RAF Woolly Pully

The woolly pully has been an enduring item of clothing for the last half century or more and remains popular with all three services. Tonight we are looking at an example of the RAF woolly pully. Although they all conform to a broadly similar design there are distinct differences in the details between the jumpers worn by each force. The RAF example is of course made in the typical RAF blue grey:imageThis example is unbelievably small so I suspect was for a cadet rather than a serviceman, it is still however referred to as an ‘RAF’ jumper on the label:imageNote the V neck of this jumper, this is the more formal version designed to be worn with a tie, other round neck versions were used at various points in the garment’s history. As with other woolly pullies, the shoulders have the usual fabric reinforcement and velcroed shoulder straps:imageElbow pads are sewn to the sleeves:imageAnd on the left sleeve is a pen pocket:imageThis opens up to reveal space for two or three pens or pencils:imageReduction knitting is used at the cuffs:imageAnd waistband:imageThis draws the garment in and helps keep a layer of air trapped between the jumper and the shirt, this air heats up and keeps the wearer warm.

One airman recalls the first issue of the woolly pully back in the early 1970s:

Ha-ha. The first woolly pully. A mate of mine gave his a wash, and being a singlie, he simply bunged it in with the rest of his dhobi. What came out was, shall we say, not the same as what went in. I was lucky I was married, 2 days after getting it I caught it on drain plug at work and put a hole in it. Went back to stores for another and they said feck off that’s got to last 4 years and threw some darning wool at me.

The woolly pully was quite well received:

When the Woolly Pully was introduced in the RAF it was a true Godsend.  Finally a true working uniform.  All previous styles involved a high-waisted trousers and bum-freezer blousen type jacket.  OK for parades, but not OK for working in.  There are the two neck styles round or crew necked and V necked.  The V necked were of course designed for wearing with a tie…All of mine wore out at the elbow and it wasn’t till I was leaving the RAF that they introduced Pullys with elbow patches.

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