Here are a few other odds and ends of NWU observations and advice:
On my previous post about NWUs, Oz gave some good advice in the comments section: Get the pants longer than you think you need. If they're too long, that's fine because you're just going to blouse them anyway. The first pair of NWU pants I bought were the size recommended by the tailor lady at the Navy Annex uniform shop, but I found they weren't long enough to blouse and keep the top of my boot covered. Eventually I broke down and bought another, longer pair so they would blouse right and cover my boot laces. When you try them on, I recommend blousing them over a boot then sitting down in a chair. Try crossing your legs. That was usually when I found mine pulled up onto my calves.
Note, just like the uniform regs don't say, "Thou shalt buy Bates shoes because that's what they sell at the Navy Exchange," they ALSO don't say, "Thou shalt buy the nasty, scratchy, uncomfortable blue NWU t-shirts because that's what they sell at the Navy Exchange."
Article 3603.3 of the Navy Uniform Regs only specifies, "Navy blue, cotton, quarter-length sleeve, with an elliptical (crew-neck) collar." So just like the shoes, I encourage you to branch out and find something comfortable.
I tried a few different brands of t-shirts including the standard ones sold at the uniform shop, plus the Hanes, L.L. Bean, and Old Navy. I didn't like the L.L. Bean because the tag was in the seam on the left side and kept poking and scratching me. The Hanes and the Old Navy were both comfortable. The Hanes were more affordable, but I think the Old Navy will last longer. The one I liked the most and bought a bunch of were the Old Navy. I bought some in short-sleeve and some in long-sleeve. I've worn them almost every day for the past 26 months - both with my coveralls underway and with my NWUs in port, and they've shown no sign of physical degradation in that time. I have other plain white Hanes t-shirts and underwear, and while they're comfortable, they would NOT have lasted this long.
Okay, yep, you got me. I'm putting myself on report for NOT following the uniform regs because I had LONG sleeve shirts when the uniform regs specify short sleeves. However, I found them very useful in the winter both in-port here in the Pacific Northwest and underway on a submarine, and nobody can tell the difference from your neckline of whether you have a short or long-sleeve shirt on underneath.
If I was given the authority to change just one thing in the uniform regs, then I would bring back the standard command ballcaps. It would be fine if we were limited to wearing the ballcaps on-base and had to wear the standard NWU 8-point cover if we leave the base. Here's why:
- The 8-point cover acts like a sail and is easily carried away in the wind. Speaking from experience, it's very frustrating climbing the ladder out of the submarine and as soon as your head breaks the plane of the main deck, the wind blows your cover off into the water. Doh. Now you look like a fool walking around base with no cover on and people looking at you funny. The ballcaps present less surface area and are more rounded to your head and don't get blown off so easily.
- After it's been blown off into the drink, it is decidedly INconvenient to replace the 8-point NWU cover. They aren't adjustable, so you have to buy your specific size. On small ships and submarines without a dedicated ship's store, it doesn't make economic sense to manage an inventory of NWU covers in every possible size. Since they don't sell them in the ship's store, you have to go up to the uniform shop to buy a replacement. Oh, and you have to buy the rank insignia to be sewn on. Then you either have to take it home and sew it yourself, or you have to turn it into the tailor shop to have them sew it on.
- The 8-point cover and rank insignia are more expensive than the command ballcap.
- The command ballcap, if worn by all personnel, provides uniformity, looks sharp, and can boost Sailors' pride in their command.
In a nutshell, the 8-point cover is easier to lose and both more expensive and inconvenient to replace. The command ballcap is harder to lose, costs less, and is much easier to replace from the ship's store, and it can boost the crew's pride in their ship.
All that being said, two points of advice for those of you wearing NWUs under the current rules:
1. Buy TWO NWU covers so you have a spare ready - correct size, rank insignia sewn on, etc.
2. When you first climb up that ladder or step out onto the weatherdecks, hold onto your hat!
Well, NWUs, it's been fun. I'm headed back to the National Capital Region, so I guess I better go try on my khakis again. Hmmm... I wonder if I can return the NWUs to the Navy Annex uniform shop? Let's see... where did I put that receipt? They won't find it suspicious that the receipt was dated 2 years ago will they?