Tuesday, September 01, 2009

They Say Sailors Always Look Like Prisoners Or Garbage Men, So?

The Navy is getting a new camouflage, fatigue style, working uniform with the pants bloused into boots and pointy crowned, Marine style caps. Very Butch. Reaction is mixed. I don't care about it. I don't have to wear it. It looks heavy and uncomfortable but what do I know. Maybe it's great.

In the Seventies, they changed the working uniform every year or two for several years. They couldn't make you stop wearing the old ones, unless they paid you to buy a whole new kit, so by the mid late seventies there were several concurrently authorized uniforms to choose from. At muster on the pier in the morning, you could see several different working uniforms among the crew. There ended up even being a contingent of hard core individualists, who mixed and matched the various articles of clothing that they liked best, from all of the several authorized dungaree outfits and several unauthorized styles dating back as far as World War II. It was an XO's nightmare.

My own personal favorite working uniform, was issued for a year or so in the very early Seventies, a few years before I was even in the Navy. It was probably the least popular dungaree ensemble ever authorized by the US Navy, worst looking and loathed by officers and men alike. I loved it. You could buy the shirts and pants in the thrift shops out in town, like new, not even stenciled, for pennies. Off duty guys wouldn't even wear this uniform to fix the car or paint the bathroom, so their wives gave them to the Goodwill or Salvation Army. I wore this uniform almost all the time, up until my discharge.

The top was a blue, pullover jumper made of an indestructible but soft, polyester blend, cut real loose, authorized with long sleeves only. This meant it was acceptable to roll up the sleeves, whenever and however much you wanted. It was meant to be worn loose, outside the pants. If you tucked it in, you were out of spec. I tryed to find XLs and XXLs in extra long, so that they came down about halfway to my knees. If I didn't have a belt on, nobody could tell. If my fly wasn't zipped up nobody could tell. These are important considerations when you're drunk a lot of the time. It was impossible to wrinkle this material and most things that usually stain clothing just beaded up and rolled off it. Originally, there must have been some type of iron on or sew on Crow authorized for this jumper but I never saw anyone wearing it. I'm sure it had ceased to be available for purchase long before I ever enlisted. I was happy to let everyone assume I was still a Seaman. The pants were like baggy, straight legged Army fatigues, with big pockets, that you could put a lot of stuff in and was hidden by the hanging shirt tail. They were so dark blue they were almost black. Everybody liked to wear real tight pants in those days. The denim dungaree bell bottoms were real popular. The pants of this uniform were totally loose and shapeless. Gave your balls plenty of room to breath. I had a guy tell me once that the worst thing about my favorite dungaree jumper, was that it was made totally from petrochemical derived plastic fibers and prone to burst into flames, then melt into your skin. The only way to get the burning jumper off, once blazing, was to yank it over your head, leaving you horribly disfigured for life. I thought about that. I had seen sailors crushed, broken, dismembered, mangled, perforated, sliced, steamed, electrified and several combinations of each. I had never seen one burst into flames. I kept wearing the dungarees. I even liked them better than poopie suits at sea, unless the temperature really started to creep up there.

The true genius of this dungaree outfit was the uniformity of it's crappy appearance. You really couldn't tell if the wearer had just put on a clean outfit or if he had worn it through a three day drunk and slept in the parking lot of the Horse and Cow. My kind of sailor suit. They should really give it another look as a sartorial option for today's modern, active, sailor lads.


Steve Harkonnen said...

I remember those stupid uniform changes during the 80's when I was in. The dungarees hung around for a long time, but damn, those old utilities - I loved them.

They just need to stop making so many uniform changes.

Nereus said...

The Navy had and still has hands down THE CRAPPIEST working uniform. The Denim bell bottom and cotton top dugarees when I first enlisted were durable, but you looked like a prisoner. Then, in the late nineties they changed into the "utilities". The Pants were crap, would wear out too easy and the top would require 40 dollars worth of bling attached to be wearable for a grand total of 70dollars for a shirt that one brush with a freshly painted bulkhead or station renders useless. Now, "they" ( those in charge ) have come up with a psudo camoflauge uniform that is just this side of stupid. A tough set of dickies working wear in Navy blue with a name and rank patch would be the best wear.

Steve Harkonnen said...

I never could understand the paranoia from naval leadership that we couldn't go home in our dungarees. That defied logic, unless they didn't want panic making people think a mass prison breakout had commenced.

reddog said...

I used to wear working uniforms out in town all the time. The gate guards never stopped anybody. The city police didn't care how you were dressed and shore patrol never went out in town unless responding to a heads up by the local police and never dealt with anything but that specific situation.

It may have been against the rules but nobody cared how you were dressed.

I agree with you, Nereus. A set of Blue utilities from Sears, Pennys, Monkey Wards or whatever would be the best way to solve the working uniform problem or a cheap chambray workshirt and a pair of seafarers, like you could wear for decades. Why make it hard?