Sailor’s Dickie

Today we have a rather curious item of naval rating’s clothing, a white front dickie. The sailors traditional white front shirt, or flannel to give it the correct name, was a tight fitting shirt that was often difficult to get on or off single handed and could be very warm after extended wear in tropical climates. In the early twentieth century many sailors adopted the dickie instead. This was never an official item of dress, but consisted of a bib that replicated the visible part of a white front, but did away with the sleeves and most of the bottom of the shirt:

Worn under the sailor’s jumper it was impossible to tell that this was not a full shirt and it was far more comfortable to wear. A loop and tape were provided on each side to secure the dickie whilst it was being worn:

The dickie is made of white cotton drill, with the traditional square cut sailors collar, edged in blue tape:

These garments were never official issue, although widely accepted by the RN as being acceptable for use. As they were worn under the jumper and never on their own identifying them in photographs is often impossible. We do see one being worn in, of all places, the George Formby film “Bell Bottom George” where the sailor/actor on the left of this still can be seen wearing an example (it is clearer when the film is playing):

The dickie continued to be worn into the post war period and could occasionally cause the unlucky sailor a problem as Martin Brayley recalls:

Toulon. Summer 1977. My old hand QM was wearing one of these under his No1 suit. OOD came to the gangway and ordered the BM and QM to remove their jumpers because it was so hot….

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