The Ultimate Guide to Submarine Uniforms

You know you’re a submarine spouse when you have a dedicated closet in your home for uniforms. Or, you’ve been woken up at an ungodly hour to help find uniform pieces.

Sailors are required to maintain their uniforms throughout the year. In fact, did you know enlisted members receive an annual clothing allowance to help cover the replacement of uniforms based on normal wear and tear? Make sure you’re taking advantage.

So what are the uniforms and when do they wear them?

Submarine uniforms can be best described as three categories: Dress, Service and Working. Read on below to learn more about each category. This is by all means a high-level list, so please refer to the U.S. Navy Uniforms Regulations for more specifics.

Dress Uniforms

Occasions: Homecomings, Submarine Balls, Change of Command Ceremonies, Weddings, Commissionings, Funerals, etc.

Photo courtys of DeviantArt

The United States Navy has three categories of dress uniforms, from least to most formal: service, full, and dinner dress.

Service Dress uniforms are worn for official functions not rising to the level of full or dinner dress. They are also commonly worn when traveling in official capacity, or when reporting to a command. The civilian equivalent is a business suit. Service Dress Blue may be worn year-round, while Service Dress White is reserved for summer or tropical zones. Officers and Chief Petty Officers (CPOs) uniform consists of a dark navy blue suit coat and trousers (or optional skirt for women) that are nearly black in color, a white shirt, and a black four-in-hand necktie for men or a neck tab for women. For male junior enlisted sailors, their uniforms are based on the classic sailor suit in navy blue, colloquially referred to as “crackerjacks” because of the sailor-suited figure that adorns the packaging of Cracker Jack snacks.

Full Dress uniforms are worn for ceremonies such as changes of command, retirements, commissionings and decommissionings, funerals, weddings, or when otherwise appropriate. Full Dress is similar to Service Dress except that instead of ribbons, full-size medals are worn above the left breast pocket, with ribbons worn on the opposite side for decorations without corresponding medals. Swords or cutlasses are authorized for wear by officers and chief petty officers, and may be required for Lt. Commander and above.

Dinner Dress uniforms are the most formal and have the most variations. For officers, there are Dinner Dress Blue and Dinner Dress White, Dinner Dress Blue Jacket and Dinner Dress White Jacket, and Formal Dress. Although trousers are authorized, women frequently wear the appropriate color skirt. Those holding the rank of lieutenant and below have the option of using the Dinner Dress uniform when Dinner Dress Jacket is prescribed. The enlisted sailors who are chief petty officer and above wear a uniform similar to the officers, but with rank insignia and service stripes on the left sleeve. While enlisted who are petty officer first class and below have optional Dinner Dress Jacket uniforms similar to the officers and chiefs, they may also wear their Dinner Dress uniform, which is the traditional Service Dress “sailor suit,” with miniature medals instead of ribbons.

Service Uniforms

Occasions: daily wear environments, office environments, in positions that interact with the public

Photo courtys of DeviantArt

Service uniforms are the U.S. Navy’s daily wear uniforms, and exist in several variations. They are intended for use in office environments, in positions that interact with the public, and in watch situations. Skirts are authorized for women in all service uniforms. Service uniforms are varied between enlisted and officers, as follows:

For Officers & CPOs, their service uniforms consist of Service Khaki or Summer White Service. The Khaki is a short-sleeved khaki button-up shirt and matching trousers, worn with a gold belt buckle. The shirt features two front flap pockets and an open collar. Ribbons are worn above the left pocket of the shirt, with the warfare insignia above them. The Summer White consists of a short-sleeved, open-collared white button-up shirt, white trousers and belt, and white dress shoes. 

For Junior Enlisted, the Navy Service Uniform consists of a short-sleeve khaki shirt for males and a khaki weskit-style blouse for females, with permanent military creases, black trousers for males with beltless slacks for females and optional beltless skirt, and a black unisex garrison cap. Silver anodized-metal rank insignia is worn on shirt/blouse collars and cap. The service uniform also includes a black relaxed-fit jacket with a knit stand-up collar and epaulets, on which petty officers wear large, silver anodized-metal rate insignia.

Working Uniforms

Occasions: Daily work wear

CTRCS Erin Piazza and PSC Manuel Guiracocha wear the new Navy NWU Type III uniform.(Alan Lessig/Staff)

For daily wear, submariners wear a Navy Working Uniform or a Shipboard Working Uniform.

The Navy Working Uniform is likely the most familar uniform you’ve seen your sailor wear, the green cammies. Your sailor may still have “blueberry” cammies (Navy Working Uniform Type 1) hanging in their closet, but the Navy transitioned to the green cammies (Type III) in 2019. This working uniform is the primary shore uniform, worn daily. While Navy uniforms traditionally have featured an indication of rank on the cover, the Type III uniforms have been designated to replace the rank insignia with the Anchor, Constitution, and Eagle (ACE) insignia. Black, brown or tan boots are authorized for wear with the Type III, though black is the standard color for sailors located in the contiguous United States. 

While underway, submarines wear their Shipboard Working Uniform, better known as the “poopie suit” coveralls. The flame resistant variant coverall is used aboard all ships, dark blue in color compared to the older coveralls, which are lighter.

If you’re a more visual person, check out this helpful video from Business Insider:

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