By Garland Davis
A couple year ago I bought a chambray shirt very like the dungaree shirts I once wore. My wife folded it away and put it in the shirt drawer. It slowly worked its way to the bottom of the drawer. Since I am now an old fart and don’t care what impression I make, the shirt on top is the one I wear. If it doesn’t match anything else I am wearing, I don’t really give a shit.
My wife pulled the chambray shirt out this morning and asked if I wanted to keep it since I didn’t wear it anymore. Of course, I told her to keep it, I had never worn it.
I was going up to the bank this morning and decided to wear it. As I slipped my arms into the sleeves it brought back memories of the thousands of times I had donned similar shirts. The old fart in the mirror in the new dungaree shirt was not the young sailor in the old, faded, paper thin shirt I remembered. When those days run into our thoughts, we are usually clad in dungarees as well we should, we spent most of those years of our life in that uniform. We spent far more time in dungarees than in any other uniform.
I guess the first “real salty” sailor I saw was the Deck Force Leading Seaman in Vesuvius. He retired from the Navy as a BM3. He did his entire twenty years in ammunition ships and oilers. He was a sea going sailor in a faded to almost white Kleenex soft shirt. I loved dungaree shirts when they got like that.
Many of us tried to hurry the process with both the shirts and trousers by dragging them in the wake of the ship for a short while. Too long and the salt water would fray them to rags. The brown baggers would soak them in hot water and Clorox in the bathtub to quickly fade them. I’ll admit that I did that myself.
Sea stores dungarees were baggy and the shirts were all long sleeved. But they were cheap. The sailor who really cared about the appearance of his dungarees transitioned from issue to Seafarer pants and shirts. The shirts could be purchased in both short and long-sleeved varieties. Issue shirts came only in long sleeves.
Dungarees were a “working uniform.” By the end of the day most sailors, with the exception office staff, twidgets and others, looked like “Joe Shit the Ragman.” Most working sailors had “steamers” for underway and dirty jobs and squared away dungarees and white hats for inport.
Dungaree shirts had two pockets. The most one carried was a pen and a pack of cigarettes. It was important to keep the pockets buttoned. If not, when you bent over to pick up something your smokes would fall into a mop bucket or into the bilges.
I wonder if today’s sailors, with their “Blueberry,” “Woodland, Camo uniforms and their coverall “Poopy Suits” will feel the same nostalgia and pride that we do for our dungarees.
You know someday when I reach that Silver Cruiser tied up at the Golden Pier the uniform will be Seafarer dungarees and a faded, almost white soft as Kleenex chambray shirt.
Nah, as much as I loved a sharp faded, starched, and pressed dungaree uniform, I love a faded, starched, and pressed set of Wash Khaki just a little more.
As an aside, a question that has bothered me for a long time. Does the Navy deliberately design uniforms to make the women’s asses look big or are their asses just naturally that big?