Royal Navy uniform
Overview
 
The uniforms of the Royal Navy
Royal Navy
The Royal Navy is the naval warfare service branch of the British Armed Forces. Founded in the 16th century, it is the oldest service branch and is known as the Senior Service...

have evolved gradually since the first uniform regulations for officers were issued in 1748. The predominant colours of Royal Navy uniforms are navy blue
Navy blue
Navy blue is a very dark shade of the color blue which almost appears as black. Navy blue got its name from the dark blue worn by officers in the British Royal Navy since 1748 and subsequently adopted by other navies around the world....

 and white
White
White is a color, the perception of which is evoked by light that stimulates all three types of color sensitive cone cells in the human eye in nearly equal amounts and with high brightness compared to the surroundings. A white visual stimulation will be void of hue and grayness.White light can be...

. Since reforms in 1997, all rating
Naval rating
A Naval Rating is an enlisted member of a country's Navy, subordinate to Warrant Officers and Officers hence not conferred by commission or warrant...

s, regardless of gender
Gender
Gender is a range of characteristics used to distinguish between males and females, particularly in the cases of men and women and the masculine and feminine attributes assigned to them. Depending on the context, the discriminating characteristics vary from sex to social role to gender identity...

, have worn the same ceremonial uniform.
Uniform regulations for officers were first issued by Lord Anson in 1748, and remained unchanged for nearly twenty years.
Encyclopedia
The uniforms of the Royal Navy
Royal Navy
The Royal Navy is the naval warfare service branch of the British Armed Forces. Founded in the 16th century, it is the oldest service branch and is known as the Senior Service...

have evolved gradually since the first uniform regulations for officers were issued in 1748. The predominant colours of Royal Navy uniforms are navy blue
Navy blue
Navy blue is a very dark shade of the color blue which almost appears as black. Navy blue got its name from the dark blue worn by officers in the British Royal Navy since 1748 and subsequently adopted by other navies around the world....

 and white
White
White is a color, the perception of which is evoked by light that stimulates all three types of color sensitive cone cells in the human eye in nearly equal amounts and with high brightness compared to the surroundings. A white visual stimulation will be void of hue and grayness.White light can be...

. Since reforms in 1997, all rating
Naval rating
A Naval Rating is an enlisted member of a country's Navy, subordinate to Warrant Officers and Officers hence not conferred by commission or warrant...

s, regardless of gender
Gender
Gender is a range of characteristics used to distinguish between males and females, particularly in the cases of men and women and the masculine and feminine attributes assigned to them. Depending on the context, the discriminating characteristics vary from sex to social role to gender identity...

, have worn the same ceremonial uniform.

Officers

Uniform regulations for officers were first issued by Lord Anson in 1748, and remained unchanged for nearly twenty years. Reportedly, the officers themselves advocated its adoption, as they "wished to be recognised as being in the service of the Crown." The "best uniform", consisting of an embroidered blue coat with white facings, worn unbuttoned with white breeches
Breeches
Breeches are an item of clothing covering the body from the waist down, with separate coverings for each leg, usually stopping just below the knee, though in some cases reaching to the ankles...

 and stockings, was worn for ceremonial occasions; the "working rig" was a simpler, less embroidered uniform for day-to-day use. In 1767 the best uniform was abolished and replaced by the working rig, with a simpler "undress" uniform for day-to-day use. By 1795, as a result of the French Revolutionary Wars
French Revolutionary Wars
The French Revolutionary Wars were a series of major conflicts, from 1792 until 1802, fought between the French Revolutionary government and several European states...

, a plain blue "undress" coat had been introduced for everyday use, and epaulettes were officially introduced. By 1846 all officers wore epaulettes. The white facings came and went over the years, briefly becoming scarlet (1830-1843). Though stripes of lace on the cuffs had been used to distinguish the different ranks of admiral
Admiral
Admiral is the rank, or part of the name of the ranks, of the highest naval officers. It is usually considered a full admiral and above vice admiral and below admiral of the fleet . It is usually abbreviated to "Adm" or "ADM"...

 since 1795, the first version of current rank insignia, consisting of stripes with a "curl" in the top one, was introduced for all officers in 1856.

In 1825, the white breeches were replaced by trousers
Trousers
Trousers are an item of clothing worn on the lower part of the body from the waist to the ankles, covering both legs separately...

 for officers serving in the United Kingdom
United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...

, although the practice of wearing white trousers with naval uniforms continued for officers serving overseas (e.g. in the West Indies and China
China
Chinese civilization may refer to:* China for more general discussion of the country.* Chinese culture* Greater China, the transnational community of ethnic Chinese.* History of China* Sinosphere, the area historically affected by Chinese culture...

) until 1939. Throughout the nineteenth century, there was great variation in uniform; officers paid for their own uniform, and often adapted it to fit civilian fashion of the time, as the Admiralty
Admiralty
The Admiralty was formerly the authority in the Kingdom of England, and later in the United Kingdom, responsible for the command of the Royal Navy...

 regulations governing uniform were not highly prescriptive.

For service in tropical climates, a white tunic
Tunic
A tunic is any of several types of clothing for the body, of various lengths reaching from the shoulders to somewhere between the hips and the ankles...

 and trousers were introduced in 1877, and replaced by a new design in 1938 comprising a white shirt
Shirt
A shirt is a cloth garment for the upper body. Originally an undergarment worn exclusively by men, it has become, in American English, a catch-all term for almost any garment other than outerwear such as sweaters, coats, jackets, or undergarments such as bras, vests or base layers...

 and shorts
Shorts
Shorts are a bifurcated garment worn by both men and women over their pelvic area, circling the waist, and covering the upper part of the legs, sometimes extending down to or even below the knee, but not covering the entire length of the leg. They are called "shorts" because they are a shortened...

. During World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

, a blue working dress on the lines of battledress
Battledress
Battledress, or fatigues in the general sense, is the type of uniform used as combat uniforms, as opposed to 'display' dress or formal uniform worn at parades and functions. It may be either monochrome or in a camouflage pattern...

 was approved. Caps were to have white tops all year around, and blue caps were abolished in 1956.

The distinctive white collar patch of the Midshipman
Midshipman
A midshipman is an officer cadet, or a commissioned officer of the lowest rank, in the Royal Navy, United States Navy, and many Commonwealth navies. Commonwealth countries which use the rank include Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, India, Pakistan, Singapore, Sri Lanka and Kenya...

 first appeared about 1758.

Ratings

Uniform for ratings was first established by the Admiralty
Admiralty
The Admiralty was formerly the authority in the Kingdom of England, and later in the United Kingdom, responsible for the command of the Royal Navy...

 in 1857. Prior to this, most seamen wore "slops", or ready-made clothing sold to the ship's crew by a contractor; many captains established general standards of appearance for the seamen on their vessel, but there was little or no uniformity between ships. On one occasion in 1853, the commanding officer of paid for his boat crews to dress as harlequin
Harlequin
Harlequin or Arlecchino in Italian, Arlequin in French, and Arlequín in Spanish is the most popularly known of the zanni or comic servant characters from the Italian Commedia dell'arte and its descendant, the Harlequinade.-Origins:...

s, an incident which may have contributed to the Admiralty's decision to adopt a standard uniform.

A number of changes have been introduced since the introduction of the first rating uniform, notably the removal of the blue jacket
Jacket
A jacket is a hip- or waist-length garment for the upper body. A jacket typically has sleeves, and fastens in the front. A jacket is generally lighter, tighter-fitting, and less insulating than a coat, which is outerwear...

 in 1890, and the replacement of bell-bottoms
Bell-bottoms
Bell-bottoms are trousers that become wider from the knees downward. Related styles include flare, loon pants and boot-cut/leg trousers. Hip-huggers are bell-bottomed, flare, or boot-cut pants that are fitted tightly around the hips and thighs.-Naval origins:Bell-bottoms' precise origins are...

 by flared trousers in 1977. In 1997 there was a major standardisation programme, meaning that all ratings now wear the same ceremonial uniform for the first time in history.

Present day uniform

Present-day Royal Navy officers and rating
Naval rating
A Naval Rating is an enlisted member of a country's Navy, subordinate to Warrant Officers and Officers hence not conferred by commission or warrant...

s have several different uniforms; some are blue, others are white.

Ceremonial Day Dress

This is worn only by Admirals and Vice Admirals along with members of the Royal Family and consists of a tailcoat with white facing and gold edging worn with gold shoulder boards, black and gold belt and gold laced black trousers. It is worn at parades such as Lord High Admiral's Divisions (BRNC) or at state occasions. An example of such dress is from Lord High Admiral's divisions 2009

Blue No. 1 dress

This is the formal uniform worn on ceremonial occasions. For officers it consists of a double-breasted, navy blue jacket; matching trousers; white shirt and black tie; peaked cap; and black leather shoes. It is divided into 1A (with medals and bearing arms), 1B (same as 1A, but without arms), and 1C (with medal ribbons). Female personnel may wear skirt
Skirt
A skirt is a tube- or cone-shaped garment that hangs from the waist and covers all or part of the legs.In the western world, skirts are usually considered women's clothing. However, there are exceptions...

s except when carrying a sword
Sword
A sword is a bladed weapon used primarily for cutting or thrusting. The precise definition of the term varies with the historical epoch or the geographical region under consideration...

 or rifle
Rifle
A rifle is a firearm designed to be fired from the shoulder, with a barrel that has a helical groove or pattern of grooves cut into the barrel walls. The raised areas of the rifling are called "lands," which make contact with the projectile , imparting spin around an axis corresponding to the...

.

Blue No. 2 dress

This mess dress
Mess dress
Mess dress is the military term for the formal evening dress worn in the mess or at other formal occasions. It is also known as mess uniform and mess kit...

 is worn in the evenings for dining. 2A is the formal evening dress for ceremonial dinners; it consists of "ball dress with [a] white waistcoat (cummerbund
Cummerbund
A cummerbund is a broad waist sash, usually pleated, which is often worn with single-breasted dinner jackets . The cummerbund was first adopted by British military officers in colonial India as an alternative to a waistcoat, and later spread to civilian use...

 for female officers) with miniature medals." 2B is "mess undress" for other mess
Mess
A mess is the place where military personnel socialise, eat, and live. In some societies this military usage has extended to other disciplined services eateries such as civilian fire fighting and police forces. The root of mess is the Old French mes, "portion of food" A mess (also called a...

 functions, and is worn with either a cummerbund
Cummerbund
A cummerbund is a broad waist sash, usually pleated, which is often worn with single-breasted dinner jackets . The cummerbund was first adopted by British military officers in colonial India as an alternative to a waistcoat, and later spread to civilian use...

 or black waistcoat and miniature medals. 2C, "red sea rig", is worn for informal evening wear on board ship; it consists of a white short sleeved shirt, with tropical boards, and a cummerbund
Cummerbund
A cummerbund is a broad waist sash, usually pleated, which is often worn with single-breasted dinner jackets . The cummerbund was first adopted by British military officers in colonial India as an alternative to a waistcoat, and later spread to civilian use...

.

Blue No. 3 dress

This is worn all year round for general duties; it consists of a white shirt
Shirt
A shirt is a cloth garment for the upper body. Originally an undergarment worn exclusively by men, it has become, in American English, a catch-all term for almost any garment other than outerwear such as sweaters, coats, jackets, or undergarments such as bras, vests or base layers...

 with rank insignia on the shoulders, and appropriate headgear. For officers 3A dress includes a long-sleeved shirt and tie, while 3B includes a short-sleeved shirt without the tie.

No. 4 and No. 5 dress

These are specialist working uniforms. No. 4 is IAWD (Improved Action Working Dress) with flame retardant
Flame retardant
Flame retardants are chemicals used in thermoplastics, thermosets, textiles and coatings that inhibit or resist the spread of fire. These can be separated into several different classes of chemicals:...

 properties. They are worn as required for duties.

White No.1 dress

In the Tropics
Tropics
The tropics is a region of the Earth surrounding the Equator. It is limited in latitude by the Tropic of Cancer in the northern hemisphere at approximately  N and the Tropic of Capricorn in the southern hemisphere at  S; these latitudes correspond to the axial tilt of the Earth...

, officers wear on ceremonial occasions a short sleeved white tunic with an open collar; matching trousers; peaked cap; and white leather shoes.

White No.2 and No.3 dress

There are also white No. 2 and No. 3 dress which fulfil the same functions as their blue equivalents. Some white uniforms include shorts.

Blue No. 1 dress

This is the formal uniform worn on ceremonial occasions. For ratings it is a traditional navy blue sailor suit
Sailor suit
A sailor suit is a uniform traditionally worn by enlisted seamen in the navy, and other government funded sea services. It later developed in to a popular clothing style for children....

. It is divided into 1A (with medals and bearing arms), 1B (same as 1A, but without arms), and 1C (with medal ribbons). Female personnel may wear skirt
Skirt
A skirt is a tube- or cone-shaped garment that hangs from the waist and covers all or part of the legs.In the western world, skirts are usually considered women's clothing. However, there are exceptions...

s except when carrying a sword
Sword
A sword is a bladed weapon used primarily for cutting or thrusting. The precise definition of the term varies with the historical epoch or the geographical region under consideration...

 or rifle
Rifle
A rifle is a firearm designed to be fired from the shoulder, with a barrel that has a helical groove or pattern of grooves cut into the barrel walls. The raised areas of the rifling are called "lands," which make contact with the projectile , imparting spin around an axis corresponding to the...

.

Blue No. 2 dress

This mess dress
Mess dress
Mess dress is the military term for the formal evening dress worn in the mess or at other formal occasions. It is also known as mess uniform and mess kit...

 is worn in the evenings for dining by all senior rates Petty Officer
Petty Officer
A petty officer is a non-commissioned officer in many navies and is given the NATO rank denotion OR-6. They are equal in rank to sergeant, British Army and Royal Air Force. A Petty Officer is superior in rank to Leading Rate and subordinate to Chief Petty Officer, in the case of the British Armed...

 and above. 2A is the formal evening dress for ceremonial dinners worn a white waistcoat and miniature medals." 2B is "mess undress" for other mess
Mess
A mess is the place where military personnel socialise, eat, and live. In some societies this military usage has extended to other disciplined services eateries such as civilian fire fighting and police forces. The root of mess is the Old French mes, "portion of food" A mess (also called a...

 functions, and is worn with a cummerbund
Cummerbund
A cummerbund is a broad waist sash, usually pleated, which is often worn with single-breasted dinner jackets . The cummerbund was first adopted by British military officers in colonial India as an alternative to a waistcoat, and later spread to civilian use...

 and miniature medals. 2C, "red sea rig", is worn for informal evening wear on board ship.

Blue No. 3 dress

This is the same for Officer's No. 3 dress but with the relevant rate insignia and cap. Senior rates (Petty Officer
Petty Officer
A petty officer is a non-commissioned officer in many navies and is given the NATO rank denotion OR-6. They are equal in rank to sergeant, British Army and Royal Air Force. A Petty Officer is superior in rank to Leading Rate and subordinate to Chief Petty Officer, in the case of the British Armed...

 and above) can wear the 3A long-sleeved shirt and tie, junior rates are only issued with open collar short-sleeve shirts (3B).

No. 4 and No. 5 dress

These are specialist working uniforms. No. 4 is IAWD (Improved Action Working Dress) with flame retardant
Flame retardant
Flame retardants are chemicals used in thermoplastics, thermosets, textiles and coatings that inhibit or resist the spread of fire. These can be separated into several different classes of chemicals:...

 properties. They are worn as required for duties.

White No.1 dress

In the Tropics
Tropics
The tropics is a region of the Earth surrounding the Equator. It is limited in latitude by the Tropic of Cancer in the northern hemisphere at approximately  N and the Tropic of Capricorn in the southern hemisphere at  S; these latitudes correspond to the axial tilt of the Earth...

 this is the uniform worn on ceremonial occasions. For ratings it is a white version of the traditional sailor's suit.

White No.2 and No.3 dress

There are also white No. 2 and No. 3 dress which fulfil the same functions as their blue equivalents. Some white uniforms include shorts.

See also

  • Royal Navy officer rank insignia
    Royal Navy officer rank insignia
    -Officers:Uniforms for naval officers were not authorized until 1748. At first the cut and style of the uniform differed considerably between ranks and specific rank insignia only sporadically used...

  • Royal Navy ratings rank insignia
  • British Army uniform
    British Army Uniform
    British Army uniform currently exists in several grades, which are worn depending on the requirements of a unit or individual, ranging from ceremonial uniforms to combat dress.-History:...

  • Royal Air Force uniform
    Royal Air Force uniform
    The Royal Air Force uniform is the standardised military dress worn by members of the Royal Air Force. The predominant colours of Royal Air Force uniforms are blue-grey and Wedgewood blue. Many Commonwealth air forces' uniforms are also based on the RAF pattern, but with nationality shoulder...

  • History of the Royal Navy
    History of the Royal Navy
    The History of the Royal Navy can be traced back to before the ninth century AD. However, the present Royal Navy was formally created as the national naval force of the Kingdom of England in 1660, following the Restoration of King Charles II to the throne...

  • The Royal Hospital School

extern link
http://www.royalnavy.mod.uk/training-and-people/rn-life/uniforms-and-badges-of-rank/blue-uniforms-of-the-royal-navy/index.htm

Further reading

  • Miller, Amy (2007) Dressed to Kill: British Naval Uniform, Masculinity and Contemporary Fashions, 1748-1857. National Maritime Museum, London. ISBN 978-0-948065-74-3.
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