What's happened to the uniform

Should the square rig uniform be retro-modernized to recapture traditional jolly jack appearance?

  • Total voters


I'm an ex matelot who joined up in the late seventies, just when they were introducing the new style uniform, i.e. no horizontal creases on the trousers etc. This new uniform just never looked right and in my opinion undid the whole Jack appearance that matelots held dear for generations.

On Friday 5th Sept 2008, I witnessed my son pass out from HMS Raleigh, a very proud moment for me, but the way the service is dressing todays sailors is bordering on ridiculous. Everyone of them was wearing a cap about two sizes too large for them so that it was over the back of the head and sat on their ears.

Perhaps I'm a dinosaur but I just hark for the days of proper bell bottoms, a proper blue jean collar (on some of the girls, the collar looked more like a cape, it was so huge), and none of this unisex nonsense, you can hardly see the white front.

The navy uniform always used to be the smartest of the armed forces uniforms and RN version the smartest navy uniform internationally. Now I fear the reverse is true.

Your thoughts?
My class was the first to be issued with the fore and aft creased uniform as No 2s in '78, although No 1s had been issued in that style for a few months.
The new policy, as applied to us first, was not to issue No 1s until completion of Part 2 training, thus we had to pass out of Raleigh in 2s.
When we got to Collingwood they didn't know what to do with us, trying their hardest to try and hide us on every divisions.
Of course, this was all our fault, and we suffered.
I was fortunate enough to get a loan draft to Hong Kong after part 2, and a couple of the guys actually bought a set of No 1s tailor made in the traditional style, even though the new rig would be compulsory 12 months hence. That's how much the new style rig was despised.
I was a Sea Cadet as a kid, so I was all about on the uniform. I can honestly say, in my 12 years service, I never really liked putting my Number 1s on, and outside of Collingwood, very rarely wore them.


War Hero
my class was one of the first with the new No 1s(late 77), i got to culdrose, put them on & got bollocked for being improperly dressed by the PT Officer. I tried to explain but he wouldn't listen until the chief pti explained that it was the new issue uniform.


War Hero
Of course in these times of budget cuts and major capability equipment deletions I feel the best thing to do is pay good hard taxpayers money to get a new Ceremonial Uniform bought that are hardly worn.

Great idea.
If it is hardly worn then what is the problem with expense? A lot of Guards regiments wear daft gear on a few occasions (and quite often dafter gear in private, but that is another topic!).
For my 20 cents of a euro worth I reckon a more modern uniform is no bad thing, everything moves on, not necessarily for the better I agree.
Those that wear the uniform now are no doubt proud to do so and that is what counts.
However judging by the amount of ill fitting/ill fitted trousers I saw at 'Meet your Navy' a while back something seems to have gone out of the window.
Do you think the fashion of a yard on the ground and your waistband half way down the arse will ever come to the Navy :shock:


I don't understand your point Guns, every new sailor gets issued a uniform regardless so the only expense would be the design.

They had that expense in the seventies when some nugget decided to improve, uhem, the uniform. It wouldn't be a huge outlay to do a redesign and actually improve it.

The change over would happen over time as new sailors joined and existing ones got promoted and changed uniform anyway.

Do you want servicemen and women to look smart or look like plums?


Book Reviewer
Think we need some pictures to compare the 1970's sailor against the 2008 male sailors in uniform. I don't see the sense of a poll. Crack on kenkim, its your topic SHOW me/us what you mean?
I suppose I'd agree with going back to the square rig as No1's...these days though you'd probably have to wear a yellow hi viz jacket with it...just in case!


Lantern Swinger
I also joined in 78 and saw the transgression from 5/7 creases to fore/aft crease and agree with kenkim

We have to remember though those uniforms were used a lot more than they are today.
No 2's were used for duties and for the most part were up to the job; shore patrol (though some chose to wear 1's), SSD's etc. I was ordered to go on my first draft in 2's; Pompey to Rosyth. It didn't bother me when I got grease off the train door on my trollies (remember KUA?)...they were my 2's!
It was easier to wear evening rig (negative coller)
Collars looked like jean collars
Square neck jerseys were worn in winter, I itched but I was warm.

The No1's I was issued with were the stitched-in silk type and they were sh*te, fortunately I 'acquired' a set of old ones and I thought they were the muts nuts. I'll never forget how impressed a swabby (USN) was when we 'compared' uniforms one night in a bar in Fort Lauders

kenkim said:
I don't understand your point Guns, every new sailor gets issued a uniform regardless so the only expense would be the design.

They had that expense in the seventies when some nugget decided to improve, uhem, the uniform. It wouldn't be a huge outlay to do a redesign and actually improve it.

The change over would happen over time as new sailors joined and existing ones got promoted and changed uniform anyway.

Do you want servicemen and women to look smart or look like plums?
So they changed the uniform for cut-backs. If the staffing today is half of that in 78 then surely we could go back, especially as now there is only one set (No 1's) issued.

Bring 'em back I say!! :threaten:


For the newer generation, it will be difficult to explain, and probably difficult for you to understand the subtle differences in the uniform but stood next to one another, like I used to in the 70's aboard ship, the difference is huge.

By comparison, the new uniform is grotesque.

The old uniform jacket was skin tight and the front opening much larger. The tightness pulled the front open which exposed a much bigger expanse of white front. The collar was not attached to the jacket by velcro, but was actually tied over your white front prior to putting the jacket on. The collar was made of a blue jean material, which sailors took great pride in washing regularly to fade as much as possible to further improve the appearance.
When the collar was new, the two front parts were attached by a short piece of material. Sailors always cut this so that the collar extended out of the jacket at a much tighter angle, this also improved the appearance.

But the biggest crime of all was to remove the 5/7 creased bell bottoms.
The flares that todays sailors are wearing make Jack look just bizarre.

I've attached some pics that I've just downloaded of the net, to try to illustrate my point.
I hope I am not offending anyone in the pictures.
My wife has just asked me what I am doing, and has just walked off muttering something about me being a big saddo.
I remember £7.50 a month KUA.
Some people wore No 1s as No 2s because they didn't have any alternative as they'd spent the KUA on beer, and other important things.

Don't mention kit musters, as I never had, and never heard about, one outside of part 2 training.

I did my driving course at RAF St Athen, and felt acutely embarassed at going walk about in south Wales in my paint spattered no 8s.

Mind you, afterwards, it never ocurred to me to buy new ones when I got back to a Pusser's regime.


War Hero
If we change the uniform back then we need to take all the old ones in and then issue brand new ones. So the one off charge would be high to kit out the whole of the JR population. It would see JR's returning new and hardly used No1's back to stores. This would not be good use of public money.

If we are going to spend public money on uniform changes I vote for No4's (8's in old money) being tailored in the style of CS95 (Combats) but in the same shades of blue and fire retardant material. The current pockets are only useful for storing a thin copy of daily orders and that's it.
Think its just called ''progress'' the style still remains but its
just changed in various ways. Possibly to make uniform ''uniform''
ie everyone the same.

The hat ---its similar to the Australian style but even more
pronounced . My first issue number one hat was one that required blanco
the ''working hat' was a plastic white one .Then they discarded the 'blancoed' hat for total plastic hats. The plastic white top eventually yellowed from frequent washing . Quite comfortable to wear because they could be shaped to head --and give a sort of ''bow-wave''.

The number 1 uniform was stowed in a small locker with number 2's etc rolled up inside out . The creases in trousers were ironed in with trousers 'inside out' . There were no coat hangers required at all.
Definately no hanging wardrobe style lockers .
Tropical white No 6's were the same --pressed inside out creases the same and rolled up--- .

The advent of zips --from then on the tailoring got worse !!

Todays uniform does look untidy .but then I was brought up the old way.

:nemo: :nemo:


Lantern Swinger

The above picture from WWI. There seems historically to be much difference in how much shirt was shown and how tight the uniforms were, though the jumpers in most of the photos are noticeably shorter than today.

I have a question about the silk. Covey Crump, which was written in the 1950s says:

Commonly known as a "Silk", it was, until 1935, a square of black silk 36" square, worn with two diagonally opposite corners knotted together (the knot being worn at the back of the neck beneath the collar, and bight (known as a "Duff Bag") being secured in the tapes of the jumper), so that a drowning man's rescuer would have an efficient handgrip. The new pattern silk introduced in 1935 measures 50" x 12"; since 1942 it has been made of rayon. The uniform regulations require the ends of this scarf to be stitched together, thus forming a loop, for the same reason as the old square silk was knotted into a loop.
The most noticeable thing to me about the new uniforms - apart from the trousers and how long the jumper is now - is how thin the silk is - it looks like a cheap piece of folded over nylon ribbon. The current silk currently ready-fashioned and the two sides cross over with velcro under the collar. Yet when I look at pictures from the 50s and 60s it is also flat, definitely not what a 12" wide piece of silk would look like. Can anyone shed light on this?

MODs, can we consider a Uniform forum for the many threads on this same subject?
The ''silk'' was as the quote says ------however the 12" wide was folded into four so the silk became about 3" wide

The 50" long and sown together to make a loop was done at issue due to the size of the guy wearing the silk . The total loop length after being tied with the ribbons should leave a piece about four fingers wide below the silk ribbons knot.Then sown together.

The lanyard was under the silk and knotted -the spare end put through the silk tie ribbon beckets and looped then end tucked into jumper

:nemo: :nemo:
How come I only wore a silk with tropical rig?

I was fuckin ugly, so maybe I was kept in the bilge for the important stuff and missed it.
I was in Pembroke when they trialled the proposed uniforms (three IIRC), the 2 1/2 Supply Officer was tasked with attempting to find where cutbacks in the cost of replacing the uniform could be made.
One of the proposals he made was the intended uniform for the 4 button double breasted jacket (with the collar velcroed inside, but with flared fore & aft creased trousers) could be a cost saving when the JR was rated SR. He couldn't inderstand that trying to adapt a 4 button to a 6 button jacket was nigh on impossible, along with adapting flared trousers to staraights !!.

This style seemed to the more preferred amongst the older ratings, because of the comfort that could be had when just unbuttoning the jacket and not having to unzip the current (as was then) jumper, and untie or loosen the collar tapes.

In addition it was also pointed out that the lapels were in fact angled down and not up as was on the then current style on SRs jackets.

It was also allegedly spoken by Mountbatten when he came down and took Divs, was along the lines of that the young Jack modelling the style above looked "like a bloody German" !!

On the modelling presentation, the audience was primarily the younger Jack u/t , and Jennies, and as can now be seen the current style of uniform that was then chosen back in the late 70s.
SS-super-stoker said:
How come I only wore a silk with tropical rig?

I was * ugly, so maybe I was kept in the bilge for the important stuff and missed it.
Cos you did not go to Ganges or Vincent and did not know how to wear anything but Ovvies.

Thread starter Similar threads Forum Replies Date
BreathingOutOnTheWayUp Whatever happened to...? The Gash Barge 17
slim What has happened to Social Housing? Diamond Lil's 8
MoD_RSS Speech: "We cannot ignore what has happened in Salisbury." MoD News 0
Hooly Who knows what happened to HMS Duncan Current Affairs 17
P What happened when Superman took on the Commando Challenge Current Affairs 0
digger84 Whatever happened to keeping your dirty laundry private? Current Affairs 6
Ballistic A friend bit him, then this happened... Diamond Lil's 5
Topstop What happened to the search function? Bloody Computers 3
T HMS Daring, just so happened to be in the Southeast Asian region Current Affairs 54
U Has something just happened to HDT travel expenses? Royal Naval Reserve (RNR) 33
Topstop What happened to? The Quarterdeck 0
Rumrat So what the **** happened. Diamond Lil's 21
BillyNoMates Yogi? What the f**k happened to your face? Diamond Lil's 0
Rigsby What the feck has happened to my plums? Hobbies & The Great Indoors 4
T What happened to.... Diamond Lil's 5
rod-gearing What ever happened to: Diamond Lil's 7
K Whatever happened 2 Saturday Nite Diamond Lil's 29
Ja5on What Happened to Warship? The Gash Barge 8
jesse What the fcuk has happened to Portsmouth? The Gash Barge 42
Montigny_La_Palisse What the fcuk happened??? Diamond Lil's 11
Grim_Reaper Oh dear, it's happened again. Current Affairs 17
Carrolannabelle what ever happened to the D23 The Fleet 39
Polycell So what happened to Nos eights Submariners 45
shellbackmac What happened to my dit? The Gash Barge 3
ex_rubberdagger Whats happened to 107 Tp members?? RMR 53
B What's happened to Norman? Site Issues 30
finknottle What Happened to Cdo on the Front Line? The Corps 5
Shakey What happened to the NCAGS mobilisation thread? Royal Naval Reserve (RNR) 22
M What's happened to the site? The Corps 16
D What happened to Creddly? The Quarterdeck 20
A What Happened at Walcheren? History 8
Oil_Slick What happened to 'Global Warming'? Diamond Lil's 18
Polycell What happened to the CE branch? Bases / Shore Est 4
The_Wonderer What happened to the pensions ? Joining Up - Royal Navy Recruiting 20
kingoftwigs What happened to union street? Diamond Lil's 11
M How things change ( or what ever happened to the sea going R Royal Naval Reserve (RNR) 1
T What happened to the old Warfare Branches? History 3
F What happened in the Fjord with Grimsby? Current Affairs 3
T What happened to nine o'clockers? The Quarterdeck 60
D Help - Uniform ID Please History 16
C Uniform Help The Fleet 10
A Colours for the No.7 Tropical Undress Uniform circa 1938/9 RMR 2
soleil i: "'A Fitting Tribute': Second World War Hero's Uniform Pride Of Place On HMS Prince of Wales" History 2
MoD_RSS The Education Secretary's response to Lord Tyrie's letter about school uniform MoD News 0
klgreload Wearing the uniform in public The Fleet 3
B Exactly What uniform is given to you at hms Raleigh? Joining Up - Royal Navy Recruiting 15
J WW1 RNR T Uniform Help History 10
Stokes12 Uniform and Equipment SCC and URNU 4
S Where to get new uniform items? RFA 10
Maeday Wedding Uniform Nearest & Dearest 27
Similar threads