Commander James P. Kelly, U.S. Navy (Retired)
Without a doubt, the change from traditional blues to officer/chief–type coat, tie, and hat for E-6 and below. There was not enough shipboard storage space for these uniforms to be kept wrinkle-free, and the appearance of crews suffered.
Major General William D. Razz Waff, U.S. Army (Retired)
Killing off the service dress khakis in October 2012 was the worst change. I always thought this was a “class act” uniform, and seeing Admirals Mike Mullen and James Stavridis wearing them was remarkably refreshing. I do not know if they could ever be brought back. However, it is, in my mind, a classic uniform on par with the Army’s Green Service Uniform, which is making a comeback.
Commander Dan Upp, U.S. Navy
Without any doubt, the tactical Smurf aquaflage. Ridiculous, nonsensical, hideous, illogical, and contrary to the fundamental purpose of camouflage, they were the answer to a question that nobody asked. Their only success was to “out-ugly” the Air Force.
Commander Paul M. Plescow, U.S. Navy (Retired)
The restoration of brown shoes and leather flight jackets in the 1980s was the best change. Long live brown shoes! The worst was the introduction of camouflage uniforms for nonexpeditionary sailors, especially the “blueberry” uniform—what was the Navy thinking?
Jerry Hanon, U.S. Navy Veteran
The best was when the E-6 and below “salt and pepper” uniform was eliminated in 1983, and the worst was when the service dress khaki uniform for officers and chiefs was dropped in 1975, while I was still serving, and then briefly reintroduced long after I retired in 2008 (thank you Admiral Mike Mullen) only to be dropped again in 2012. That was a terrific uniform for travel in any climate, and it looked pretty neat, too.
Anthony Och, U.S. Navy Veteran
It was maybe 1993 when the Seventh Fleet commander banned white hats ashore while wearing dungarees. That really hurt my pride in service! I was homeported in Sasebo, Japan, at the time. You had to wear a command ball cap ashore. What would Jake Holman look like wearing a ball cap? Stupid, that’s what!
Captain John J. Marks, U.S. Coast Guard Reserve (Retired)
The worst for the Coast Guard was during the 1970s when it issued a dark-blue working uniform consisting of a jumper style top and dickies-style pants.
Melvin D. McNichols, U.S. Navy Veteran
Just as bell bottoms, jeans, and work shirts became stylish, the all-knowing honchos of the Navy declared that the new, all-volunteer recruits would prefer pull-over dungaree shirts and coat-and-tie service dress uniforms. We didn’t.
Stephen N. Sanfilippo, U.S. Navy Veteran
My shirt from the 1970s—a crow on the sleeve, stained with sweat and grease—holds the dignity of work in service to country and connectedness with earlier “dungaree sailors.” Worst change? Replacing dungarees with pseudo-macho camouflage that looks more like a child’s pajamas.
Captain M. W. Newman, U.S. Navy (Retired)
Worst change: Replacing the E-1 to E-6 jumper/bell bottom and white hat uniforms. Best change: Bringing them back. Second worst change was replacing the undress jumper/bell bottoms with the “black and tans.” Good uniforms enhance unit cohesion. They are also a link to those who went gallantly before in the same uniform. Marines do that best.
The adoption of the Navy Working Uniform Type I, also known as the blueberries. Aside from the fact that the only thing the camouflage pattern blends in with is the ocean (less than ideal if one goes overboard), the material also rivaled a scented candle for flammability.
Terence R. Murphy, U.S. Navy Veteran
The silliest decision in my memory was a long-forgotten Secretary of the Navy’s ridiculous order to change the caps of female officers and chiefs to “pretend male” flat-hats. The female physique is more gracefully presented by the “real-female” side-curved caps. Get over it.
Captain Michael Brands, U.S. Navy Reserve (Retired)
Without question the worst uniform change the Navy ever made was to replace the jumper-style uniform with the coat-and-tie uniform in the early 1970s. Conversely, the best uniform change was to return to the jumper uniform.
Craig Faust, U.S. Navy Veteran
Worst change: Probably in the 1970s when the jumper was replaced by the bus driver uniform. Now we have blue or green uniforms that make us look like fashion-challenged soldiers. What happened to comfortable dungarees and looking like a sailor?
Lieutenant Commander Jason Lancaster, U.S. Navy
Fire retardant coveralls were the best change.
Eric Moreno, U.S. Navy Veteran
The worst was the loss of the dungarees/utilities. They were the perfect working uniform for the environment. Camouflage is meant for trees and deserts, not the bilges.
Lieutenant Baron H. Windham III, U.S. Navy
The camouflage working uniform devastated the pride derived from a traditional Navy uniform. The Navy should immediately adopt wash khakis for E-7s and up as the working uniform at sea and ashore with simply a name tag, warfare device, and rank insignia. You work better when you look good.
Dave Kisor, U.S. Navy Veteran
The move from comfortable baggy dungarees to sea farers was not a great idea, and the old-style ball cap with the long bill should have been retained, as it was more practical than a white hat with a dungaree uniform. The 1970s was the decade of questionable enlisted uniforms.
M. Scott Lassiter
The worst was when we added boot bands, because they are pointless. If they added value at sea, we would blouse our coveralls. Why do we blouse Navy working uniforms in port?
William Jameson, U.S. Navy Veteran
A few years ago, I toured a littoral combat ship in San Diego and spoke to one of the crew about his camouflage uniform and told him a story about when we used to hold man overboard drills. I said that we learned really quick that it is very easy to lose the dummy thrown overboard. Then I asked him, “If you fall overboard it seems your camouflage would make you even harder to find. Do you think that's a good idea?” He smiled and said no. Camouflage for the Army or Marine Corps makes sense in combat, and in combat only, but camouflage makes no sense for the Navy—ever.
Commander William A. Murphy, U.S. Navy Reserve (Retired)
The worst sea service uniform change is making sailors not look like sailors. This has happened more than once, in my lifetime—in each case inexcusable.
Commander Charles Tower, U.S. Navy (Retired)
Doing away with dungaree bell bottoms and blue chambray shirts as a working uniform.
Ray Onyx, U.S. Navy Veteran
The worst Navy uniform change was, without a doubt, the “salt and pepper” polyester uniforms of the 1970s. The second worst decision was allowing camouflage utilities to be worn on liberty.
Chief Warrant Officer Louis W. Bruneau, U.S. Navy (Retired)
Dumping dungarees and khakis for Army-style (blueberries, worse than greens) BDUs was the dumbest uniform decision ever made, but certainly not the only one.