Instantly recognized as the Official Uniform of Naval Services throughout The World, the so-named Seaman’s “Jumper” (or “Glad Rags”), actually evolved from Centuries of Naval Tradition and refinements. The “Jumper” (so named for their loose fit which allowed for quick movement when moving about a Ships Deck when working), consisted of two components. The first were The Trousers. Unlike most Clothing for Men from the 17th to early 20th Century, Jumper Trousers required no Suspenders. Either a hemp rope or (later) a leather belt was used to cinch them around the waist of the Wearer. The front of The Trousers featured a large, fold down flap, connected with a series of bone, wood or later plastic buttons. The Jumper Shirt was designed as a one-piece article, which was worn by slipping it over the head, and worn loosely off the waist. It was not “tucked” into The Trousers. Sleeves were at first loose and flared, with later variations having a more snug fit around the wrists. Short sleeves did not exist and often in hot weather, The Jumper Shirt was simply removed altogether (especially for below Decks work).
The Shirt was designed in either a “V”-neck or straight line pattern. No front buttons were used. The characteristic “Sailor’s Bib”, which was a cloth flap extension, protruded from the rolled collar of the Shirt, and extended to the Upper back of The Wearer. Embellishments and Color were very much a matter of National Origin and meaning. Traditionally, Navies used White or light colors, so that a Sailor could be seen on Deck or if he was unfortunate enough to fall overboard. However, by the mid-19th Century, many Navies used Dark Blue or Black colors.
The term “Glad Rags” originated in the mid to late 19th Century by Seamen. Often, The Jumper was the only clothes a Common Sailor owned. He used these as not only work clothes (or Utilities), but for all other functions. If a Sailor was fortunate to have two sets of Jumpers, one was set aside for Ceremony or Shore Leave. These became his “best Suit” of clothes, or his “Glad Rags”. Often, Sailors would “spruce up” the sometimes drab appearance (albeit without authorization) with their own style of embroidery or sewing. By the end of the 19th Century, the wearing of The Sailor’s Jumper became somewhat of a fad in Civilian clothing. Young Children and even Women began to adopt The Jumper as a type of fashion. Still used today by Naval Services (for mostly Ceremonial use) – The Jumper hardens back to a grander Age of Sail.