In anticipation of its 75th anniversary, the Irish Naval Service decided to transition its previously over complicated array of uniforms into a single operational uniform; a visual representation of its identity as a co-equal service within the joint Defence Forces.
Tailored Image was the natural choice of partner for this venture given its specialism in military uniforms.
One of the key goals of this project was to rationalise a sailor’s kit bag into just two uniforms – a ceremonial one and one for all other duties. This process did not come without its hurdles, not least the barriers of tradition associated with military dress. All potential solutions were subjected to three tests:
Tailored Image worked closely with the naval service to achieve a uniform which would provide a resounding ‘yes’ to each of the above.
More than most other military branches, the demands of a naval uniform span a number of operational challenges. A fabric which does not melt when exposed to flame or heat is a must, as is one which is light weight. Fresh water onboard a ship is often mildly chlorinated for safe consumption purposes and this provides a further obstacle to some fabrics which may lose their fire retardant qualities after several washes.
The new Tailored Image uniform product is made from ‘no melt’ and self-extinguishing materials meaning it will never melt when exposed to direct flame or extreme heat, regardless of the number of times it is washed.
Caroline McAdam explains:
‘The project commenced with Tailored Image replacing the treated flame-retardant fabric with an inherent flame-retardant fabric. By doing so, we not only greatly improved the flame retardant protection for the wearer but by introducing ripstop construction to the fabric, we ensured that the fabric’s physical properties were enhanced in terms of both durability and air permeability.’
Whilst the science and policy behind the new uniform are important, uppermost in the minds of the sailors themselves. Most sailors will be in uniform for around 18 hours per day, the majority of which will be spent doing some form of physical work. The new design makes the physical aspects of the uniform more comfortable – it will be harder wearing, more breathable and safer.
Cost Effective Aesthetic
In design terms, the distinctive Defence Forces woodland pattern provided the base pattern of the Naval Service variant, giving that visual identity that was so important to the brief in terms of providing visual connection with the other forces.
Changes to the fabric, the fasteners, colour and cut of the operational uniforms created an improved aesthetic but contributed to an increase in cost per garment. However a cost neutral result was arrived at given that over the four year period, a substantial reduction will occur in the number of garments stocked, therefore also achieving a more sustainable solution.
Commodore Michael spoke of the positives that the culmination of this project will bring and acknowledged Tailored Image’s role in achieving the original brief stipulations:
‘While enhancing safety, improving jointness and interoperability and addressing gender equality; this new uniform will meet the requirements and challenges that we will face.’
A universal fact of military service is that all personnel bind together in the shared identity of their profession and service. Irish naval officers are aware that they are caretakers of a proud tradition of service which has been over 75 years in the making. This new uniform allows this sense of pride to thrive, both with long-serving members and new recruits. It brings the service into line with the other two branches of the defence forces whilst re-affirming the Irish Naval Service’s unique identity as the principal seagoing agency of the state.
Photos: NS Photographer