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Nautical Terms and Naval Expressions – Uniform Edition

Sailors have terms and expressions for just about anything, so it comes as no surprise that there’s a whole set of nautical terms and naval expressions that are related to parts of their uniforms. Here are a few you may or may not have heard of before:


The term bluejacket is widely used today to refer to an enlisted Sailor below the rank of E-7 (Chief Petty Officer). This nickname comes from a clothing item that was part of the original Sailor’s uniform. “Another item of clothing for the Sailor since the beginning of the country’s Navy was that which gave our Sailors their nickname, the American bluejacket,” write Royal Connell and William Mack in “Naval Ceremonies, Customs, and Traditions Sixth Edition. This short, double-breasted jacket provided protection for the Sailors but remained out of the way when they handled sails and lines. The bluejacket, according to Connell and Mack, was standard issue until the peacoat came along in 1886.

Ditty Bag

Ditty Bags are zippered bags issued to recruits when they arrive at boot camp and contain anything from sewing kits to toothpaste. They work well as a consolidated place for Sailors to put their loose items so things don’t get misplaced in the Sailor’s seabag.

Gig Line

One of the first things that is checked during a uniform inspection is a Sailor’s gig line. If it’s off, it’s immediately noticed. The gig line is the straight line that runs down the front center of the torso formed by the alignment of the shirt, belt buckle, and trouser fly.

Poopie Suit

These blue coveralls are the standard uniform for Sailors on many U.S. Navy ships and submarines at sea. This term also refers to the aircrew survival suit that provides protection for the whole body against the cold and wet.

Black Shoe

Any “Surface Navy” officer or CPO. The term comes from the black shoe worn with khaki uniforms and was distinguished from the brown shoe worn by aviators. Today, it is often used to also refer to all enlisted personnel in non-aviation career fields.

FINAL JPEG lower_res Nautical Terms Part 5-Uniforms


Find more nautical terms and naval expressions by visiting our collections of Naval Heritage Infographics here: http://www.history.navy.mil/news-and-events/multimedia-gallery/infographics/heritage.html