Royal Navy Blue Jean Collar

Earlier this week I was lucky enough to pick up a full set of uniform to a Royal Navy Rating from the Second World War. We will be taking a closer look at the individual components of this grouping over the coming weeks, and tonight we start with one of the most iconic pieces of uniform worn by sailors, the traditional sailor’s blue jean collar.The collar dates back to at least the 1830s, but there were no definitive patterns until 1856 when it was greed that there would be two rows of white stripes on the blue jean collar, however consultation with the Commanders in Chief of Devonport and Portsmouth and their officers resulted in the agreed pattern having three rows of white stripping. These were applied as separate hand sewn pieces of white piping until 1941 when a new composite printed tape was introduced allowing them all to be attached as a single piece by machine rather than hand sewn:The underside of the collar is lined with a white and blue striped shirting fabric:It is here the owner stamped his name to identify the collar as his:To wear the collar it was placed over the flannel before the wearer put on his jumper and secured with the various tapes and loops:The following description of how to wear the collar comes from Martin Brayley’s excellent book on Royal Naval uniforms of the Second World War:

The rear of the collar lay on the shoulders, while a central section draped down the spine. Two extension pieces ran to the front over the shoulder, through a half twist at the front with two tapes that were then passed through loops on the spinal section before being fastened with a bow at the front. The two extension pieces were connected a the front by a small strip of fabric. To improve the appearance of the collar front this strip was normally cut allowing the front sections of the collar to ‘cut away’ inside the jumper and much higher than would otherwise be possible.

This particular collar retains its manufacturer’s label that helps date it to 1941:Later examples of the collar buttoned to the top of the sailor’s trousers and did away with the complicated tapes, today Velcro is used to secure them into the No1 dress uniform and small buttons help hold it down so it is not caught by the wind and flicked up, as seen here:We will return in detail to more World War Two rating’s uniform pieces in the coming weeks and months.


  1. The collar in the photo has been cut. The two lower tabs were all one piece as issued. The uncut tab held the lower outer parts together to form a blue “V” at the front of the jumper. It was fashionable for sailors to cut the tab so that the collar emerged from the jumper higher up at the front of the jumper. More like a superman cape!
    Look at old photos and you will see cut and uncut collars. More experienced and longer served sailors tended to wear the cut collar. An uncut collar is the sign of a new recruit. I was issued this type of collar at HMS Ganges in 1974. I cut the collars on joining my first ship. I think the velcro type was introduced about 1978 ish with the new uniform. The Velcro collar was crap and made you look like a sea cadet. Most sailors continued to wear the older more stylish collar with the new uniform. Todays uniform makes all sailors look like sea cadets!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.