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MARINER’S UNIFORM

MERCHANT NAVY UNIFORMS (history)

Aspiring cadets and seamen are always fascinated by the way a Merchant Marine Officer dress ups in his uniform, hence I would like to present a better picture of various uniforms in trend in history as well as in modern times.

Uniforms display rank and are a source of pride for their wearers.Many members of the Merchant Navy were never required to wear a uniform. Uniforms came into popular culture of Merchant navy when large shipping companies which carried passengers started using systems of stripes and badges. These helped to identify crew from passengers, officers from seamen or ratings, as well as encouraging discipline, this was the birth of Merchant Navy uniforms in Britain and part of Europe.

In India till date we are using the same Merchant Navy cap badges that were issued in 1940,In great Britain.However the official uniform insignia issued by Admiralty,Britain, Is not in popular culture, many companies at the same time retained their badges that were in popular culture, these uniforms were always kept optional,Hence it is well understood that uniforms were exclusively made for Royal Navy ( Naval force ) and were optional for the administration of Merchant Navy in particular Nation,upon the companies and administration under which they serve.These uniforms closely resemble to those of the Royal Navy.Ratings/seamen were also given certain uniforms but could never come into popular culture due to lack in the part of shipping companies,there was no uniform in the Merchant Navy – merely a small lapel button with the letters MN on it.

As pointed out by shadypirates :
A sailors’ work clothes did not differ very greatly from those worn by peasants on land, except for the coat or jerkin in place of the doublet. Certainly there was nothing that could be described as any sort of general uniform which differentiated the seaman from the landsman, or even was common amongst all seaman, “every man dressed as seemed good in his eyes” Sailor here refers to ratings and seamen.
Prior to 1748 officers, and captains of ships in particular, had worn what they pleased. It has been recorded that one captain had worn a plain black tailcoat and a white top hat. This type of headgear may seem out of place at sea but was commonly worn until 1850 or later.

Merchant Navy Insignia issued in 1940s by Admiralty,Britain.

Merchant Navy Insignia issued in 1940s by Admiralty,Britain.

MERCHANT NAVY BUTTONS 

These buttons depict, how buttons were used in uniforms of a Merchant Navy Officer,these were similar to Royal Navy buttons.
Four of a set of twelve circular brass buttons for a Merchant Navy officer’s uniform. The raised design depicts a slightly modified naval crown before an anchor within a braided rope surround. The reverse displays a maker’s mark – R. Macleod (6) Rd 664376. The naval crown, of alternate sterns and topsails, dates back to the early 18th century and is also known as Nelson’s crown, as it was used to commemorate his victory at Copenhagen in 1801. The official uniform of the Merchant Navy was introduced by the Board of Trade in 1918. An officer’s uniform jacket displays eight brass buttons running vertically down the front in two rows, while six buttons distinguish those who are not officers. picture will be posted along the article.( buttons history source:Swansea Museum,landore)

Buttons issued to Merchant Navy Officers.

Buttons issued to Merchant Navy Officers.

CAP BADGE AND BADGES

various kinds of badges were in popular use, but most popular ones were as depicted below,by commonwealth,of which India is also a part of.

Badges issued by Canada.

Badges issued by Canada.

COMPANY CAP BADGE.

A very popular cap badge of British Tanker company, BP Shipping today. Companies often used to assign their own badges.

cap badge issued by British Tanker Company, BP Shipping of today.

cap badge issued by British Tanker Company, BP Shipping of today.

Merchant Navy Officers in Uniform

CAPTAIN EDWARD SMITH OF RMS TITANIC. WITH FIRST OFFICER AND CHIEF OFFICER.

OFFICERS IN UNIFORM

OFFICERS IN UNIFORM

COLOURS IN INSIGNIA (COLOUR BETWEEN STRIPES)

I have done a through study of Uniform trends in Merchant Navy since its inception, there are quite a few amazing facts regarding these uniforms and insignias. This article is written for fellow Seafarers and aspiring Seafarers, to know and understand the complex system under which the merchant navy works and demonstrates its golden stripes.

– Cadet Abhishek Tiwari (marine_observer)

COLOUR IN INSIGNIA AND ITS SIGNIFICANCE :

Different trades of Officers wear different insignia,although the basic system of stripes remains same for equivalent ranks on the vessel. This insignia is quite useful in identifying Officers from different trades especially on cruise/passenger ships where there is a large crew onboard.

COLOURS GIVEN TO VARIOUS DEPARTMENT ARE AS FOLLOWS:

* DECK OFFICERS OR NAVIGATING OFFICERS OR SHIP’S OFFICERS :    FULL GOLDEN STRIPES. NO COLOUR.

* ENGINEER OFFICERS:     GOLDEN STRIPES WITH PURPLE COLOUR INBETWEEN.

* ELECTRICAL OFFICERS :      GOLDEN STRIPES WITH GREEN COLOUR INBETWEEN.

* MEDICAL OFFICERS :      GOLDEN STRIPES WITH RED COLOUR INBETWEEN.

* PURSER OR CHIEF STEWARD OR HOSPITALITY DEPT:     GOLDEN STRIPES WITH WHITE COLOUR INBETWEEN.

Theory behind purple colour for Engineers :

In 1865 it was decided that British naval engineers would wear a purple,that colour coding transferred to the British Merchant navy engineer officers,this is sometimes also said that it is a devoted symbol for engineers in Titanic with their purple boiler suits.This was particularly a Royal Navy thing in the past and later transfered to the British Merchant Navy, and came to India, as commonwealth Nation.

colours between braids.

colours between braids.

POPULAR STRIPES WITH DIAMOND.

This insignia is in popular,in Merchant Navy. Indian administration approves this insignia,as DG Shipping regulations state that diamond can only be used for Officers having certificate of competency (COC), Unless DG Shipping permits anyone to do so.

This is a picture by The Nautical Institute, second Officer insignia, with stripes and diamond.

This is a picture by The Nautical Institute, second Officer insignia, with stripes and diamond.

INSIGNIA, DECK DEPT. WITHOUT DIAMOND.

These insignias don’t have diamond, usually officers will have diamond at the first stripe. except trainee officers or cadets.

insignia used by deck department, without diamond.

insignia used by deck department, without diamond.

INSIGNIA,ENGINE DEPT. WITHOUT DIAMOND.

These insignias don’t have diamond, usually officers will have diamond at the first stripe. except trainee officers or cadets.

Insignia used by engine dept. hardboard type without diamond.

Insignia used by engine dept. hardboard type without diamond.

Standard Merchant Navy Insignia.( part of MERCHANT NAVY UNIFORMS)

This insignia came into force in 1940 under the British, and during second world war, this uniform is extensively used.This consists of a middle diamond with side stripes,being denser with rank. Here as given in the picture the level of picture depicts his seniority level.

standard Merchant Navy Insignia.

standard Merchant Navy Insignia.

OTHER POPULAR UNIFORMS (  popular in UNITED STATES OF AMERICA ranks)

ANCHOR SHOWN HERE IN FIRST ROW OF GOLDEN STRIPES DEPICTS THE DECK DEPARTMENT/NAVIGATING OFFICERS AND PROPELLER ON THE FIRST ROW DEPICTS THE ENGINEER OFFICER’S INSIGNIA.

These Kinds are usually used by USA Merchant Marine Officers.

These Kinds are usually used by USA Merchant Marine Officers.

BADGES IN UNITED STATES

This is the official Badge of United states Merchant Marines.

This is the official Badge of United states Merchant Marines.

MODERN DAY UNIFORMS AND ACCESSORIES.

Modern day Seafarers are not as what they used to be a 100 years back, seafaring today is not just about sailing, its about passion and pride. Merchant Navy Officers and Men are now getting trendy with time, hence Uniforms have now improved, and have attained a new level. With increasing fashion in the look and design of the uniforms. Most companies now don’t provide uniforms on board,hence it automatically comes up to the Officer what kind of uniforms he wants for himself within the code of conduct and trend.This poster created by me will help you to see what kind of Uniforms will suit the spirit and dynamic personality of a Merchant Navy Officer.

 

Modern uniforms and accessories.

Modern uniforms and accessories.

 

 

 

(c)copyright 2013  marine_observer

all the content unless stated and except few pictures used are work by marine_observer.

 

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40 Comments

  1. It’s really a nice and useful piece of information.
    I’m glad that you just shared this helpful information
    with us. Please stay us up to date like this. Thanks for sharing.

  2. marine_observer says:

    Thank you!

    • Michael Bolinger says:

      I am a hawsepiper USMM Oceans Master (1600 / 3000 GT/ITC & Master of Tow).
      I have been offered a commission with my son’s Sea Cadet Unit (USN JROTC).
      Many “Official” functions to attend in Dress Blues or Chokers.
      Want to put together an authentic uniform for myself that does not mis-represent but that also accurately represents my rank, status, and any medals I may be allowed to wear.
      First MMD in 1996 as Able Seaman.
      First Master’s License in 1998.
      Pretty well retired now.
      Please help with how to square my dress uniforms away and where is the best place to purchase MIL SPEC uniforms, insignias, etc,, for USMM’s.
      Thank you,
      Captain Mike Bolinger
      USMM
      Acta non Verba

      • Robin Fricke says:

        I too am looking for authentic uniform items and am wondering what you found out and might share.
        My father was class of 1944 USMMA Kings Point and I am wanting to put together three shadowboxes (for my sister and two bothers).
        I will give the shadowboxes to them when he is buried with Honors at Long Island National Cemetary, April 26.
        Lighthouse Uniforms in Seattle (800)426-5225 has a lot of items (my issue is one of timing).
        Precision Medals (843)521-1996 for other items

      • Robin Fricke says:

        Lighthouse Uniforms is no longer a timing issue.
        Ben, the manager, went above and beyond to ensure the order going out on time.
        It totally “blows me away” that he went out and hand picked the items so they would go out today>
        It’s these kinds of people and businesses that make this country great.
        this is such a prime example of Acta non Verba

  3. Capt P Madhukar says:

    Great information and very well presented. if your interested in doing some bigger research related to maritime during your vacation do get in touch with me. Capt P Madhukar.

  4. Jay Rindler, CPO, USNR-Retired says:

    It seems to me that many of txhe Merchant Marine (Merchant Navy as you call it) uniforms seem to mirror the respective country/flag Navy uniforms. Wish I can find out more of the respective countries and corporate insignias.
    This morning, I observed the Disney Wonder arrive in San Diego. From what I sould see. The Captain’s insignia looked to be from Italy, however I saw a 3rd Officer with a USMM insignia (1-1/2″ stripe below an fouled anchor). I overheard her talking-most likely American. Later saw a 2 nd Purser Officer- Looked like Italian insignia. But later saw a 1st Purser Officer- looked American to me.
    Please keep me posted. I am fascinated with various insginia. Have a bit of a collection myself.

  5. Capt. R. B. Mejares says:

    In the Philippines, we patterned our uniform from the US (it could be due to our colonial past), but the only difference is that we are using the fouled anchor.

  6. shona gaffney says:

    my dad was in the merchent navy and still as his uniform and i think he was chief engineer his name is walter dorward campbell

    • marine_observer says:

      Thank you! C/E Walter Dorward Campbell , Mariners are integral part of this global village concept, and we are proud to be mariners.

  7. Bagpipe mike says:

    Nice article, well done. It’s good to note the simplicity of the U.S. Merchant Marine Officer uniform. Shoulder boards & an American flag are about it. The number of stripes is all that’s needed to function efficiently aboard ship. Without all the added ribbons & such. I wear my Chief Engineer uniform proudly.

  8. Steven says:

    Thanks very much for this. I work in a heritage team and we had a donation of a jacket and hat badge and this website has helped so much. Thanks again.

  9. sly says:

    Nice information, please I want. To know the official ceremonial uniform for merchant navy wedding and the colour.

  10. colin says:

    Awesome page.My dad was in the British merchant navy.I have some buttons and badges and am trying to find out the value of these.Are they collectable items etc.Where do I start?

  11. Bill Kean says:

    G’day, I have two photographs I would like to your advice on but it appears there is no where to post them here. Do you have an email address where I could send them. Its in regards to buttons, cap badge and sleeve insignia. Manythanks.

    • ijaz inayat says:

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      Dear sir,
      Hope you will be fine with my best wishes,
      We are pleased to inform you that we are the leading manufacturer & exporters of all kind of hand embroidered badges,
      Emblems, Crests, ww1, ww2 militaria Masonic regalia, Patches, Family crests, Flags & Banners,
      Especial Item: Single cloth and double sided embroidery crest,Please Find the Attachments products pictures
      UNIFORM ACCESSORIES:-
      Aiguilettes, Epaulettes, Shoulder cords,Shoulder boards Sword knots, Flag cords, Frings in bullions,
      Silk or any material, Visor caps, Berets, Polo caps & all the items you may need
      We can make all these items in best quality, Suitable prices.Our prices are much competitive.
      So please give us a chance to serve you
      We will await for your Answer & Inquiries,
      Thanks & Best Regards,
      Awaiting sincerely
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      ALYAN EMBROIDERY

  12. Irshaad says:

    Many candidates who are new to the merchant navy are not much aware about the different batches of the tags involved in the merchant navy uniforms. The students passing out from any institute like “Springdale Maritime Academy” known for the presea training, gets more interested about the attire and work culture in the ship. The uniforms are also made as such it gives great respect.

  13. Edgbert Lewis says:

    Am looking for full Mariner Captains full dress uniform with the appropriate insignia.

  14. Eldho says:

    Merchant navy uniform change and looking like navy uniform

  15. lentze.p says:

    do you have a branch in Manila Philippines? if so kindly requested the name/teleph.n0 and addresse/// thank you

  16. Jennifer says:

    I am trying to confirm identity of a uniform said to be that of a deck officer of the merchant marine, probably 1905-1920. I would like to be able to post a photograph but can’t see an option to do this. J

  17. melkias says:

    what is the meaning of cedet’s epaulet ? thanks

  18. melkias says:

    what is the meaning of the color of cadet’s epaulet ?

  19. Arvind singh says:

    Oiler dress pls send picks

  20. DiveDog says:

    Well, the USMS was disbanded not long after WWII.
    They had a standardized uniform for the USMM which is pretty much USN with a spin.

    Now the research says unless you are graduating from the Academy day then you wear the uniform your company decides on.

    Ya….ok….

    I am going to just get USN MIL SPEC duds and put the USMM / USMS insignia’s on them.
    I saw MSC had a set of insignia’s but I am not MSC any longer.

    If an officer approaches me and gives me any lip then I will tell him to find me the specs in the MILPERS manuel for USMM uniforms and I will be glad to comply.
    Until then just continue taking a dump on the USMM.
    USMM’s from the WWII generation are just now being recognized for their service.

    I was on “missile lock” with everyone else on my ship by our friendly neighbors of the Persian Gulf.
    What do I get for my service?
    A USMM job market that is in the toilet.
    25 year USMM driving truck to feed his kids.
    Figures….

  21. DiveDog says:

    Look up USMS uniforms on google.
    They have pics for Officer and Enlisted.
    That was what the WWII seamen wore.

    What the Academies wear are pretty much just for Academy dress.
    Except for the staff that is.
    They still wear the USNR patch no matter what academy if the Midshipmen takes a Commission in the USNR.

  22. Adam Phillips says:

    Quick question would there be a reason why a Merchant captain would be wearing a Royal Navy uniform? Picture I have is from just after the Second World War.

  23. DiveDog says:

    Just like the USMS the Royal Navy had their own “Merchant Navy”.
    I don’t know if they are still as formal as they were in those days.
    I doubt it.
    I have sailed “work boats” for the last 25 years all over the world in many different aspects of the USMM industries.

    The only time I see a Merchant Officer of any flag state in dress uniform is in “service related” industries.
    Most USMM’s on work boats look like a homeless guy that just crawled out from under the bilge plates.
    Rags…..Dirty rags for clothes.
    Uniforms?!
    Ha!
    And if you do get a uniform some idiot “Port Captain” that doesn’t even have a license makes a uniform choice that makes the Captain or his Officers look like bus drivers or airline pilots.

    The reason you can not find “modern” uniform standards for most flag state merchant mariners is there are none.
    Disarray just like our industry.

    Why pay a man a living wage when you can get a 3rd world sailor to sail for pennies on the dollar?
    Even Military Sealift Command pays chump change unless you are an “A Book” with AMO.
    Our own Country expects us to spend 3-6 months away from our families at sea for minimum wage or less if they can get away with it in the Articles wording.
    Fuck it….
    I am so disgusted I will just stop now.

  24. Hope says:

    What is the right uniform for Radio officers or vts personnel’s in ports?

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