The navy uniform is a distinctive and iconic symbol of naval forces around the world. The dark blue color has been associated with navies for centuries, dating back to the age of sail. But why is the navy uniform blue? And what are the different shades used by various navies? In this article, we will explore the history behind naval uniforms, examine the symbolism and meaning of the color blue, look at the specific shades used by major navies, and analyze the advantages of dark blue as a naval uniform color.
History of Naval Uniforms
Naval uniforms first originated in the mid-16th century, initially consisting of woolen trousers, linen shirts, and short jackets called pea coats. Prior to this, most sailors wore whatever civilian clothes they possessed. Early naval uniforms were primarily utilitarian garments suited to shipboard duties. During the 17th and 18th centuries, naval uniforms became more standardized and regulations surrounding them increased. The first official uniform regulations in the British Royal Navy date to 1748. At this time, elements like buttons, epaulettes, and cuffs were specified to denote rank. However, uniform color was left to the discretion of individual captains. Dark blue soon emerged as the predominant color due to its availability and durability.
The Influence of the Royal Navy
The dominance of the British Royal Navy between the mid-18th and early 20th centuries ensured its uniforms set the standard for navies around the world. The Royal Navy formalized dark blue wool coats and white or blue breeches as prescribed uniforms in 1748. The blue coats were tailored to incorporate brass buttons and gold lace to reflect rank. The Royal Navy had considered green and red uniforms but determined blue showed off gold accents best. By the late 18th century, the navy’s commitment to blue had earned them the nickname “bluebottles.” Most other European navies emulated British uniforms, adopting dark blue coats and white or blue pants. The template established by the Royal Navy continues to shape naval uniforms centuries later.
Symbolism of the Color Blue
Beyond availability and its flattering properties, the color blue carries symbolic meaning conveying important naval attributes. Here are some of the key symbolic associations behind blue naval uniforms:
Dark blue is associated with qualities like trust, loyalty, wisdom, confidence, and intelligence. It conveys that personnel act professionally and can be relied upon. This promotes confidence in the navy’s competency.
Strength and Authority
Blue is a primary color that represents depth and stability. For this reason, it is often associated with strength, calm, and authority. This projects power and commands respect for the navy.
Lighter blues sometimes symbolize understanding and expertise. Navy blue suggests personnel are highly skilled and knowledgeable.
As an honest and non-invasive color, blue can represent integrity and sincerity. This presents navy forces as principled and non-threatening.
Blue is a color culturally associated with masculinity and used in uniforms to project ruggedness and masculinity.
The blue of navy uniforms evokes the ocean and maritime connections. It ties personnel directly to their naval duties.
Major Navy Uniform Colors
While unified in their commitment to blue, the shades of blue used in naval uniforms vary between navies. Here are some of the specific navy blues utilized:
The Royal Navy employs two main blues:
Navy blue – A very dark shade known as Pantone 19-4023 TPX. Used for most external dress uniforms and formal occasions.
Royal blue – A slightly lighter blue called Pantone 2767 C. Used for internal dress and on-board operations.
United States Navy
The standard blue shade used by the United States Navy is called navy blue in America. The precise specification is Pantone 539 C.
French naval uniforms utilize a dark blue designated as Bleu Marine that is nearly black.
The Indian Navy uses a very dark blue shade called Indian Navy Blue.
Chinese PLA Navy
Chinese Navy uniforms feature a blue-gray color.
Advantages of Dark Blue
Naval uniforms share a commitment to darker shades of blue for good reason. Here are some of the major benefits of dark blue colors:
Dark blue uniforms blend into the ocean background, providing a degree of camouflage and concealment at sea.
The dark color hides stains, an essential property for clothing exposed to grease, dirt, and the elements at sea.
The darkness of navy blue conveys formality and professionalism appropriate for military duties.
Against darker water, blue uniforms maintain visibility for morale and safety during onboard duties.
Dark blues satisfy naval tradition and expectation surrounding uniforms.
In summary, the navy blue color of naval uniforms carries a rich history and symbolism. It conveys values like strength, expertise, and integrity. While shades vary between navies, the commitment to dark blues stems from their camouflage ability, stain resistance, visibility, formality, and naval tradition. The continuity in naval uniform colors across history and between navies illustrates the power of navy blue to represent naval forces. For these reasons, various tones of navy blue are likely to remain defining colors for naval uniforms into the future.