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.