Psst Sailor, want to buy a uniform?

Were one to aspire to a military career because of the uniforms then, as a sailor,  the U.S. Navy is for you.

I was a sailor during the late 1970s with a Navy dress uniform that one might mistake for a naval officer, chief petty officer or even a Wall Street businessman who snatched the hat off of a doorman.

The Navy uniforms seem to grow in numbers, complexities and pockets over the succeeding years. I would have to suspect that the real Wall Street bidness men who have populated the Department of Defense and Congress in recent years would be just fine with a single Defense Department in both name and action. It isn’t a totally ridiculous proposition.

Nixon and Johnson sitting in a tree ..

Do we need a Navy aviation component while we have an Air Force branch of DoD?  Even the Marines, who would rather be water-tortured than to admit that their branch belonged to the Navy, has their own aviation section. So does the Army, which has a large number of helicopters and other aircraft. Ditto for the Coast Guard, of course, the Coasties aren’t part of the Defense Department.

So as far as the bean counters who run Defense are concerned, why shouldn’t the soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines — and the Coast Guard guys and gals of Homeland Security Department — all wear the same uniforms?

Why shouldn’t they all wear the same uniforms, you asked? Yes, I just asked. Keep up please! It is called tradition.

In the backwoods of the East Texas Pineywoods from where I was raised, I wasn’t particularly “ate up,” — denoting extreme fondness — with tradition.

My two brothers who served in the Navy during the Cold War and Vietnam era, and my Dad, who was a cook and baker in the Merchant Marine during WWII, certainly didn’t eschew tradition. Speaking of which, I eschewed a few times a couple of minutes ago. No one was around to say “Bless you!”  or “¡Salud!” as my Hispanic friends would proclaim. Okay, if you can’t take a joke …

During my time in service from July 1974 to July 1978 our uniforms were much different from those my brothers wore, collectively, from 1963 to 1970.

Many of the longer-tenured sailors I knew and even some younger sailor who said they wanted to stay “just  a little bit longer … ” were fond of the “Cracker  Jacks.” Those were the dress  jumper uniforms in both blue and white, with a flap on the back and a neckerchief tied in a square knot. Women wore a slightly different uniform. Well, perhaps I should say different.  I wasn’t a woman in the Navy so I shall not even express an opinion on the subject. Why? Oh come on …

I have said before and I will say again, I think some of the Navy uniforms make sailors look like jarheads.  Oh well, does the uniform make the man (or woman), or does the man or woman make the uniform. Don’t go asking me.

John Paul Jones invented the Navy. No, not really. Captain John Paul Jones continental navy 1747-1792 portrait by Cecilia Beaux. The original painting is in the US Naval Academy Museum, Annapolis, Maryland. Image courtesy of the Naval History and Heritage Command.

Military uniforms — especially those the enlisted men and women wear — are by and large a product of those who wear them.

I do not say that enlisted, or officer, uniforms are solely decided by those distinct groups. But those who wear the uniform will most often determine if those become the uniform of the day.

Quite often, when I was at sea, I had what was called “duty.” My job that day included typing up and and printing the Plan of the Day on the old mimeograph machine. The POD was kind of like the local newspaper although it told you how to dress. Oh well. This wasn’t the Boy Scouts.

I promise, on my honor to do my best, yadda, yadda …

And, just hope you don’t have a mate named Gilligan.