cream man. 

The blues, which have over the years been called the Gestapo uniform and more affectionately Johnny Cashes will be missed by me.  When I was at Fort Meade I always looked forward to the change to winter uniforms as it is a sharp, professional looking uniform.  This view was not shared by all, but I think the degree to which the people who did like it outweighed the dislike that some people had for it.

One plus is that the rank is displayed by metal color devices that are pinned to the uniform.  This replaces the sewn on patches of the blues and whites.  The sewn on patches are always a big hassle (and a somewhat non-trivial expense to have them sewn on) come promotion time.  They will not be missed (although they do live on, of course, for the dress uniforms). 

It sounds like women will welcome the new uniform as it is modified for them. Other than the optional skirts, there isn’t a difference between the men’s the women’s winter blues and summer whites, something that makes them rather unappealing and uncomfortable for women; the Navy Times is correct in noting "…women were particularly dissatisfied
with uniforms that seemed to have been designed with only the male
physique in mind.
"

 All good sailors that have a fair amount of time in the Navy are of a curmudgeon change-resistant nature.  My father, a retired officer, does not think highly of the changes, commenting that ‘Everyone wants to look like the Army’.  I am sad to see the Winter Blues go but am otherwise fairly happy with the changes.  It will be awhile, however, as the NNS article makes it seem that the uniforms won’t be out in the fleet until 2008, (which means that the current uniforms affected by the changes won’t be gone until at least FY 2009).

  

 

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12 Responses to “New Navy Uniforms”

  1. CTR1 WILLIAM GILBERT Says:

    DEAR MR. FENWICK,

    I’VE READ ALL THREE OF THE ABOVE MENTIONED ARTICLES AND I FULLY READ YOUR PIECE.
    ALTHOUGH I CAN UNDERSTAND YOUR COMMENTS, I THINK YOU ARE COMPLETELY OFF ON THIS.
    AND THE COMMENTS OF THE TWO “OPINIONATED” ARTICLES COMPLETELY MISS THE MARK.

    NOW AS A NAVY “SPOOK”, I’VE HAD THE PLEASURE OF BEING REQUIRED TO WEAR BOTH UNIFORMS,
    BLUES AND WHITES DAILY, ALSO AT FT. MEADE. AND I’VE ALSO HAD THE PLEASURE OF HAVING
    SIX YEARS DOING SHIPBOARD DUTY, THREE PCS AND THREE DIRECT SUPPORT. SO I’D LIKE TO
    THINK I HAVE SOME TIME IN THE UNIFORM.

    MY FIRST ISSUE IS TRADITION. THE U.S. NAVY SAILOR HAS WORN A VERSION OF THESE UNIFORMS
    ALMOST AS LONG AS THERE HAS BEEN A NAVY. THE AVERAGE PERSON DOES NOT KNOW THAT JUST
    ABOUT EVERY MAJOR NAVY IN THE WORLD WEARS A VERSION OF THESE UNIFORMS. NOT JUST BECAUSE
    OF OUR COUSINS FROM ENGLAND, BUT BECAUSE OF US THE WORLDS FINEST NAVY. I MUST ALSO ADD
    THE FACT THAT WE ARE KEEPING THE JUMPERS WHICH DO NOT COORDINATE WITH THE NEW KHAKI
    SHIRTS. THE CROWS ARE A TIMELESS TRADITION, ADD THE FACT THAT YOU “WHO” OR SHALL I SAY
    “WHAT” RATE YOU ARE ADDRESSING JUST BY LOOKING AT THE SLEEVE. WITH ALL OF THE ABOVE,
    THE WHITES AND BLUES ARE RECOGNIZED AND RESPECTED WORLDWIDE FROM PORT TO PORT AS U.S. NAVY.

    SOME PERSONAL REASONS ARE IT IS NOT HARD TO MAINTAIN THE OLD UNIFORMS AS MOST PEOPLE SAY.
    WITH A LITTLE CARE BY THE USER THE WHITES CAN KEEP VERY WELL. ESPECIALLY THE CNT’S.
    CONTRARY TO POPULAR BELIEF YOU CAN USE BLEACH, JUST USE IT IN THE RIGHT AMOUNTS. WHITE
    AND BLACK LOOK SHARP WHEN A LITTLE CARE IS TAKEN IN WASHING. THE BIGGEST IS WE ARE NOT
    MARINES AND I DO NOT WANT TO BE MISTAKEN FOR A MARINE.

    NOW FOR SOME PRACTICAL REASONS I DISLIKE THE CHANGES. THE CAMOUFLAGE RESULTS FROM THE URGE
    BY SERVICE MEMBERS TO FEEL GUNG-HO. SO CAMMIES IS ALWAYS THE ANSWER. THE UTILITIES ARE
    JUST FINE. WHEN THEY REPLACED THE DUNGAREES WE LOST THE BELL BOTTOMS, BUT WE GAINED A
    UNIFORM THAT DOES NOT FADE, AND LOOKED MORE PROFESSIONAL FOR A WORK ENVIRONMENT. A SHIP
    BOARD ENVIRONMENT, NOT A WALL STREET OFFICE. CAMMIES HAVE NO PRACTICAL USE ON A SHIP,
    PERIOD. THE COVERALLS WERE THE BEST CHANGE TO UNIFORMS EVER. IN ONE OF THE ARTICLES
    THERE WAS A STATEMENT ABOUT CAMMIES HIDING DIRT BETTER. THE LAST THING YOU WANT IS A
    DIRTY SAILOR WALKING AROUND IN CAMMIES HIDING THE FACT THAT THEY DIDN’T NOT BATHE IN A
    WEEK. BELIEVE ME IT HAPPENS. POINT AND SIMPLE, CAMMIE ARE DESIGNED TO ALLOW YOU TO
    BLEND INTO THE ENVIRONMENT, NO NEED ON SHIPS. AND IF YOU FALL OVERBOARD THE LAST THING
    YOU WANT IS TO BLEND IN.

    NOW I WILL ADMIT THAT COMPLAINTS FROM WOMEN ARE LEGITIMATE, BUT WHY COULDN’T THE BLOUSE
    BE REDESIGNED FOR WOMEN. GIVE THEM ELASTIC PANTS WITH SHIRT TAILS DESIGNED TO BE WORN
    OUT, BUT MAKE THEM IN WHITE AND BLACK. THE EXCUSE THAT THE JACKET IS NOT VERY WARM AND
    THAT’S WHY WE GET THE PARKER, COME ON. MAKE A PARKER OF THE SAME MATERIAL AS THE CAMMIE
    JACKET, JUST MAKE IT DARK BLUE LIKE THE UTILITY JACKET WE HAVE. OR MAKE IT BLACK FOR
    FOUL WEATHER WE CAN BE AUTHORIZED TO WEAR WITH WORKING BLUES AND WHITES. HERE IS THE
    CATCH. OTHER THAN THE UGLY RAIN JACKET WE DO NOT HAVE A JACKET THAT CAN BE WORN WITH
    ANY UNIFORM THAT WILL KEEP US DRY AND WARM AND WONT GET SOAKED.

  2. rtryurhs5 Says:

    Here are some links that I believe will be interested

  3. Joe Jannuzzi Says:

    As an ex E-5 enlisted gunner’s mate from 1980-1986 I am always interested in the Navy’s uniforms because it seemed like when I was in the uniform changes were just done to make somebody rich.

    My company was one of the first to be issued (at GLakes) the new “old” uniforms. The jumpers were certainly a return to the old style but their quality was unbelievably poor–polyester whites so hot you couldn’t stand them and the service dress blues such an uncomfortable blend of scrap wool, they were one of the reasons I got out of the Navy. We supposedly had watch and line-handling uniforms but we always had to wear the service dress blues and whites, never the working blues or whites–not even for standing watch in a shipyard. Overall, our uniforms were poorly made, uncomfortable and we certainly presented as a bedragled outfit as compared to foreign navies I saw.

    The biggest problem is the new old uniforms were as labor intensive to maintain as the old uniforms if not more so. They didn’t fold neatly, wash in water, or iron. You had to take them to the NEX drycleaner. If you deployed, by the time you finished a cruise your uniform looked like sh*%! I figured out early on the only way to make it work was to have 2 of everything including peacoats because the deck division would never issue us proper foul weather gear for topside work. I had to wear my peacoat for topside gunnery work. The flimsy utility jacket could not keep a polar bear warm.

    I know enough about the real old Navy, the one I thought I was going into (saw movies like The Sand Pebbles, The Caine Mutiny, etc.) and the Navy should have returned to the real traditions not just the half-baked nit-wit John Lehman’s idea of tradition. The SDBs should have been melton wool. The whites, real cotton so you could wash and starch them. The dungarees should be made of thick denim and chambray and not those cheap poly blends that stained and tore all of the time. The winter working uniform should have been melton wool shirts/ pants with a jumper option (no piping/ no stupid tie). Same with the whites. Old Navy had tropical uniforms too and I know our modern ships all have air conditioning, but did you ever stand watch in Portsmouth,VA in the middle of July or in GTMO in June? Oh and take those stupid corfam shoes and sell them to the Polish Navy. There were so many disconnects with our uniform–the watch cap you couldn’t wear on watch, the gob sweater that was never authorized for anything–I got to wear it once when I worked the reefer at G Lakes chow hall during service week. Untailored bell bottoms, issued jumpers that didn’t fit. Some crew wearing grease-stained white hats, other wearing ships ball caps, still others wearing just blue or black utility caps. Some wearing black utility jackets, some wearing blue utility jackets. A worthless raincoat you never could wear, an Ike jacket that you bought to go with the salt and peppers that they phased out. Peacoats that had to have ( I swear this is true) silver buttons on one year and then the black anchor buttons, never mind I was issued one with silver buttons (that fell off the first time I wore it).

    I could not stand seeing another chief or Zero in polyester khakis. I could not hack another seaman with a peacoat stained in paint. The only thing uniform about the Navy uniform when I was in is that it was uniformly bad. But those lovely personnel men always had 4.0 dungarees cause they never did any physical labor. I remember their lovely uniforms when they typed my discharge papers–what sharp inverted creases they had. I won’t make any corfam kneepad jokes.

  4. Bob Baker Says:

    Hurray for the comments by Joe Jannuzzi, he hit the nail on the head. His stint in the Navy was from 1980 to 1986, mine was from 1962 till 1990. But the ideals of a Naval uniform are the same. I am all for tradition, it is what keeps the Navy recruiters in business. I started out as an E-1 at GLakes, Ill and retired as an O-4 at NAS Willow Grove, Pa. I saw the uniform change dramatically several times and uncounted small changes all the time. I really don’t know who these folks are in the Bureau of Naval Uniforms (28 years in and I still don’t know), but they REALLY don’t have a clue. Yes, something must be done to accomodate the enlisted uniforms, especially the working uniforms. But Khaki and Black? Or Cammies? Wow, I have been out for 16 years, have traditions changed that much?

    I have read much on how the CPO’s are enlisted and the uniforms should be the same. Bunk, I have worked very closely with the Air Force and Army since my retirement and I am here to say that if you lump your senior enlisted (E-7 – E-9) in with the pack, you are loosing one of the Navy’s most valuable assets… the Chief. As hard as it may seem to the younger enlisted, the Chief in the Navy is indeed the backbone of the Navy (much to the dismay of some officers, junior and senior).

    I am retired, I really don’t have any say in how the MCPON or the CNO wants thier Navy to look like, however, for what it is worth, tradition DOES matter and the uniform is part of that tradition. I still have my dress blues and am still proud to have served in them. Keep up the good work shipmates.

  5. RM2 95-99 Says:

    First off the new blue digital uniforms is about being easier for upkeep and better appearence when its dirty or stained. For some of you that dont remember being at GQ. You do blouse your pants and button up for Battle Dress. So you are now always in battle dress.

    The bell bottom dungrees were comforable as hell. But it rip easily and faded so fast that it wasnt funny. Thats also why dixie cup are gone from a working uniform to the ball caps cause of practicality. The blue digital are more comfortable than the new silly dungerees because of the bad material and cut.

    Remember that it is a working uniform. You want to be able to work in it. Remember all the partying you did. Shore Party, Fire Party, and Working Party that you did or for the sailors now doing. You can unblouse and work in a T-shirt for all the snipes down in the whole or workcenters on board ship. The unshine boots are great idea for sailors onboard ship. What about all the fields and division in spotlights cleaning and painting. The flight deck can wear the Blue Digital pants and that goes well with the different colored airdale rates. You can use the blue digits for VBSS – Boardings. And with the Navy doing more Boarding and Security detail it is important that we are man and ready. Over it is a good move as long as they dont go cheap with the quality of the material.

    The khaki shirt and black pants (Super DARK blue) is a great idea for an all year round uniforms if you think about it. One Uniform, no more milkmans and Johnny Cashs

    Two if your cold add a jacket or sweater.

    Three the reason they went to a collar device is its is in uniform with the warfare device and ribbons and it is for easier setup when get frock. I like the crow on the sleeves but hay it does look nice and Dont say because there is no rating device its a bad idea. Cause Dungurees never had rating badges either. Plus it wil drive the other services crazy think that everyone in the navy is a CAPT/COL. I got salute by the Army cause they see the crow thinking it is a full bird.

    Plus they got rid of the khaki belt so you can still have you your ship or warfare belt buckles and wont look like a leatherneck.

    You might not remember but jarheads also wore khaki top and bottoms during WWII.

    The CNO has state that no changes will be made to the Cracker Jacks and White. That is were we will be keeping our traditions. Which I agree. Keeping the Cracker Jacks and White make us stand out. Being the tradition uniforms.

    For all your unsalty sailors complaining about your Cracker Jacks:
    ONE you do have have pants pockets, look for the slot on the top of the pants and you will see the pouch.

    TWO If your salty you will have learned that you do NOT button all your thirteen buttons just three buttons on top the right corner button, the left corner and the center button. And two corner buttons on the bottom.

    Cause if your sq away you will know that you are suppose to have the two bottom buttons showing.

    So if your are out on liberty you will just have to unbutton the top three and you are good to go.

    Or go custom with VELCO. Like old school west pac sailors with the custom rig Cracker Jacks with the side zipper add on the Cracker Jack top underneth your arm. Liberty Dragon cuffs and slik lining.

    THREE for all you unsalt sailors I see you guys carrying your Dixie Cups. You need to learn that you can fold your Dixie Cups in three or the inverted fold and tuck it in the back of your pants. So you dont lose your cover at the BAR if you are required to be in uniform on liberty. AKA Fleet Week or Overseas.

    This is my two cents and I hope it make sense for all the Salty dogs and New RICKS coming out of Boot.

    And with the Navy doing more Boarding and Security detail it is important that we are man and ready.

    The US Navy is the Best Dont Let ANYONE tell you other wise.

    Fair Winds and Following Seas.

  6. Bob Curry Says:

    what does the 3 stripes around the neck and sleeves of the dress blues jumpers represent. someone told me that the 3 stripes represent the 3 fleets. i cannot find anything about what the stripes indicate. please someone help me. tks

  7. DeMarcus Brown Says:

    I have read the comments by everyone and personay I dont see the big deal I understand that the navys uniforms are trademark like no other but change is not always bad I guess im just for change being a new sailor I dont really care for the whites they get dirty to easily the blues I think they should keep that uniform is sharp I love it now I dont want to offend our vets who proudly put on the uniform I respect you but this is a new day and age and no it would not be the best if you fell overboard but thats a risk that we take enytime respect

  8. T Stuard Says:

    I think we all need to stop and remember that the word uniform – means “alike” and the Navy is far from having anything uniform. As an enlisted memeber – we have up to 8 various uniforms to track – Dress Blues, Dress Whites, Working Whites, Working Blues, Dungarees, Coveralls, Forest Green BDU’s, Desert BDU’s. And that’s just if you are E1-E6….that does not add the Collar Dress Whites for E-7 and above, etc….

    I beleive it is long overdue that the Navy finally streamline uniforms and bring the service back together and require EVERYONE at whatever rank look the same – we are one Navy.

    As far as crows only w/o ratings I think that’s a wonderful idea – while I am proud of my Yeoman rating – I believe the lack of a rate identifier is a great tactical move – not to mention the frocking issues mentioned above, etc.

    In the Cargo Handling Force – no one cares what your rate is anyway – it’s how well you perform on the rig, etc…

    It’s about time the Navy bring the services together and try to be “uniform” !!!

  9. calvin walters Says:

    for E1 to E6, this is all we need.

    CrackerJacks:
    lighter, comfortable material and change to navy blue color for pete’s sake. and the pants just like the white jumpers but still black, oh and don’t forget pockets for pants! you think men carry around purses or something? white dixie cup

    White Jumpers:
    add navy blue piping, stars. white dixie cup.
    get rid of the worthless back pocket which the button falls off the first time you wash the pants.

    Working Uniform on shore:
    Just like the cnt working whites but: pants color like the crackerjacks, light blue shirt with ribbons, etc.
    black garrison cap
    ladies can wear OPTIONAL dress

    Working Uniform at sea:
    Everyone wears Dark Navy Blue Coveralls with black boots, even the Officers! How about a CHOICE if you want to wear metal or sewn-on insignia for them. don’t forget your command or ships ball cap!

    Feeling Cold? I like the working jacket with the removable inside liner, maybe different types of these liners you may purchase on your own.

    PT Uniform:
    I like what it will look like

    no BDU’s, go join the army or something.
    no stupid expensive peacoat, stupid raincoat, stupid blue jacket, dungarees or “utilities”, stupid gloves, stupid black hat, stupid black sweater.

    thank you.

  10. bryan Says:

    I like that they are Doing the Dress Blues with all the Zippers so it helps shimates that have broad shoulders. Everyone here knows how snug putting that top on is. I like how they are adding the pipping back to the Dress Whites. And with the BDU’s if you have the Field Jacket with it and to me its as warm as a foul weather jacket. I wish they would you could use the coveralls like the pilots flight suit. Pilots can drive from work to home and do stops just like with the utilities. And glad they are keeping them they are the most comfortable uniform in the navy. And why they are going to the BDU’s they are more comfortable to wear than the utilities and also like the guy said above when your on a ship everyone wears the the coveralls (officer, chiefs and E1-E6). And also with the addition of the BDU’s they also make it where you dont have to go home and change before you go to the grocery store or somewhere other than a gas station and etc. And also I hope the command ball cap because that gives pride in organizaiton cause i can tell you everywhere i been I have a ball cap. I saw the new Year round uniforms on damn neck when i was there for school and would like to say that khaki and black looks like crap in person.

  11. ernie Says:

    i was never down with the whites because they got dirty so quick, and made you look grubby once they got that way, but the blues were great and they were warm as far as i was concerned. the dungaree uniform had a purpose though, it was designed to be a makeshift floatation device. the material was made of sn airtight when wet fabric, so if you were to fall overboard or if your ship took a hit you were supposed to remove your pants and tie off the leg cuffs and fill them with air so they would act as a life preserver you put around your neck. same thing with the shirt. even the diuxie cup had a use . . . if there was an oil fire on the water’s surface it could be used to capture air from the surface, and brought under water so you could avoid surfacing into the fire. i guess when they redesigned the uniforms they forgot to take all of that into consideration.

    what does the 3 stripes around the neck and sleeves of the dress blues jumpers represent. someone told me that the 3 stripes represent the 3 fleets. i cannot find anything about what the stripes indicate. please someone help me. tks

    Comment by Bob Curry — May 6, 2007 @ 7:53 pm

    well Bob, i can give you a partial answer, i forget the exact three battles, but the three stripes on the cuffs and the napkin of the Navy dress blue uniform represented the three major battles in the pacific during ww2. pretty certain that the “Battle of the Coral Sea” was one of them, and i believe “the battle of Midway was another,” the last one escapes me though . . . i’m thinking it was either Quadalcanal, Saipan, or Iwo Jima.
    .

  12. John Wirth Says:

    Dear Charles Fenwick:

    I have a project of tracing the precise history of the 13-button bell bottoms.

    Of interest:
    -which uniforms ever had such bell bottoms, starting when (years)
    -for which uniform(s) and when (year) any of these were replaced by bell bottoms with a zipper closure or were replaced by non-bell bottoms (also presumably with a zipper closure)
    -for which uniform(s) and when (year) any such bell bottoms were readopted after having been replaced

    Thanks.

    John Wirth, Stroudsburg, PA


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