Earning your stripes

If you’ve read our website, you have probably noticed that Chandler Small prides itself on the authenticity of the design and construction of its children’s sailor suits. With this in mind, one might wonder why our children’s sailor suits have two stripes of braiding around the collar and cuffs when anyone who’s seen a real sailor in a Cracker Jack uniform knows that the the right number is three. The answer lies in our respect for earning the right to wear one’s rank. For that reason we chose to use two stripes rather than the three worn by sailors in the U.S. Navy.

The number of stripes of braiding on a sailor’s jumper were at one point an indication of rank. According to Col. Robert Rankin, who wrote the only book about the history of Navy uniforms that this blogger has found so far, up until the end of the Second World War, the number of stripes on the cuff of a sailor’s jumper denoted the distinction between seaman or fireman first class, second class, and third class—ranks known today as recruit, seaman apprentice, and seaman. After the war this practice was replaced by sewn on diagonal stripes on the sleeve. Col. Robert Rankin, Uniforms of the Sea Services (U.S. Naval Institute Press, 1962) p. 110. Even earlier in times, the number of stripes on the collar of denoted rank. Starting in 1866, three stripes denoted petty officer, seamen, and first-class firemen; two stripes denoted ordinary seamen and second-class firemen,and one identified “landsmen, coal heavers, and boys,” all ranks that are long forgotten. Ibid, p. 77.

Every sailor that takes an oath and enters the service of his or her country and makes a commitment to advancing and in both grade and expertise has respect due for it. For that reason, our kids’ sailor suit tops bear two rows of braid and not the three used by the U.S. Navy.


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