he modern rating’s shirt is visually very similar to that which has been in use for over a century and although only used with the Number One uniform today, is still issued to all junior rates as part of their kit allowance. It is commonly known as a ‘white front’ for obvious reasons and is a white cotton short sleeved t-shirt style garment:
The neck has a square cut to it, edged in blue:
The shirt is ironed down the front to create a visual peak at the front and centre of the shirt that can be seen when it is worn beneath the No 1 uniform jacket:
This needs to be done with a very clean iron to avoid marking the most visible part of the shirt, and care needs to be taken when re-ironing it to iron in exactly the same place to avoid the dreaded ‘tram lines’ where there are two creases, slightly apart on the front of the shirt which looks awful! Once the shirt has been ironed with the crease for the first time, it now has a front and rear face rather than being identical on both sides. The shirts are normally worn as a very tight fit to allow them to fit comfortably under the jacket of the No 1 uniform without creating too much bulk. This in turn can make them a little difficult to get on and off easily and often a second pair of hands is needed to help pull them off over the head.
The shirts have a simple label sewn into one seam near the bottom edge with NSN number and sizing:
Happily these modern shirts are a very close match to those used during wartime, but much easier to source in sizings that fit! Wartime shirts are nearly always too small to fit the modern man, so these make an excellent alternative to wear with wartime square rig and can often be found for very little money.
As a heads up, the white front has changed! The more modern ones, now have a button on the neckline on the back, to allow the shirt to open up a bit for putting on / removing it without the need for an oppo to help you in/ out of it!
There are two theories here, also applicable to other garments and even webbing straps. One is that our fathers and grandfathers were smaller, which is probably true to some extent. But it’s also easy to forget that we were also smaller, maybe even a little taller, when we went in the service. I enlisted in 1965 myself. The other possibility is that all the larger sizes were issued out and used up long ago. I have noted, by the way, that web shoulder straps (part of the P37 webbing) are marked “normal.” Don’t know how others might be marked but probably not “abnormal.”
One difference, however, between us today and our fathers and grandfathers that I’m pretty sure of, is that our feet are larger. But that’s just a guess based on a tiny survey of three men born in the 1920s or earlier.