Uniform Terminology, Maintenance, Storage and Etiquette

Uniforms can be one of the biggest headaches in day to day military life for us SOs.  In this series, we will be taking a look at all the bits and bops of each of the different Navy enlisted uniforms from digies to dress so be on the lookout for those in the coming weeks and months.
In this post however, we are looking at basic terminology, maintenance, storage, and etiquette for uniforms across the board.

Photo by U.S. Pacific Fleet

Basic Terminology:

Cover = Hat

Blouse = Over shirt (not undershirt)

Neckerchief = Black Neckercref for Dress whites and blues

Shirt Clips = Are these crazy little elastic bands with clips on each end that are worn with Peanut Butters.  They clip one end to the bottom of the blouse and the other to the top of the socks.  I think the point is to keep the blouse from coming untucked?

Regulation = what is allowed.  Uniform, hair, makeup accessories, etc

Tape = Name and navy tapes, these are the strips of fabric with US Navy on one and the service members last name on them.

Storage is key with uniforms.  If your command is anything like the ones my husband has been at, they like the spring uniform inspections at the last minute.  These consist of either an on the hanger inspection or a worn uniform inspection.  The hanger inspection is basically just to make sure everyone has that uniform and all the correct parts.  The worn inspection is where they have to wear the complete uniform and show that they not only have everything but also that everything fits.  So it is extremely important to stay on top of uniforms because there is nothing worse than trying to get to the uniform shop go grab part before they close the night before an inspection.  What we do is we keep all of the uniforms (except the NWUs (digies), PTs and coveralls) in hanging garment bags.  We have 3 of them.  One for dress whites, one for dress blues and one for peanut butters.  Now there are some parts that go with all the uniforms and we only keep one set of those.  For example he only has one pair of his dress shoes and one set of ribbons that trade around between the three.  He tries on the peanut butters if he hasn't worn them for a few months just to make sure they still fit and we do the same with the dress uniforms about a month before they change over.  Before any of the parts go into the garment bag, we make sure they are clean, ironed and hung correctly.  That way they are ready when he needs them.  If they call for an inspection, all he has to do is put the shoes in the bag and put the ribbons on the blouse and he's ready to go.

A uniform inspection should be super easy and shouldn't be something that is failed.


One thing that your service member was taught in bootcamp was how to put their uniform together.  And it's not as simple as just putting all the parts together.  They must be pressed a certain way, cleaned a certain way and worn a certain way.  Like I said above in the storage section, keep all uniforms up to date and make sure they fit.  These are the biggest problems I hear about are guys trying it on the night before after not touching it for 6 months.  Pants are too tight, patches from old commands, wrong pins/ribbons.  Every time something changes, update them all then you don't even have to think about it.
Another part of maintenance is where to buy uniforms and where to go for alterations.  I have been asked many times "where do we get his uniforms and how do we get them altered".  The best rule of thumb is the uniform shop at the NEX.  Most of the larger bases have one.  These include a shop that sells EVERYTHING to do with all uniforms.  Shoes, socks, pants, whatever.  And they usually have an alterations department in the back as well.  These ladies know all the regulations so it is very, very easy to just pop in and let them handle it.  They are also the ones that make the uniform name tapes as well.  There are usually some little independent shops around base that offer alterations as well.  Just be sure to check them out beforehand.
If you don't live near a large base, there is an online option as well.  Just go to the Navy Exchange's website to order your uniforms and tapes.  Now alterations will be a little more tricky but most of the time its as simple as showing them exactly where the tapes need to be and hemming pants.


Someone who is walking around in an ill fitting or dirty/wrinkly uniform just looks like someone who just flat out doesn't care and that is not the image your service member needs to be projecting.  These uniforms are something that should be worn with pride.

It doesn't matter if your service member is at their command, at the commissary, getting an oil change, etc, if they are in uniform, it needs to always be clean, pressed and worn correctly.  Period.

There are a few rules for us when they are in uniform as well. You need to respect the uniform the same that they do.  For example, don't hang on him/love on him while he is in uniform.  As a general rule of thumb, I just flat out don't touch my husband while he is in uniform.  I think it is generally accepted (at least in San Diego) for wives, moms or whatever to hold his arm but not hand and always make sure it is their left arm only as they need to keep their right free to salute if necessary.  However he can absolutely hold his child's hand.  He should not push a stroller or carry a baby if it can be avoided.  No wraps or baby carriers either.  Shopping bags are fine if again the right arm is free.  When in doubt, ask him and remember, every command/base is a little different with their regulations so air on the side of caution.

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