Look Fantastic in a Navy Working Uniform


Not sure what we’re supposed to be blending in with..

So you’ve enlisted in the U.S. Navy. Great, but now you’re panicking because you have no idea what you’re doing. The idea of wearing a uniform (that’s not from Applebee’s) is a little scary. Your recruiter assured you everything would be explained at boot camp but who wants to try to figure it out while some Recruit Division Commander (RDC) is yelling at you?

This How To article will give you five tips on how to stand out in your main threads, the Navy Working Uniform (NWU). Learn these rules and learn to love them. Trust me, it’s much better this way.


#1: cover

#2: t-shirt

#3: belt

#4: blousing straps

#5: boots

Cover cardboard
My well-used cardboard cover stiffener. Look how saggy the cover is without it. Shameful!
#1: Forget everything you know about “hats”

First of all, you’ll be calling them covers in the Navy. Don’t let a superior hear you call it a hat. There are two important things about Navy covers, and they’ll both probably go against what you know.

1. Do not fold the bill. If you just have to, you can fold it a little bit but use the below photo as a guide and don’t go past it. I  keep mine almost totally straight.

2. The front of the cover, where the rank insignia is, should be stiff and vertical, not saggy and conforming to the skull’s shape.

Yes, you will look like Elmer Fudd.


The cap should have a stiff, vertical front. A little bit of bill fold is ok.

This petty officer has a cover that shows she gives a damn about her professional appearance.


A tight collar brings the entire uniform together.
#2: Get real snuggly with your t-shirt

The only part of the NWU’s t-shirt that is seen is at the neck. That’s why you have to make it perfect. Take a look in your closet and I guarantee you’ll find at least one shirt with a floppy neckline. Don’t let this one get bent out of shape. Here’s how to do it:

1. Wear it a size too small. It’s not as crazy as it sounds! You’ll get used to it quickly and the tight neckline will be worth it when the boss giggles in delight.

2. Strip the right way. When you take the t-shirt off, pull it over your head by grasping it on your back instead of on the neck. This will keep the shirt looking good for much longer.

We can wear different belts but this’ll be issued to you at boot camp.
#3: Embrace the blast from the past

These belt buckles were HUGE in the 80s. Also, I hate them. There’s a couple of quick things to know about these stunning beauties.

1. Males thread the belt clockwise around the waist, women counterclockwise.

2. Shine the buckle when you shine your boots. it only takes a minute but many Sailors forget and get busted during uniform inspections.


blousing straps
I’ve lost at least ten sets of these.
#4: Leave your ego at the door and love the blousing straps

Scroll back up to the top photo and look at his ankles. See how the pants looked like they’re tucked in to the boots? The pant legs have been wrapped up in blousing straps. If you dressed like this as a civilian you’d probably get some stares.

We do this in the military because in combat you don't want 
your pant legs getting caught on something.


1.  Fold your pant leg between the third and fourth eyelets on the boots.

2. Strap up while sitting and then while standing. Notice the difference in where the pant leg ends up.


boot shine
This kind of shine is your get out of jail free card.
#5: THE HOLY GRAIL: Shine your damn boots!

This cannot be stressed enough. After haircut/shave, this is the number one thing your superiors will look at. If you want to seem like a super badass Sailor, but deep down you’re clueless, at least get this right.

You’ll fool everyone.

There are several schools of thought on the best polish method but here’s two things you can do to shine in this area.

1. POLISH OFTEN AND WHILE BOOTED. Do a “for real” 30-minute shine one day, then do a quick touch-up every day after you get dressed. If you keep up with it, it’ll only take about five minutes to get the shine back to the “for real” status.

2. DON’T JUST SHINE THE TOES. Many Navy Chiefs and officers will notice if you have the backs and sides shined up so get it done.


It’s definitely weird to put this uniform on for the first time. You’ll be a scared Navy Recruit, a guppy swimming in a sea of sharks. Relax, with this guide you’ll be a much smaller target.

Best of luck to you and I’ll see you in the fleet!

DISCLAIMER: This is not a complete guide to the NWU. There are many basics that you will learn. Hit me up with any questions and check out these websites for more information.

All Hands Magazine
Naval Personnel Command
Navy official blog