Tuesday, June 7, 2011


10/15 years ago,way before the sudden interest created by the "NAVY-ISM" craze and some designer newbies ,not much was to be found about his peculiar and iconic piece of garment .to tell you the truth ,not many denim collectors cared about it as they were plentiful.Over the years, i've heard and read so many uniformed opinions about the dating of such a jacket,even in Japanese magazines ,that i've decided to put together this post in an attempt to showcase all the elements that'll allow the reader to understand its evolution and function in the US NAVY .
The blue denim uniform, dungarees, is the Bluejacket's [NAVY's bible]working uniform.  In 1901 regulations authorized the first use of denim jumpers and trousers, and the 1913 regulations permitted the dungaree outfit to be used by both officers and enlisted with the prescribed hat of the day.  Officer's engaged in aviation introduced the khaki uniform and eventually it was the accepted working uniform for officers.  Chief Petty Officers were in time allowed to don the khaki work uniform.

So let's start from the earliest clues found ....... from the pages of the NAVY'S bible :the 1917 blue jacket .This ww1 picture shows one of the very first denim jumper aka dungarees .It was a pull over one ,with 2 lower pockets .it is clearly the forerunner of the more common ww2 "open front"one.....it was not worn with a chambray shirt underneath as they were not part of the enlisted men's uniform then.

On these ww1 shots sailors wearing the early denim  jumper...
this shot, taken around 1918 in Florida ,shows a USN work party wearing the newly created "open front" jumper with removable brass buttons.It's a clear evolution from its forerunner ,allowing its wearer to take it off faster and making the dungarees more comfortable.Some of the earlier pull over example also present .......  

Between the 2 wars there's a certain lack of information,but this article from the 1941 US NAVY uniform regulations book ,tells a lot about the rules applied to denim work blues
From the same book the official denomination....
Father and son in blues.....
On the waterfront.....
A seafarer's favorit too..
Complete pre ww2 set of blues .dead stock.....
Early removable buttons,up to pre ww2,were made of black painted brass..... 
For restrictions reasons surrounding the war effort,here is the second type ,a celluloid  version.It appeared early during the war.....
This the 3rd type a non removable button ,same as the one used on the denim fly . This type was used  at  the end of WW2 up to the end of the Korean conflict and exhaustion of the produced stocks ......
Two of the known pocket designs.The right one being the more common ....
So, many times i've been asked what are the side eyelets for !? NO it's not to adjust the waist size but to accomodate the clothes stops...  A clothes stop is a small diameter cord about 12 inches long with metal ends to keep the cord from fraying.  This short cord was used to tie laundry to a clothes line or other convenient object for drying.  Every recruit was issued a length of clothes stops in boot camp instead of clothes pins.  They ceased to be issued in the late 70's.Such eyelets can also be found on early wool pants and whites....


  1. Excellent! Thank you for this fun and informative post.

  2. We were issued clothes stops in 75 at great lakes but had to return them after boot camp was over.

  3. such a great post - i didn't know about the different types of buttons or the two pocket styles. really informative and a great read. thanks!

  4. Oh yeah,forgot.
    Reliable & Franks naval tailors acrost from the navy yard sold a denim jumper back in the 60s and 70s.Looked jus like a reg.jumper except had a zipper in front.Sold for about $30.Kind of pricey back then.I passed.

  5. 2 years ago got a custom tailored one from vietnam with zipper and shawl collar too.sold it as i needed the $$$ things come and go ......

  6. You talkin' to me?
    No,seriously,they moved to red bank n.j. about 2005.I think its now red bank surplus.You could try them but I kind of doubt it if you want a jumper from them.Dont even know if theyre still in biz.Too bad,last of the old naval tailors.
    Funny,recently ran across one of their jumpers at a militaria dealer for $20,but agin I passed.Just wasnt in the mood I guess

  7. oooo Thanks for putting this together. I love the purty pictures too. After my early childhood smitten with middies,sailor collars, and peacoats, the dungarees in the early 70s....Best jeans ever to wear with platforms! Those were THE fashion statement around the Bay Area for cute girls...

  8. Red Bank Surplus is still in business. Tell Vinny that "Dan Smith" sent you.

    Any facts/photos of the belts/buckles used with the earliest utility/dungaree pants?

    Nice thread!

    Thanks for posting.

  9. I would add that in the earliest days (1901-1930s) only Artificers (engineering crews), Gunnery crews, submarine sailors, "coaling crews," and other uniform soiling activity crews could wear the utility working uniform. If you were an "administrative type," you were not only not issued this uniform, but were forbidden to have one aboard ship.

  10. I just stumbled upon this blog. I'm part of a new living history group that will be working with the USS Alabama. This is excellent information and will help us in reproducing this garment. Thanks!



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