All USN officers were reminded that they must provide themselves with a complete outfit of prescribed blue, white and khaki or gray uniforms prior to reporting for duty afloat, to be ready for any occasion.
The directive, contained in Alnav 381-46 (NDB, 15 July), states that reserve officers continuing on duty after 1 September shall provide uniforms adequate for the duty assigned. Uniforms which will impose the least hardship will be prescribed by responsible officers for personnel in this category.
Attention is invited to article 19-1, US Navy Uniform Regulations, 1941, which lists the minimum outfit of articles of uniform prescribed for officers of the regular Navy, and article 16-1 which prescribes the articles of uniform required for naval reserve officers which comprise all uniform now in use. Alnav 93-40 which discontinued the wearing of dress clothes during the present emergency remains in effect.
Source: "Officer Uniforms Listed for Regulars, Reserves." All Hands. 354 (August 1946): 71.
Regular Navy men have revealed their dislike for the proposed new uniforms. Nearly 5,000 letters have been received by BuPers from men in the ranks and some three quarters of these writers favored the old uniform in preference to the new one.
The Navy is not the only service in search of new uniforms. The Army's Quartermaster Corps' research and development branch is now making queries at installations near Washington, D.C., in search of new GI garb.
Out of six possibilities for men's wear, the simplest uniform, plain dark blue with yellow chevrons, gold braid on cap and one strip of gold set several inches from the cuff, is out in front. This outfit was the overwhelming favorite of 450 soldiers and Wacs at Bolling Field.
The War Department stated it would not buy materials needed for civilian clothing, so it may be later than 1948 before the public can see the Army's new blues on a large scale.
Source: "Present Uniform Favored by 3 to 1, According to 5,000 Letters to BuPers." All Hands. 355 (September 1946): 61.
Navy uniforms, and the people who wear them, have long been a source of mystery and lore. It was the uniform that attracted Debra Winger to Richard Gere in "An Officer and a Gentleman." Sailors headed straight for the neighborhood health spa after seeing "Top Gun" actor Tom Cruise in form-fitted khakis, while Frank Sinatra in "On the Town" showed us that a sailor, groomed to Navy standards, can literally stop traffic - as they continue to do in some small towns.
But, movies rarely portray an officer chasing his cover across a median strip or a sailor using a coat hanger to retrieve a "white hat" from an open manhole. If, in the 1986 film "Top Gun," Tom Cruise were tasked to perform his role in a downpour wearing dress blues, no doubt he would have, "lost that lovin' feeling." You see, it was less than four years ago that the Navy first authorized male sailors to tote umbrellas while in uniform.
As the Navy "giveth" accessories, it can also "taketh away" other items. These decisions aren't arbitrary, they are the result of a sometimes painstaking process. Suprisingly, many of the changes to Navy uniforms come about through sailors' suggestions.
Every day, letters from the fleet are received by the Navy Uniform Matters Office (Pers 333), located in the Navy Annex in Arlington ,Va. The office, adjacent to the office of the Master Chief Officer of the Navy (MCPON), is responsible for writing the U.S. Navy Uniform Regulations (NavPers 15665).
Navy Uniform Matters personnel wade through suggestions, searching for ideas which are creative, cost-effective and in keeping with the Navy's best interests and traditions. Once the suggestions prove to be valid, they are forwarded by point paper to the Uniform Board panel for consideration.
"Some inputs don't merit doing research, such as, 'I want to get rid of all uniforms' or 'I want to redesign all uniforms because I don't like the style or the color,'" said LCDR Mike Capponi, head of the Navy Uniform Matters Office. "Those are not worthy of being put to the board. You have to give substantial input.
"The ideal way we'd like to see a complaint is in point paper format. It can be handwritten. The paper should include the problem, recommendations and a solution. And we'd like to have it come through the chain of command, with endorsements. To get a favorable look by the board - get many endorsements," Capponi said.
The Uniform Board includes four voting members who meet quarterly. The Deputy Chief of Naval Personnel serves as president, along with the Commander, Naval Supply Systems Command, who monitors costs and procurement of uniforms; Special Assistant, Women in the Navy (Pers-00W), who monitors changes affecting women; and the MCPON, the senior enlisted representative.
Special members are also invited, including flag and senior officers or senior enlisted personnel with substantial operational experience as directed by the CNO. Based on public outcry, the board can delve into issues from shades of pantyhose to tattoos on ear lobes - any issue relating to Navy uniform regulations.
The uniform board can address new or existing problems and make recommendations for improvements. Guided by the uniform goals and policies established by the Secretary of the Navy and the CNO, the board can recommend, approve or disapprove suggestions or delay action pending results of further research. The board will not convene if only a few fleet inputs are available that quarter.
After an idea is voted upon, the results go to the Chief of Naval Personnel for review, followed by the CNO for final approval.
Each suggester gets a written reply from Capponi's shop, whether or not the idea is passed to the board. In fact, the Navy Uniform Matters Office is the first and last reply on all suggestions. "We will make the first cut if we don't think [the idea] merits going to the board," he added. "First, the change must be cost-effective and well-received by the entire Navy."
Capponi uses the dungaree trousers or "bell-bottoms" as an example on how to submit valid input to the board. Because dungarees are mass-produced and not cut to size, some sailors don't get a perfect fit. To initiate a change in the uniform item, sailors should suggest "a better way to do it," Capponi said. "They can do a little research on their own. Perhaps they know of a company that makes pants."
Capponi said that most sailors know little about clothing textiles, and even less about the time it takes to implement a new item. A change may take up to eight years before it appears in your uniform shop. The Navy Clothing and Textile Research Facility in Natick, Mass., believes that a dress uniform becomes "worn out" through normal wear in about three years. Even before the Navy authorizes a new item for sale, it must deplete its existing stock of the old item. This can take up to three years. "Nothing happens immediately," Capponi said.
Changes in clothing "style" are even harder to implement, he added, because, what's in style today, is usually out of style tomorrow.
"You must have [an idea] that will be here from 'day one,' to 20 years later and still be relatively in style," he said. "As for redesigning the entire uniform line, the money is not there. The bottom line is cash - can we do this without breaking our backs."
Capponi adds that it's "getting harder to find suppliers." Right now, only one manufacturer was asked to provide dungarees to the Navy but declined. "They've got a huge market - they didn't need the military market," Capponi said. Besides, he adds, there are certain guidelines set on how contracts are allotted.
Even with budge constraints, the board has economically attempted to keep up with styles and trends - generously responding to fleet input. Sailors still argue that even John Wayne's seabag didn't change this frequently, or this drastically.
It was 12 years ago when the board responded to the demand for more traditional uniforms - particularly, the jumper style "crackerjacks."
The 1973 decision to replace the traditional jumper and bell-bottom uniform with a coat-and-tie style was made with the sailor's interest in mind - affording a uniform which would be contemporary with modern times, Capponi said. There was much controversy over the decision, so then-CNO ADM James L. Holloway III, initiated a survey to determine the fleet's true feelings.
A scientific poll was conducted by the Navy Personnel Research and Development Center which sampled the opinions of more than 8.000 enlisted men at various stateside and overseas locations. The results showed more than 80 percent favored the bell-bottom style uniform. In addition, the unofficial poll conducted by Navy Times received more than 80,000 opinions that closely paralleled the official Navy survey. Therefore, in July 1977 the CNO approved the return of the jumper uniform. Issue to the fleet began in 1980.
According to Capponi, a return of the "salt and pepper" is often requested by some, but there's no major push for it from the entire fleet. The women's powder-blue nurse-type outfit will probably never return. "By the time a change occurs," Capponi said, "somebody will want to go back the other way, and there is not enough money to do that."
Less than 10 years ago, the Uniform Board OK'd the idea of Navy women wearing two braids in their hair while in uniform - something Army women had been doing for years. Capponi said that presently on hold is a request from a female sailor asking permission to wear "corn rows" without beads. "We'll see what happens when it goes to the board," he said.
Summer jumpers and peacoats for women were added to their seabags. "Outside of the material, women like the [jumper] style," Capponi said. "They don't like [Certified Navy Twill] because if it's unlined and stretches, it becomes transparent. CNT was brought in as 'the sailor's helper' because it was home washable [and permanent press]."
Recently the Uniform Board responded to requests from women to create small-size rating badges, rather than requiring the male "jumbo" sizes.
Another change occurred in June 1988, when all sailors were required to wear Unit Identification Marks on their right shoulder -- an item originally designated for shipboard sailors only.
Also, the stenciled name on dungaree shirts shifted to the left side of the garment to standardize name placement on Navy uniforms. Last year, navy-blue pullover sweaters - once reserved exclusively for the surface warfare community - were authorized for all personnel.
"We have expanded our uniforms to the point where we have too many options," Capponi said. "[Different] regional areas don't use the same stuff. I'm looking to review what we give out, make cuts and look at a sensible way to make the seabag more flexible."
Capponi's office collaborates with Navy Resale Services Support Office on ideas but has nothing to do with price setting. Navy Supply Systems is tasked to coordinate with contractors, where uniform prices are determined by design, cloth and sheer numbers required. Women's uniforms cost more than men's because the Navy buys fewer of them.
As for new items in the works, Capponi adds, "I could tell you about a lot of things we've got going, but they could get overridden at the CNO level. There will be some more things coming out on grooming standards."
For example, the Navy may address new faddish hairstyles some sailors may choose to wear.
"On board ships, [high and tights have] been there forever," Capponi said. "For a woman, it's not a professional image. But women's hair is always a bad subject around here - how many barrettes? How many hair pins? What is, or is not, too long?
"There's only one way to solve it," he said jokingly. "Everyone will have their hair cut above their shoulders - but that's not going to happen. We can control jewelry and tattoos, no problem. But when we start taking away things that they might have had while growing up, you're getting down-right personal."
Along with hairdos, Uniform Matters often wrestles with new ideas on men's and women's covers. And the battle continues.
As for beards, Capponi adds, "They'll never come back in any of the military [branches], unless it's some special assignment somewhere. And mustaches - we're lucky we have those. My mustache is very personal to me; I hate having it off. I've only had it off twice in the last 17 years."
In 1984, the CNO deemed beards a safety hazard and unprofessional in appearance. The Navy requested male sailors to "come clean" - except those with no-shaving chits from their doctors. Some commanders in the fleet, foreseeing the dim future on beards, required sailors to shave as early as three years prior to the mandatory regulation.
At the time, many sailors voiced complaints about, "the damn Uniform Board," that its decisions altered lifestyles, weakened mystique and diluted Navy tradition.
But what many sailors failed to realize, was that then-CNO ADM James D. Watkins - after receiving input from senior members in the fleet - implemented the "beardless Navy" through a directive, not a Uniform Board vote. In NavOp 152/84, dated December 1984, Watkins stated, "The image of a sharp-looking sailor in a crisp 'bell-bottom' uniform portrays precisely the tough fighting Navy we are."
Watkins continued, "I have concluded it is both proper and timely to change our policy regarding beards and require all Navy men to be clean-shaven It will also provide increased personal safety for those who must, on short notice, be prepared to wear OBAs (oxygen breathing apparatus), gas masks, oxygen masks and, in general, work in stressing environments."
The decision to eliminate beards was done in a unique manner - without convening the Uniform Board and without an open invitation for fleet input. But that route to change is the exception, not the rule.
Everyone is interested in Navy uniforms - the Navy, Hollywood and even the Air Force. The Air Force's new uniforms show many similarities to the Navy's.
"There's a [DoD] measure to drive all the services to look the same," Capponi said. "By buying all the same style, it's [supposed] to cut costs. It makes sense on paper, but tradition-wise, it won't happen. Certain things we need, they'll never need. You'll never standardize it. As far as cost-savings go, it's best to stay with what you've got."
And what the Navy has is a product that instills so much pride - that everyone wants to copy it.
"We're a visual society," said Capponi, " appearance will carry 90 percent of what the public thinks of you. If you look professional, they think you are professional. If you look unprofessional, they think you are, too."
A supplementary clothing allowance has been established for all enlisted personnel reporting to a normal tour of recruiting duty subsequent to 1 Jul 1955, with provisions being made for certain men and women already serving on recruiting to collect the new allowance.
Upon assignment to a normal tour of recruiting duty Waves and CPOs will qualify for an extra allowance of $80. Men in pay grades E-6 and below will receive $50.
Those already on recruiting duty, with one year remaining on a normal tour of duty as of 1 Jul 1955, qualify for the allowance as do personnel currently and subsequently assigned to the Commandants of the 10th, 14th and 17th Naval Districts for duty in connection with recruiting.
Source: "Special Clothing Allowance Set Up for
EM [enlisted men] Recruiters." All Hands. 464 (October
It's 2300. The flight deck is alive with activity.
Engines thundering, an A-6 Intruder crawls across the ink-black surface, slowly moving toward catapult number one. Its wings whine as they unfold. The pilot stares intently at the yellow-shirted petty officer with a plastic light, who is motioning the pilot forward. Moments before, the pilot's seat was occupied by a brown-shirted airman making sure the jet was ready to fly. There are green jerseys out in the darkness too, getting ready to hook the jet to the "cat."
Back aft, red-shirted ordnancemen load up another Intruder as purple shirts drag hoses to refuel, preparing it for flight.
Only flight deck workers wear jerseys, long-sleeve cotton shirts to protect from the heat and the cold. The colors are vital, identifying the job of the wearer:
Yellow: The main handlers and directors of movement on the flight deck. Nothing moves without being told to do so by a yellow shirt. The aircraft handling officer and catapult officers, as well as the air boss and mini-boss, are all yellow shirts.
Blue: Working mainly with yellow shirts, they operate different yellow gear, such as tractors and forklifts. They "chock and chain" aircraft to the flight deck or hangar deck, as well as operate aircraft elevators.
Green: Mainly the catapult and arresting crews. Photographer's mates and postal clerks also sport green jerseys when working on the flight deck.
Brown: Brown shirts are the plane captains, or "brakers" of the aircraft. They sit in the cockpit while it is being moved, braking as needed. They are in charge of making sure that all maintenance is performed prior to launch.
Purple: "Grapes," as they are affectionately referred to, or "fuelies." They refuel all aircraft and monitor all fuel supplies. There are purple shirts working seven decks below the hangar bay, on the hangar deck itself, and the flight deck.
Red: Red shirts signify ordnancemen. They load aircraft with all ordnance, missiles, mines and ammunition. They also make up the crash and salvage teams. This includes manning the flight deck fire trucks.
White: It would be fair to label white shirts as "miscellaneous." They consist of safety and medical personnel, catapult final checkers and catapult and arresting gear quality assurance inspectors. Anyone who does not normally work on the flight deck wears a white shirt on deck during flight operations.
Source: Walsh, Thomas. "Color-Coded Sailors: On the Flight Deck, Your Shirt Says It All." All Hands. 871 (October 1989): 32.