Monday, September 01, 2008

New US Navy Enlisted Khaki Uniforms: My Opinion

The Navy Times is soliciting opinions on the new khaki uniforms for junior enlisted men (E1-E6).

For reference, here's what the new uniforms look like:



These new khaki uniforms and the digital camoflage BDU (Battle Dress Utility) working uniforms were chosen by sailors in the fleet as comfortable, durable, and easy to maintain.

The problem with these new uniforms is that they don't instantly identify the wearer as a sailor. This is a Bad Thing. It's not as bad as the Air Force uniforms that are universally condemned as Greyhound bus driver uniforms, but these new Navy uniforms submerge the identify of the individual as a sailor, and make it possible to confuse a Navy man with a Marine or a Soldier.

Not that this means I was fond of the Navy uniforms I wore. I loved the chambray shirt/denim trousers working uniform, especially with a ship's logo ball cap perched atop; but the white summer uniforms, although handsome and sailorly, were damned difficult to keep clean. The black (Navy Blue, even when it's truly black) winter shirt/slacks combo looked rather Nazi-ish; the dress uniform of wool flannel jumper and 13-button trousers is the very epitome of sailorly fashion, although I'd prefer to wear the older flat hat than the more modern white "dixie cup" with it.

What would I recommend, then? Well, I have no objections to the BDU's, but I don't see the need for them to be in camoflage; make them in Navy blue. For the Uniform of the Day, I'd recommend bringing back the old Undress Blue jumper, which is worn without a neckerchief and doesn't have white piping the way the Service Dress/Full Dress jumper does. Make the Undress Blue jumper out of comfortable cotton/poly twill, and you'll have a durable uniform that is easy to take care of. For a smart cover for this uniform, I'd recommend a fore-and-aft cap in matching Navy Blue.

Ideally, sometime in the future our services would all wear the same basic uniform, a coverall with zip-off arms and even legs might be a very versatile garment. Make them in a unique color for each of the services, with insignia and headgear that differentiates between each service. That's for a working uniform, of course. Dress uniforms should still identify each service at a glance.

Anyway, those are my opinions. Yours may differ.

35 comments:

Anonymous said...

Oh my God!!!
I retired in Jan 1993. This uniform looks like crap!! Just add a red stripe on the sides and you won't be able to tell the difference between a sailor and a marine.

I'm glad I retired when I did. The Navy is going down the tubes in an effort to change tradition and make everyone look user friendly.

John Parker, RMCS(SS) USN Ret

Bob said...

Happy to have you visit, John. Thanks for stopping by!

Al Cowart said...

active duty from 1988-1992, reserve seebee 1997-1999 and concur w/ anonymous about the red stripe and khaki shirt....khaki should only be worn e-7 and above...blue/gray bdu's???...on board ship???...seebees and marines should be the only ones wearing bdu's...sailors wear dungarees, boondockers,and a ball cap unique to their command...

Al Cowart....Navy veteran

Bluespiper said...

I was in the Navy from 1981-1987 and experience the post-Zumwalt transition in uniforms. During that time I believed that someone had finally shaken off their lack of self esteem and just decided to have a uniform that "worked." Now it seems that some schizophrenic, needing to identify with others designed the latest travesty. The current uniform is as John stated, it "looks like crap."

Oh yeah, I'm sure those BDU's will help locate some unfortunate blike who happens to fall overboard. Didn't they paint ships in camouflage so they weren't seen?

Stephen Hallquist ET2(SS) USN Vet
and docent at the US Submarine Force Library and Museum

Anonymous said...

WELL SO MUCH FOR TRADITION! PUT THE JACKET ON AND THEY LOOK LIKE BUS DRIVERS

Anonymous said...

I am currently on active duty in the Navy. I do have to respect the opinions and views of the other people that have posted their opinions about the new uniform. At the same time I have to say: "Try being in the navy now in days". Along with the prices of everything else rising the prices of uniforms, and their maintenance has risen as well. Purchasing the uniform, getting it altered, dry cleaned(and that is just the initial cost of purchasing a uniform). Imagine having to do that with 10-12 different uniforms. For a lot of people in the military who are either E-3 and below or are just scraping by like everyone else in america that is a big chunk of change.These new uniforms are easier to maintain in the fact that we dont have to switch over twice a year and dont have so many uniforms to keep track of. Overall I have to give these uniforms a thumb up

79jaybird said...

Big Thumbs down. I just got out of the Navy right before the change. Getting a Khaki uniform used to be a sign of becoming a chief, now its given out at E-1? Dress Blue's are probably going to be dumped next.

Navy is supposed to have the strongest traditions. I should have known the traditions were being sissified when WOG day kept getting more weaker every year.

IS1 Smith

navybrat said...

Navy brat then, Navy contractor now.
I VERY much dislike that the new uniform does not immediately say NAVY. Why on earth didn't they go with the gray poly/twill instead of the khaki poly/WOOL?! The female sailors I work with, especially, tell me the blouse is easy to wrinkle ~~ they hang below the pullover and because they wrinkle, they can't be tucked in.

As for the BDU's ~~ I much preferred the blue shirt/dungaree. Again, it screamed NAVY!

Anonymous said...

Well, I happen to think these uniforms are sharp and I would be proud to have one. All of you hae to admit (and all of you seem to be current/former sailors like me, I was a PN3) that the first time you put on that cracker jack jumper and went on liberty, you did the John Travolta Saturday Night Fever pose.

Tradition is fine, and I admit it's amazing to see (or participate in) manning the rails when a ship comes into port, but I say it's about time to get something more functional. And before you say "those bell bottoms are designed to be used as a flotation device and can be taken off over boots" - I know.

Eddie said...

I was in the navy during the Zumwalt years (73-77) and I was issued the same type dress uniform that officers and Chiefs wore. The only difference being the buttons were silver colored instead of gold. They gave us one winter weight uniform (all wool) and one summer weight (wool blend)

Our work uniform was called utilities and consisted of ugly purple pants and an ugly blue two button jumper. You could still wear dungarees but they weren't issued. We also had ball caps.

We had tropical whites, but no dress whites.

I think they should've gone with the gray shirt instead of the khaki.

It is kinda freaky to see sailors in blue/gray camo.

The best looking uniform I got to wear was the CPO shirt with black pants.

Anonymous said...

Was in from 1993 to 2002 with a tour in special forces (MIUW unit) and four years in "the pit" (engine room). The best uniform I wore was green BDU. They were comfortable and easy to work with unlike dungarees, and they didn't have the cheap feel of the utility uniforms that were issued in 2000. Second best are the coveralls issued to pit snipes, which can be worn with rank insignia and those SW or AW pins. They were easy to get into and out of, and easy to keep presentable.

Take the BDU uniforms and make the pants a solid dark blue, the blouse a bit lighter blue, and use a dark blue T shirt and there you go. Allow the blouse to be worn optionally so long as the T shirt is clean, pressed, and kept neatly tucked into the trousers. Add an embroidered name and rank to the t shirt, and that's all you need.

Sounds to me like the Navy is always trying to stay with current fashion.

Anonymous said...

The khaki uniform looks pretty good, actually. Maybe that's because I always wanted to wear khaki. It took me 16 years but I made Chief and got to wear them. Nice though they look, getting to wear khaki should be one of many incentives to make rate. So if a junior enlisted already has the uniform and the fore and aft hat why do all those courses. Well, as everyone knows, CPO's are rich and Officers are afraind of them!

Anonymous said...

the navy is a tradition and not of change...it is a shame that they will change the origianal 13 button pants and jumper...i got out of kakies to enter the best militiary branch in the world...try the army,its only a glorified babysitting job....i have 3 generantions of family that served in the navy...they were proud to ware the old style...now with the new uniformes on the way, they can reaily be called a sea going bell hop...when i first heard of the change of uniforms, of double brested dress coats, i had only 10 years till retirement....they were going to change the uniform then in the 70's...thats the one reason i left the navy...the only way to bring back the old, is to take it to congress...

Anonymous said...

Khaki Uniforms are a proud tradition of the Officer and Chief Petty Officers. It should stay that way. The Navy Dress Blue bell bottoms and dixie hats are also distinctive and time honored. We should be careful not to lose our heritage for changes for the sake of changes.

Anonymous said...

One of the reasons I got out of the reserves in 2009 was the crappy uniform. If I had wanted to look like a marine, I would have joined the marines. Khaki is reserved for chiefs and officers, not E-1's and such. They havent earned the right to wear it. Even as an E-6, I didnt have the right to wear it neither. The dress blues can still be worn year round, but the whites are gone. I liked my whites! The Johnny Cash outfit stunk too, and I'm ok with the BDU's. But the Khaki was a mistake.

Anonymous said...

Excellent article. Never fear change. Embrace it. If it is for the better, it will show itself in time. If it is not for the better, it will change again. I earned and wore the khaki at a time I am very proud to have served. Those who followed me know more, are more capable and better supported than any of us who preceded them. This is as it should be. No matter what they wear, I will remain as proud of them as if I was serving beside them right now.

- CPO(SW) 1994

Anonymous said...

The US Navy ALREADY had the best uniforms they every had in the 1960's. These new uniforms are awful. I saw some sailors in the Great Lakes area and actually had to ask them what branch of the service they were in. I felt so sorry for them. They were denied the opportunity to wear a REAL U.S. Navy uniform like I wore. I was allowed to look like a sailor and was very proud of that opportunity.

Old Salt said...

ADC, USN (1951-1973) Ret

I served mostly on Aircraft Carriers for the Sailors below E-7 personal storage space consisted of one 2'x2' locker, space in a P-Coat locker and what ever you could put under your mattress. Civilian cloths were not permitted aboard ship (or shore stations) in those days so all a Sailor had to have space for was his dungarees, a couple sets of Whites a set of Blues, skivvies, sock, t-shirts, razor, shaving cream, tooth paste and soap. Dungarees where sent to the ship's laundry and other uniforms were for the most part, hand washed. So the small space allowed for each Sailor was almost adequate. I am curious about how much space E-6 and below Sailors now have to stow all the current uniforms, civilian cloths and other items.

Douglas said...

I came across this blog while trying to find out what the heck an alleged lower ranked P.O. was wearing on NCIS. I was in the Navy `65 to `69 when they were first changing uniforms from the 13 button blues (both dress and undress). I was glad I was not issued the zippered pants and collared shirts.
I prefer the traditional.

Rob O'Neill said...

USN 1971-75. USS Shasta AE-33 Plankowner. Back in the early 70's the traditional denim working uniform was changed to a straight legged working trouser with a pull-over blue shirt. It went over like an albatross in a landing competition. And, it was dangerous- no way to get out of it if caught or snagged in an emergency. It went away.
Why oh why do they insist on changing the Enlisted Dress Blues. LEAVE THEM THE HELL ALONE! They speak Navy without saying a word. They are Sailor attire. And they are right smart looking to boot. I can understand Chief's and older personnel not liking them because they require a trim physique to look good. Most young men don't have weight issues, yet. *S*
Hands off the Dress Blues! Hands off Forever. Got that? Anchors aweigh.

Albert Sm1 USN Ret said...

Looks like crap is not the word. Navy 1960-1980. I say bring back the dress blues and flat hat. I was in the last company at San Diego RNTC to receive one. Zoomie screwed it up by changing unforms for 1st class in middle 70's to coat and white chiefs style hat. I bailed as 1st Class with 20.
Uniforms. Needed 1 dress blue. 2 set undress blue. 3 set whites. 4 dungaree pants and shirts, 1 ball cap. 1 jacket and 4 white hats, two shoes. The woozies now want their mama to take care of their clothes. Kaki for chiefs. Watching TV this morning thought the guy on was a Captain by eagles on his collar. Turned out he is a 2nd class CB.

Anonymous said...

Joel Locklear

I served as a Hospital Corpsman from 79-83. When I first saw this new uniform I said, oh a Corpsman serving with the Marines. To my surprise it is the new uniform. I agree with the comments of just adding the blue stripe and you have a USMC uniform, as I stated, that is what I thought it was. I was medically discharged due to a blown out knee, and would have remained in because I loved the Tradition and brotherhood. So I must ask, since 83, what happened to the Navy Tradition?

Rm3 1971 - 1975 said...

i agree with SM Albert. Saw a younger man at my ship reunion in Norfolk. Thought he was a (Captain?).
A shipmate told me that was the new uniform and he was a PO3. I thought Zumwalt was dead.

Anonymous said...

The Navy is pretty much done as a service at this point. We have been thrown to the wolves by the Admirals, and the Master Chiefs collectively. All in the name of political correctness. Now-a-days, when an order is given, you have to get a JAG Officer, EEO Compliance Officer, and video tape the event before it's given. We have people fighting and dying on 3 fronts, and all these politically motivated fools worry about, are things like "Task Force Uniform"....Really? I thought when I put on anchors, that it would be a great thing. It's not. I now get to see the real side of the Navy. The cut throat politics that goes on, and the failure to take acceptable risk. We are after all, an armed force. Now nothing happens. Officers don't take risk because they will be relieved for it. MCPON Terry Scott wanted to turn Chiefs into quasi officers. We are still feeling his effects. The Admirals and Master Chiefs should hold their heads in shame for what they have done to the Navy.

HMC(FMF) EK

Anonymous said...

Retired Chief,
I earned my Khakis and wore them with pride for 15 years. Had to wear BDU's in Bosnia, they felt OK but they weren't CPO Khakis. If a sailor walked in a room and need the Chief, it was easy, the one wearing the Khakis. I also was a fitness coordinator for a few years, just saw some pics of a frocking in the new uniforms. It wasn't the new uniforms that made them look sloppy.

Ron said...

That's strange, all this time I was under the impression that being a true LEADER and MENTOR was what being a Navy Chief was all about, not about throwing a hissy fit over First Classes & below changing out the color of their shirts for another. Obviously many of you see great pride in finally getting to relinquish those blasted crackerjacks and put them behind you forever, which speaks volumes about the uniform itself when you sit down and think about it. The Coast Guard could possibly teach us something here, but I digress.

I've always believed that the clothes don't make the man, but that sentiment is obviously in the minority here. Thank goodness that many of you are retired.

Warmest Regards,
STGCM/SW

Ex -Marine said...

Keep all wool "cracker jacks" for winter dress uniform w/same color wool flat hat.Summer dress uniform whites with jumper and traditional white hat.The class"B" uniform should be the current one for E-6 and below with the option of a poly/wool khaki long sleeve shirt that can be worn on leave or liberty with the poly/wool wind breaker.Go back to the old blue dungarees w/chambray shirt for a working uniform for E-6 and below.Leave chiefs and officers uniform alone.

Mark said...

Being a prior service Marine, my wife a prior service Marine and my eldest son an active duty Marine we are all about tradition. It was sad enough to see a lot of the uniforms change within the Marine Corps. No more pride in shining boots or razor sharp creases in cammies. But the Navy... holy cow, they just flushed all their tradition down the crapper. While I love to make fun of fellow service members... specifically the Navy, I have to say, I feel sorry for you all. No more tradition. But the good news is that maybe they will change your ships into yachts pretty soon!

Unknown said...

Hey Mark. No offense taken, ya sea-going bellhop :)

Thanks for your comments, Gyrene.

Terry USN 68-71

Anonymous said...

New uniform looks great maybe now more will want to join up without the fear of looking like popeye

Anonymous said...

very Good blogThank you!

Lynne Turchyn said...

I DONT LIKE IT YOU LOOK MORE LIKE A MARINE

Tim Cox ET3 USN said...

I was in USN from '84-'87. And while I love tradition and I really hate some of the things I hear about discipline, following orders and even the lax training that our shipmates are being given these days, I must say that when I was in the service I HATED my cracker jack uniforms, and especially loathed my white dixie cup cover (God they were hard to keep white.

Ball caps and dungarees were my favorites. I know they represented decades of tradition, but I did want to look more like my fellow servicemen. I think it adds more of a sense of belonging and given the new mission of Naval personnel over the last decade it reenforces that commonality. Besides, as a number of my fellow shipmates have alluded to: we have much bigger issues to worry about in armed forces right now.

A. Timothy Cox
USN Veteran ET3

Daniel Kinder said...

I am a traditionalist. Stick with the old chambray shirt and dungarees topped with the old blue denim dixie cup of World War II.
I also agree with the idea of the old Cracker-Jack uniforms. White piping for dress blues and no piping for undress blues.
A flat hat similar to that worn by the Bundes-Marine (German Navy) with either the ships name ala-Royal Navy or at least "U.S. NAVY" on the tally band.
Of course I hate ball caps. They don't look like anything but a baseball player's uniform cap to me.
Since I am a police officer I feel the same about police uniforms. They should look neat and clean, well pressed with shined shoes/boots and metal badges/insignia/nameplates etc. Headgear: State Troopers-Trooper Hat, County Deputies-Stetson and City Officers-Bus Driver Hat.

Frigidflyer said...

I had to visit a Navy clinic while I was on vacation and thought I had been teleported to Europe. Not my idea of an improvement, but I'm not an 18 year old considering enlisting. If we're going this route, let's ask the Air Force to design a 'modern' uniform for us (I'm not a fan of theirs, but it's better than this).
Old Retired Guy