The Submariner - North Sea Clothing

Submariner Beard

The submariner has to be built of stern stuff. Cooped up for days under water, he faces the grimmest of perils, with no access to daylight, or fresh drinking water, or razors.

There was a time when all ranks in the British Army were not allowed to shave above the top lip, making moustaches compulsory. Moustaches are now optional (and civilisation descends). Beards are only allowed for some ranks and roles. In the Royal Navy, however, full-set beards are allowed (full-set meaning the beard needs an accompanying moustache). This is a blessing when you are a submariner and you run out of razors many fathoms beneath the ocean.

Submariner Sweaters

He can sport a beard, but what might our intrepid submariner wear?

Most U.S. films featuring submarines tend to be based in the Pacific. There will be scenes where the crew sits out a threat bleeping ominously on the sonar, engines shut off, the patches of sweat expanding on their khakis and vests.

But many famous British submarine operations took place in the North Atlantic and Baltic Sea — sweater territory. Submariners needed to be insulated in these cold waters with the thick knitwear and duffle coats that were standard issue. You'll see this in films like Above Us the Waves [Amazon] and We Dive at Dawn [Amazon].

Of particular note were the white or natural-coloured woollen polo necks submariners wore — the classic submariner sweater.

North Sea Clothing

The ecru Submariner Jumper (top and below) by North Sea Clothing, London, is based on the sweaters originally manufactured for the Ministry of Defence.

Made in England, the sweater is a chunky, heavy knit designed for maximum warmth; but also able to resist water, aided by the thickness of the knit and the lanolin in the wool.

These mighty sweaters are also available from the Imperial War Museum to verify their authenticity.

I suggest you add one to your timeless wardrobe. Perhaps you should grow a beard this winter too? I think it will make you look distinguished.


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