Royal Navy Bell-Bottom Trousers

We continue our review of wartime Royal Naval ratings’ uniform with the ‘bell-bottom’ trousers. These were so named due to the trouser legs flaring out to a great width at the cuff, with a width at the knee of 12-13in and a width at the ankle of 12-14in:imageThis great width allowed the trousers to be easily rolled up to allow work such as scrubbing decks, where they were rolled past the knees to protect them from water. This pair of trousers is made of dark blue serge and has a blue and white striped lining at the waist, indicating they date to after 1932:imageNote the owner’s name stencilled on with white paint. The striped shirting material was replaced by unbleached calico in  June 1943. The waist of the trousers had a complicated series of flaps. With all the flaps open the full extent of the lining can be seen:imageThe first layer were two flaps that came in and fastened together on the front of the trousers, these included a small pocket for the wearer to store a watch or pocket handkerchief:imageThese were then covered with a second fall flap that folded up and down. This was secured with four black buttons at the waistline:imageButtons were fitted for braces, but sailors liked to wear their trousers so tightly cut that they were usually unnecessary and could often be removed by the owner as in this case. Sailors were issued with three pairs of serge trousers, kept rolled up in their kitbag. They were turned inside out to prevent fluff from appearing on the outside and folded into a rectangular block horizontally at about a hand’s width. This gave rise to the distinctive inverted creases down the sides of the leg, which having started as a practical measure, soon acquired a sartorial significance. Creases were ironed in with either five or seven depending on the length of the wearer’s leg.

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 )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google 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.