One of the best things about being a midshipman is having my laundry done by the amazing Naval Academy Business Services Division (NABSD) Laundry and Dry Cleaning Facility. These dedicated team members wash and dry clean over 1.5 million pounds of midshipmen clothing and linens per year, including my famous blue and gold blanket. It’s easy. We place our labeled laundry in a bag, deposit the bag in the passageway cart and the laundry service takes it away. Then, looking good as new, our laundry is returned to our company area in our dorm, Bancroft Hall. It is truly a miracle of logistics as to how they keep our gear so clean and organized!
While the laundry service makes it easy to keep our uniforms clean, it’s not as easy to know what to wear, and when, while maintaining our uniform standards. Uniforms must be impeccable in appearance: always clean, well pressed and well fitting. The dress code at USNA is strict and governed by specific rules, depending on the occasion, season and day. The importance of being squared away is instilled in us on day one of Plebe Summer and is carried through commissioning.
Uniform requirement has three specifications of wear:
1. Required Items (Basic Uniform Components): These are the minimum items which must be worn unless the prescribing authority directs otherwise. For me, it’s my blanket.
2. Prescribable Items: These are uniform items which may be directed or authorized to wear with the basic uniform. Prescribable items may be worn with the basic uniform at the individual or Unit Commander’s discretion unless otherwise directed.
3. Optional Items: These are uniform items purchased at the wearer’s expense, which may be worn with the basic uniform, but which are not Prescribable. Optional items may be worn with the basic uniform at the individual’s discretion unless otherwise directed.There are five different uniform categories: 1) Plebe Summer, 2) Working, 3) Service, 4) Service Dress, and 5) Dinner (Formal) Dress. Let's take a look at some of the more common ones you’ll see around the Yard and out in town.
1. Plebe Summer Uniforms
There are several uniforms that can be worn during Plebe Summer, including the working uniform (described below) and the Physical Education uniform, which consists of Navy gym shorts, a Navy ringed tee, sneakers and socks. It gets hot and muggy here in the summer and this uniform fits the bill (that bill, not me!).
Commonly, the Plebes wear our “white works” that include the blue rimmed dixie cup cover (hat). (Left: Male Plebe Summer Physical Education Uniform; Right: Female White Works Plebe Summer Uniform)
2. Working Uniforms
When our uniforms become “unduly soiled” or are otherwise not suited to a task, we wear working uniforms. There are currently two types of Navy Working Uniforms (NWU): Type II and Type III. We typically wear the Type III for specific training or evaluations, including Plebe Summer, Saturday Morning Training, Anti-terrorism Force Protection (ATFP) drills and other events as directed by the Unit Commander (CDR).
These uniforms include an eight-point cap, steel toed boots, collar insignia, name tape, U.S. Navy tape and embroidered large breast insignia. A Prescribable sweatshirt and optional earmuffs are also available for the cold weather.
At USNA, we also have a working uniform issued for attending classes during the academic year. These consist of dark trousers with a dark short sleeved shirt. (Left: Men's Working Uniform, Type III, Right: Working Blues)
3. Service Uniforms
These are the everyday uniforms, made for going to class, standing watch or when prescribed as uniform of the day. This service khaki is worn to Summer School (all classes), Summer Cruise, Summer Training programs and by the Plebe Summer Detailers. The Service Khaki consists of khaki button-down shirt and trousers for both men and women. We wear a Garrison cap and a name tag. There is collar insignia as well as large breast insignia and ribbons. The Prescribable here includes swords, which I haven’t quite figured out how to carry yet! (Left: Men's Service Khaki Uniform; Right: Women's Service Khaki Uniform)
4. Service Dress
This type of uniform is worn to official functions that do not warrant full Dinner Dress attire. Service Dress is commensurate with the civilian coat and tie ensemble, which is sharp (and those brass buttons look quite tasty if you ask me!). Service Dress may be seasonal, based on geography and climate, and can be worn year-round to official functions like a hearing with the Superintendent or Commandant, Academic or Aptitude Boards and other important occasions when Formal Dress or Full Dress are not prescribed. The white is used for graduation ceremonies. I must say, we look sharp when the Firsties toss their caps in the air after commissioning, often leaving behind words of wisdom tucked inside the hat band!
For Service Dress, both men and women wear a necktie (cross-over neck tab for women) for the blue version. They also have name tags, large breast insignia and ribbons. The white version includes white shoes. Gloves fall under Prescribable and optional items may include the all-important umbrella. (Above: Women’s Service Dress Blue | Men’s Service Dress White)
5. Dinner Dress
Also known as “formal dress,” this is the uniform that we wear to a special event, like our Ring Dance or when we are dining out. It’s the equivalent to a civilian “black tie” option—definitely dressed up. (Below: Women’s Dinner Dress Blue Jacket Uniform | Men’s Dinner Dress White Jacket Uniform)
There are different variations of the Dinner Dress. Men can wear a dinner dress with a lower cut double-breasted blue jacket, sport the same look in white or wear a “dinner dress blue” with a service dress jacket (for midshipmen who have not yet received their dinner dress blue jacket). The dark uniform is for winter events and the white is for summer (I think they both look great). All incorporate a necktie for men and feature miniature medals and miniature breast insignia. Leather or white gloves would be prescribable items for this uniform, and an umbrella is optional, although highly recommended for rainy days!
Women wear a black neck tab for the first two options with a long skirt. For the Dress Blue, they wear a cross over neck tab and can pair a skirt with these. Prescribed items include gloves as well. For optional items, they can also don earrings and a handbag (only for liberty). Of course, an umbrella is in order for any rainouts!
We have only scratched the surface with uniforms. There are many more uniform options, and the sheer number of midshipmen (4,400 plus) that have them cleaned regularly will put your head in a spin cycle. Keeping us squared away, looking sharp, and supporting us in maintaining uniform standards is just one of the many reasons why the NABSD Laundry and Dry Cleaning Facility is such an important department of NABSD. The next time you complain about doing the laundry, just think of how many loads the Laundry team is washing, drying and pressing each day! We are grateful for the NABSD team that keeps our uniforms (and my blanket) looking like new!