Navy Approves New Uniforms

After several years of study, the Navy has approved new uniforms to replace the utility and service uniforms worn by its most junior members.

Photo he Navy introduced a set of concept working uniforms for Sailors E-1 through O-10, Oct. 18th, in response to the fleet's feedback on current uniforms. The digital pattern with predominantly blue color is one of four concept uniforms the Navy plans to wear test this winter. Each uniform offers a variety of options that Sailors will have the opportunity to choose from. Feedback from the fleet will be used to determine the final Navy Working Uniform. U.S. Navy Photo Outfitting the Sailor of the future took another step forward last week when Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Mike Mullen approved plans for a single working uniform for all ranks and a year-round service uniform for E-6 and below Sailors. Based on recommendations made during a comprehensive briefing by Task Force Uniform Feb. 24, Mullen agreed to production of both a BDU-style working uniform for all Sailors E-1 to O-10 and a more practical, year-round service uniform to withstand day-to-day classroom and office-like environments where the service uniform is typically worn.


The BDU-style working uniform, designed to replace seven different styles of current working uniforms, is made of a near maintenance-free permanent press 50/50 nylon and cotton blend. Worn with a blue cotton t-shirt, it will include an eight-point cover, a black web belt with closed buckle, and black smooth leather boots, with black suede no-shine boots for optional wear while assigned to non-shipboard commands.


“The intent of TFU always has been to give our Sailors a uniform in which they can work comfortably everyday and is more appropriate for the joint environment in which we operate,” Scott said. “Even better, we’ve created a uniform that’s also easier to maintain, is longer lasting, helps reduce the size of the sea bag, while at the same time recognizing the tradition and heritage of serving in the Navy.”

Photo Yeoman 1st Class Erin Morgan stands at attention as she models the khaki option of the year-round concept service uniform for Sailors E-6 and below. Chief of Naval Operations directed Command Master Chief Robert B. Carroll, director of Task Force Uniform, made the presentation of khaki and gray uniform options at Naval Medical Center San Diego, Calif., and says the uniforms were developed from a response to the fleet's feedback on current uniforms. The wear test for service and working uniform concepts is scheduled for this winter. U.S. Navy photo by Journalist 2nd Class Brandan W. SchulzeThe service uniform for E-6 and below is comprised of a short-sleeve khaki shirt for males and an over-blouse for females, made from a wash and wear 75/25 polyester and wool blend, with permanent military creases, black trousers for males with belt less slacks for females and optional belt less skirt, and a black unisex garrison cap. Silver anodized-metal rank insignia will be worn on shirt/blouse collars and cap. The service uniform will also include a black relaxed-fit Eisenhower-style jacket with a knit stand-up collar and epaulets, on which petty officers will wear large, silver anodized-metal rank insignia. Those entitled to wear gold chevrons will continue to wear gold chevrons on the large metal rank insignia on the jacket.

“In our research, we found the group most dissatisfied with their present uniforms were E-6 and below,” Scott said.


The work of TFU will not stop. Next on the agenda is to evaluate additional uniform options, such as reviving the traditional Service Dress Khaki uniform for chiefs and officers, conducting research on the feasibility, cost and distribution of a service-wide physical training uniform, consider adoption of a ceremonial cutlass for chiefs, and investigate adopting a more practical service-wide, all-weather coat that would provide a better military appearance.

“The bottom line for me in making these decisions,” said the CNO, “is culture. Uniforms reflect our culture — who we are — what we stand for. I’ve said all along that no matter which way we go, I want Sailors to look like Sailors. I really believe these uniforms pass that test.”

These new uniforms will certainly make the sea bags smaller, replacing a ridiculous array of uniforms with two. The current utility uniforms for the lowest ranks make them look like longshoremen or janitors rather than warriors. On the other hand, the new uniforms will make the distinctiveness between junior sailors, petty officers, and officers much less stark than has been the case for centuries.

Amusingly, the purpose of this computerized pattern is slightly different than that worn by the Army and Marine Corps:

The working uniform design is not intended to camouflage Sailors against the background of a ship. Instead, the multiple colors on the uniform – navy blue, deck gray, haze gray and black – are common in the maritime working environment, making them a more practical choice. “What we have heard from Sailors aboard ship is if they get a small spot of paint or grease on a pair of solid-color utilities or coveralls, it’s easily visible and detracts from the uniform’s appearance,” [Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy (MCPON) (SS/AW) Terry D.] Scott said. “With the Navy Working Uniform’s multicolor pattern, a small spot or stain may be almost entirely unnoticeable.”

They call them “swabbies” for a reason, I guess.

Here are the current uniforms that will be phased out:

Images captured from United States Navy UNIFORM REGULATIONS (NAVPERS 15665I), in PDF format.

Service Uniforms: Service Uniforms are the Navy’s daily wear uniforms, and exist in several variations. Skirts are authorized for women in all service uniforms.

Service Khaki: The service khaki uniform is the sole province of Officers and Chief Petty Officers, because of this, it is common to see references to “khaki leadership” in documents. It is a khaki shirt and trousers, worn with a gold belt buckle and black shoes. Rank insignia is worn on the collar. Ribbons and badges are worn with this uniform. The regulations for ribbons state the highest three, or all ribbons can be worn at once. There are actually three kinds of headgear authorized. Frequently, a khaki garrison cap or command ball cap is worn, but a khaki combination cover is authorized. The authorized shoes are black or brown oxfords, but traditionally, brown shoes are only worn by aviation connected officers and Chief Petty Officers. The black shoes are worn with black socks, and the brown with khaki socks.

Winter Blue: The winter Blue uniform is authorized for all ranks, because of its color, it is called the “Johnny Cash” uniform. It is a long sleeve black shirt and trousers, with the headgear either the combination cover, white hat, or a blue garrison cap. All men wear ties, with a silver clip for Petty Officers 1st Class and below, others gold. Ribbons and badges are worn, and officers and Chiefs wear metal collar insignia, while enlisted wear just the rating badge.

Summer and Tropical Whites: The summer white uniform is similar to the above uniform, but with a few differences. The entire uniform is white, except for enlisted black shoes. Officers wear shoulder boards in this uniform, while chiefs wear metal insignia and junior enlisted wear rating badges. Interestingly, the women’s shirt for all ranks has shoulder straps, but carry nothing except for officers. The rarely seen tropical white uniform is similar, except white knee shorts, and knee socks are worn. Junior enlisted still wear black shoes.

Working Uniforms
: The United States Navy has several working uniforms, for wear on underway ships, and in dirty work ashore. These uniforms are more for safety and comfort rather than appearance, and trousers are mandatory at all times. These uniforms are frequently either all natural fabrics, or blends. The typical headgear is a ball cap, either a generic “Navy” or a command listed. Currently, the Navy is attempting to replace these uniforms with a single Navy Working Uniform.

Winter Working Blues: Winter Working blues are similar to the Winter Blue Service Uniform.

Working Khaki: Just like the service khakis above, this uniform is worn by officers and Chief Petty Officers. Pin-on metal insignia is worn, and the garrison cap is an option. Only badges are worn, over the left pocket. There are short sleeved and long sleeved shirts available.

Utilities: Enlisted Utilities are a chambray shirt, with just the stripes from the rating badge worn, and dark blue slacks. Any badges, like submariner’s dolphins, are worn as embroidered outlines on the uniform.

Coveralls: A fairly new uniform, simple blue coveralls have become the standard working uniform for all ranks at sea. Rank insignia is worn on the collar, with officers and chief petty officers wearing embroidered pin on insignia, and other ranks embroidered miniatures of the rating badge. “U.S. Navy” on the left and the wear’s last name on the right are worn embroidered. Officers and Chiefs are embroidered in gold thread, and junior enlisted in silver. The senior designation badge is worn on the left, and others are optional. Officers and Khiefs wear khaki belts and junior enlisted wear black.

Tropical Working Uniforms: Tropical working uniforms exist, but are variations on the working khaki and utility uniforms. Knee shorts and black knee socks are worn, along with short sleeved shirts.

Aviation Working Greens: A working green uniform exists for officers and Chief Petty Officers in the aviation community. It is quite similar to the United States Marine Corps’ khaki uniform, with green jacket and trousers, and a khaki shirt, but insignia is black embroidery on sleeves, of stripes and the rating badge, while metal insignia is work on the khaki shirt. Wings are worn on both the jacket and the shirt. Brown shoes are authorized



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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. ken says:

    Why have uniforms at all? Have a decent dress code that requires neatness and then allow them to wear whatever they want. This works well in business, it will work just as well in the navy.

    On those rare occasions that require a dispay of medals or something have a dress-up uniform that is based upon a traditional look but is easy to take care of, similiar to a business suit.

    And get rid of the hats. No one wears hats anymore. They are a total waste of money.

  2. DC Loser says:

    The military isn’t a business. The Geneva Convention rules of war states all combatants have to be in uniform.

  3. ken says:

    You are right to point that out. But they could be more like school uniforms then, the kind of stuff they could buy at Target or Wal Mart.

    I believe that 99.9%, or higher, of navy personal are never in any kind of combat situation anyway.

  4. DC Loser says:

    Ken, I really think you have a basic lack of understanding about the military. The uniform is at the center of the military identity. It is part of the tradition handed down from one generation to the next. You can tell a soldier/sailor/airman/marine’s service history from his or her uniform. The patches, ribbons, badges, etc. The source of the uniform is immaterial, but the common appearance and the accoutrements tell the whole story. Also, the uniform is SUPPOSED to strip away individual identity aside from the abovementioned personal accoutrements. The uniform is a statement of service.

  5. Herb says:


    Ken has not only no understanding of the military, he has no understanding of being an American. As for his military expertise, he has none, prefering to let others put thier lives in danger and do the fighting for him, so he can sit back and critize everything the military does and stands for. You see DCL, Ken is just another extremist liberal coward who has little if any understanding of the sacrifices it takes to be a true American citizen.

  6. G A Phillips says:

    Ken, you mean like Michael Jackson?

  7. Stevely says:

    Ken. Better to be silent and be suspected a fool than open your mouth and confirm it. Seriously, your remarks were beyond ridiculous.

  8. just me says:

    Well back when my husband was in the Navy I always insisted that the Navy had the ugliest uniforms of all the services. He insisted it was the tradition, but who really wants to wear bell bottoms and a dog bowl on your head to work everyday?

    I think it is great that they are making the uniforms a little less janitorial in look-although I hope they don’t ditch the traditional cracker jack uniforms-while they aren’t exactly stylish, the tradition behind those would be kind of sad to lose (that said, I think I saw my husband in his cracker jacks maybe one time the whole 6 1/2 years he was in the Navy).

  9. DJ Elliott says:

    Just another comment to DC about how far out to lunch he is.
    Did you know that the USMC is a Naval Service? The Marines do not have Medics, Doctors, combat engineers, etc: USN provides. By the way, SEALs are Navy. Port security is USN/USCG.
    Marine aviators don’t exist, they are Naval Aviators that happen to be Marines. There is no “Department of the Marine Corp”, only DoN.
    Ever heard of the USS Cole? The Navy is always out and about. Even when we are not providing taxicab, medical, air and offshore fire support to our brethren leathernecks.
    (22 years USN)

  10. ken says:

    I understand the military and military traditions as well as anyone. That said, the traditional navy uniforms are just plain dorky. If there is a reason for them to wear uniforms let them wear something easily available through Wal Mart or Target. The uniform ‘look’ can be broad enough to even allow for gift purchases, of sweaters or jackets for example, by parents, grandparents, aunt, uncles etc.

    For formal occasions a more tradional concept can be utilized and due to the limited market would perhaps only be available through the services traditonal supply chain.

    The closed mindedness on the part of people here is pretty lame especially as the navy is changing the uniforms anyway.

  11. djneylon says:

    I spent 14 years in the Navy…so, here goes: the working uniforms were disasters, the replacements are MUCH better, but please, do not loose the dress blue uniform (also known as crackerjack). It is all about history and tradition…it represents generations of sailors who went before us. Sure, it may not fit in with contemporary ideas, but that’s not the point..tradition is

  12. Herb says:

    If Ken “knows all about the military and military rtaditions”, he must have read about it in his favorite liberal anti American training handbook.

    Thats about the closest he ever came to anything military. He NEVER severved a minute in the service of his country choosing only to be a leach and take, take, take at every Americans expense.

  13. ken says:

    djnylon, I would bet that, if given a chance to wear either the traditional uniform or something more contemporary, but equally formal, that many if not most sailors would choose the new and improved model. Over time the traditional uniform would be as rarely seen as the Beefeaters hat in London.

    I don’t see this happening but since the navy is changing the uniforms anyway why not consider the possibility of either eliminating them altogether or replacing them with something more in line with contemporary American standards and values?

  14. G A Phillips says:

    Herb, Dude, he wants ever body to dress like Michael Jackson, Ken must be even farther left than I thought he was.

  15. ken says:

    G.A. Philips, what Michael Jackson has done shows just how the traditional Navy uniform is so dorky. If you had any respect for the people who had to actually wear this stuff you would have more appreciation for the navy’s decision to change it.

    I don’t think the people in the service however are going to appreciate just going from one silly look to another silly look.

  16. G A Phillips says:

    Ken I was just messing’,and the navy could make the uni’s look a loot tougher if there going to change them seeing we are in a global holy war and all. you no like the other dimension next generation star trek uni’s.

  17. Richard Gardner says:

    As a Navy Veteran/Retiree, I am a bit familiar with the Navy uniforms, and how the current MCPON (senior enlisted) is changing much These changes are on the everyday working uniforms, not the dress uniforms.

    James was right to pick up on the discussion of “khaki” in the Navy. It is part of the culture. And speaking of culture, I seriously think Ken has zero idea what that means. Being in the military is not just another job. The uniform is more than the uniform of the Greyhound bus driver (sorry, had to get in a jab at the USAF). I imagine you would also get rid of close-order drill, and the theatrics at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. And for Ken – tell your comments to the sailors on the USS Stark. In particular, look at the report’s comments on on those wearing gym shorts as underwear, which melted during the firefighting response. Little things can end up making a big difference. Not just Walmart. And I imagine you have never been in a uniform shop, where the working uniforms are at a comparable price to what you find at Walmart. {Dress Uniform prices are a different matter].

    Navy Dungarees have been horrible since 1950. Blue jeans gone bad, with useless pockets. Recently they went to something similar to the Submarine Force “poopy-suit” coverall. But while this uniform may be OK underway, it really is just a coverall, not appropriate for wearing out in town. So now the Navy is following the other services in adopting a dungarees-style uniform – not reinventing the wheel here. The Navy needs a replacement.

    But there is a more significant military-civilian relationship story here, the hiding of the military in the 70s and 80s. Going back in time a decade, the Navy’s working uniforms were not permitted off-base. So the industrially working members of the military had to commute to work in their civilian clothes, and then change once they got onto the base, because all hell would break out if sailors were seen in their regular apparel. God forbid we should see a sailor at work.

    Back to today on the dress uniforms, the crackerjacks (service dress white and blue will continue). It is part of the Navy tradition, and not only the US Navy. While I would like to see the Choker-White disappear, the Top Gun Uniform, disappear, it is traditional, and will remain. No one really cares about the working uniforms, but there is pride in the dress uniforms.

    (Minor point – James is editor of the Navy PG School’s publication – figured it would be good to point that out in disclosure, given the BS about disclosure lately.)

  18. DC Loser says:

    The USAF bus drive uniform has its advantages. I have been given employee discounts at airport restaurants by wearing that uniform on TDY.

  19. fizzix says:

    I can appreciate the transition from solid blue to a mottled material. Sailors spend a lot of time painting onboard ship but they’re expected to wear spot-free uniforms. So, dungarees often didn’t last long.

    I still miss the robin egg blue cotton uniforms the women wore during the 70’s. The uniforms were very high maintenance but the women always looked good in them.

  20. Stevely says:

    “I understand the military and military traditions as well as anyone. ” – ken

    Ever wear a uniform yourself ken?

  21. LJD says:

    I am laughing so hard right now…

    Target? Wal Mart? WTF? I thought lefties hated Wal-Mart? Of course, I can hand it to you on Target- they don’t like Marines or Toys for Tots on ‘their’ property (how French!).

    Ken, there is no Target or WalMart on a military base. There is AAFES. This is where uniforms are purchased at reasonable prices, partially with the uniform allowance provided for them. Can you imagine thousands of sailors getting ‘shore leave’ in the middle east, to go buy their uniforms at Target and Wal-Mart? LOL

    I would be very interested to hear more about your ideas though. Like New Kids on the Block T-shirts, acid washed baggy jeans, rhinestones?

    C’mon, it’s Monday, I need a laugh.

  22. sgtfluffy says:

    Man, why couldn’t they have that Uniform when I was in. I got tired of looking like a convict from the 70’s 🙂

  23. DC Loser says:

    AAFES – Army and Air Force
    NEX – Navy
    MCX – Marines

  24. Yhoi says:

    If they are trying to make the new uniform look less gay, they have failed miserably. There is a reason the Village People were so into the Navy.

  25. Sidney Phillips says:

    This is about the worst decision that I have seen with uniforms.

  26. DARRELL says:

    Speaking for all snipes everywhere. Who cares what it looks like. How hot is that sucker when you are in a steaming engine room. Those dorky bluejeans may have looked funny but the chambray shirts weren’t too bad. These bdu’s look like heat stroke suits. However to be fair, I didn’t like poopysuits either. Polyester was never my style.

    Finally for all those knocking crackerjacks They worked really well in liberty ports as poggie bait.