White Star Line Officer's Uniform Circa 1912

Voyage

Fouled AnchorBy and large the various British steamship company's officer's uniforms of the Edwardian era mimicked those of the British Royal Navy of the same time period. The only real differences were the buttons used, the cap badges, and, sometimes, the cuff braid that denoted rank. The White star Line was no exception. Only their buttons and cap badges were different, and both of those were even based off of the British Royal Navy's own buttons and badges. The difference in buttons was merely that the house flag had replaced the "fouled anchor" of the British Royal Navy, and the only variation in the cap badges was the same.

Part of the reason for this was because many of the officers were reserve naval officers. Interestingly, the British Royal Navy reserve cuff braid differed greatly from both the White Star Line's and British Royal Navy's active duty uniform cuff braid. The Reserve was called the "Wavy Navy" as their braid was "waved" instead of straight, and instead of having a circular loop on the top row of braid, there was a six-point, rounded edged "star" design. This pattern was repeated on the shoulder boards, or "epaulettes".

The "standard" uniform of the time was called "Service Dress", consisting of the appropriate visor cap, jacket, black pants, white shirt, black necktie, and black shoes. there was however, several other types of uniform, just as there was in the Navy.

Service dress: The jacket for service dress was a double breasted eight-buttoned affair sometimes referred to as a "monkey jacket". Pants, shirt, etc., were all standard. The jacket and pants were almost always of black wool.

Old pattern service dress: This differed only in that the jacket was the older patterned "frock coat". Once popular with ship's officers, it would fall completely out of usage by 1939. The frock coat was double-breasted, and had ten buttons on the front, and two decorative buttons on the back near the waist. It was longer than the "monkey jacket", and the front rows of buttons were often a trifle closer to the centerline of the uniform. Captain E. J. Smith of the "RMS Titanic" is often pictured wearing this type of jacket. The jacket was made of black wool, most often of the "Melton" variety, and if the wearer was wealthy, it was of "doe-skin" quality. (Smoother than standard Melton wool)

Tropical or "Summer" Dress: For tropical dress, both the jacket and pants were white, and often, the shoes as well. The jacket was high "Russian" collared, and was single breasted, with only 5 buttons. Shoulder boards were worn with this instead of cuff braid on the sleeves. No tie was worn with summer dress, and the only shirt would have been a sleeveless undershirt.

Mess Dress: "Mess Dress", as it is called, was for formal occaisions. In Cameron's movie, Captain Smith can be seen wearing this uniform while attending dinner in the First Class dinner area. It was, essentially, an Edwardian era tuxedo, with rank braid on the cuffs. Usually, any medals the wearer had earned would be worn in their "minature" (half-sized) format, for convenience. The jacket went over a vest, which went over a tuxedo shirt and bow-tie. the tie, depending on the occasion, could be either black or white. The jacket, pants, and vest were often of Melton wool, and usually of the "doe-skin" quality.

There was also a "tropical" or "summer" pattern used sometimes. Essentially the same uniform, it was white, and of much lighter fabric.

Court Dress: Based somewhat off the old British Royal Navy Napoleonic era uniforms, it was similar to "mess dress" except that it was longer in front, had two more buttons, tails in the back, and often more ornamental braid and buttons on the cuffs. The shoulder boards for court dress were of the heavy gold bullion variety, with braid tasels hanging down about the outside of the shoulders. Also, an old style "bicorn" hat was worn with this uniform. As the name implies, it was only for VERY formal occasions. A dress belt with gilded buckle and a sword were worn with this uniform.

On Rank Insignia: Both cuff braid and shoulder boards used standard British Royal Navy gold bullion braid stripes to denote rank. Three straight stripes, with a fourth "looped" top stripe denoted the rank of Captain in the White Star Line. Two rows with a third looped top row denoted a Chief Officer, or the Captain of a smaller vessel. One row with a second looped row denoted a First Officer. Second Officer and lower were denoted by a single row of looped braid.

 

 

 Captain

Chief Officer

1st Officer

2nd through 6th Officer

Captain

Chief Officer

1st Officer

2nd through 6th Officer 

 

The Captain of a vessel would also have a spray of gold bullion embroidered oak leaves set along the outer edge of the visor on his cap. He was also allowed to wear a wide row of gold braid down the length of each pant leg. (On the outside edge.)

Cap Braid

Of note, in the British Navy, and in the Merchant Navy as well, after the loss of the "Titanic", all Engineering officers were authorized to wear a row of purple cloth (A sort of broad "piping" ) between the rows of braid on their cuffs or shoulderboards to denote their service in the "Engineering Branch". I have heard that this was authorized to commemorate the loss of all of "Titanic's" engineering officer's, who gave their lives in order to give the ship and its passengers as much time as possible. 


 © John Hemmert 2005

This item first appeared in Voyage, Journal of the Titanic International Society.

Acknowledgements

Shelley Dzeidzic

Comment and discuss

  1. Jason De Donno said:

    Hello - I'm new to ET - this is my first post. Some here may perhaps know me from TT and TRMA. I have some questions about Titanic crew's uniforms. 1. Can anyone tell me if the standard WSL officers uniform was navy blue or black, as I have heard contradicting info on this from many sources. They were shown as black in the Titanic movie. 2. Does anyone have a picture that shows details of the cap badge worn by the senior officers? 3. Why do officers sometimes have caps with white peaks, and sometimes with navy blue (or black!) peaks? I've seen both in use. Again, the Cameron... Read full post

  2. Parks Stephenson said:

    Jason, 1. The officer's uniforms are made from "naval doeskin," a finely-woven wool (which today you can only get from the UK) that is officially termed, "navy blue," but is such a deep, dark blue that it's almost black in colour. Only in direct sunlight will you see a slight bluish tinge in the wool. 2. Which one? Depending on how long the wearer had worn the badge, there were at least two different styles of cap badges worn by Titanic's officers. The more senior officers wore an older style of badge; the junior, the newer style. Since the badges were made by commercial tailors and... Read full post

  3. Frank McElroy said:

    Jason, This is a W.S.L. Officers cap badge, hope it's what you wanted to know Frankie Mac

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  4. Parks Stephenson said:

    Frank, Unfortunately, that is not an accurate replica...it is one of several commercial versions that were rushed out to take advantage of the popularity of the Cameron film. Although it generally resembles a WSL emblem, many of the proportions are incorrect. Once I get home tonight, I will dig up photos of actual cap badges, along with my re-creations, so that you can compare the originals against the reproductions. Parks

  5. Jason De Donno said:

    Many thanks for the help, Frank and Parks. I look forward to seeing your replica cap badges. Btw, this is a great website!

  6. avatar

    Kritina Johnston said:

    Speaking of the uniforms, who was the manufacturer of said uniforms for White Star? I would imagine that there was some individual tailoring involved for each officer (I could be wrong, of course). In that case, is there any particular establishment in Southampton (I wanted to say Soton, sorry) that would have done this?

  7. avatar

    Kritina Johnston said:

    Okay, Parks was kind enough to answer my question via PM, and gave me permission to post the answer for the edification of others: "To answer your question on the list about uniforms...no single manufacturer of WSL uniforms. Individual tailors put together the uniforms from a standard pattern (which was the Royal Navy pattern). A popular tailor for WSL officers sailing out of Soton was Miller & Sons."

  8. Pat Winship said:

    I'm guessing that the "Naval Doeskin" mentioned by Parks is one of those fine woolens that's so tightly woven it doesn't have to be hemmed to keep it from fraying? And Andrew, people aren't answering you because you keep posting the same question on different, and inappropriate threads. Pat W

  9. Dennis Smith said:

    Hi all, Just a bit of info on Millers. My friend was R/O with Cunard and he bought his uniform in Southampton in 1978. The co. he bought it from was Miller,Rayner and Danco. I believe this was the original Millers as Cunard and other Southampton passenger Lines had always used the same place and it was Cunard who advised him to use this Co. As an aside I got one of my uniforms from Miller, Rayner and Danco in Liverpool, so it looks like they had an outlet in all the major passenger ports, but wouldn't like to swear to that. Best Wishes and Rgds Dennis

  10. avatar

    JHPravatiner said:

    Yep, Pat. Doeskin was a fine, light, very high quality wool. Frock coats and formal overcoats for the Royal (and Imperial) Navy were made from it, in other words, the more formal garb naturally demanding better cloth. Ordinary service dress like reefer coats and bridge jackets were usually something like pilot cloth or other coarser wools.

  11. Noel F. Jones said:

    Doeskin was the material for officers' 'blues'. Latterly, some opted for barathea but this was regarded as a bit of a maverick choice. Miller, Raynor & Haysom Limited (later Miller Raynor Danco) were represented in London, Liverpool and So'ton. They were presumably successors to Miller & Co. Other MN outfitters were: J.Baker & Co.Ltd of 23 Brunswick Street, Liverpool 2 S.W.Silver & Co. of London, Falmouth, Portsmouth, So'ton and Liverpool I seem to recall two other Liverpool outfitters, I think one was Bell and the other Oliver; one was in Chapel Street, the... Read full post

  12. Erica Hardesty said:

    I see a lot of pictures of the stewards in their jackets and ties, but what about the men with the "White Star Line" sweatshirt looking tops? Were they considered the sailors of the bunch while stewards and pursers fulfilled the customer service duties? And while I'm on the subject, were striped tops and the classic V neck shirts where the long collar falls over the back into a straight line parallel to the ground for navy men, or what? I'm so confused! Thanks, e

  13. Bob Godfrey said:

    The people you see in 'White Star Line' jerseys are seamen and other deck crew. They generally also wore a typical brimless sailor's cap, again with 'White Star Line' lettering, but some chose to wear ordinary flat caps of the kind you see in any street scene of the time. Unlike the stewards, the deck crew didn't have a very strict uniform code. The Quartermasters (who were seamen with more specialised roles) wore the same type of sailor's cap, but generally with a tunic more like what most people think of as a 'sailor suit' complete with the big Jack Tar collar. Probably the bosun and... Read full post

  14. avatar

    Kirstin Walden Crockford said:

    Can anyone tell me where I can find a pic of a stewards uniform~3rd class ? My 1st cousin (twice removed) was a 3rd class steward. Sorry if this has been already covered somewhere...

  15. Robert T. Paige said:

    Some of the Titanic movies depict the quartermaster at the wheel in "Dress Blues"...the kind with white stripes, etc.,that is; similar to those in the Naval Services. Would this be correct attire ? In others some of the crew are shown with dark jerseys with White Star lettering in white ? Would they have worn the "Dress Blues" for special occasions such as leaving port and the less formal while underway ?

  16. avatar

    Dave Gittins said:

    Kirstin, try page 142 of . The class is not given, but I fancy uniforms were much the same in all classes.

  17. avatar

    Stanley C Jenkins said:

    Contemporary photographs often show Edwardian seamen wearing what used to be called "monkey jackets" - short navy-blue coats. These appear to have been the preferred type of jacket for a wide range of seafarers, including stewards and stokers. Whether these jackets could be described as "uniform" is, however, another matter.

  18. avatar

    Jim Currie said:

    I was married in my 'doeskin' uniform. Believe me it was not 'light' - more like what used to be called 'nap' - almost a felt-like material. The day in question was very hot indeed. Up until the invention of white plastic - you could buy white cotton cap covers. These were worn during the summer months. They were shaped like the top of a uniform cap (one size fits all) and had an elastic rim. When fitted over the top of the cap, they stretched taught. We young fellers used to soak a new cap in a bucket of sea water then when really wet - shaped it to look like a U-boat... Read full post

  19. David G. Brown said:

    From the IMM/White Star Line rules--- Quarter-Masters:-- Blue Navy Serge Shirt, with White Star Badge and good conduct stripe on sleeve ... White Drill Navy Shirt, with White Star Badge and good conduct stripe, in blue, on sleeve .. Flannel Singlet, Navy Pattern ... Flannel Singlet, Navy pattern... Black Neck Handkerchiefs ... White Star Cap and Ribbon ... Pair Blue Serge Trousers, Navy pattern ... Cloth Jacket ... The foregoing Uniform is supplied by the company, free of cost, to the Quartermasters, and Jackets are also given to Lookoutmen. -- David G. Brown

  20. Bob Godfrey said:

    The QM's on the Titanic back in 1912 had less status, Jim. They were seamen with special duties, not petty officers. They had no authority over anybody else, drew the same pay as other seamen and wore a uniform like that of a RN rating, not an officer. Kirstin, the type of uniform worn by your cousin would depend on which shipping line he served with and maybe what his precise duties were. 3rd Class stewards on the White Star liners generally wore a short white tunic with 5 brass buttons fastened right up to a round collar (ie no shirt or tie visible). Trousers were generally dark... Read full post

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Citation

Copyright © 1996-2019 Encyclopedia Titanica (www.encyclopedia-titanica.org) and third parties (ref: #4468, published 15 February 2005, generated 26th April 2019 02:10:10 AM)
URL : https://www.encyclopedia-titanica.org/white-star-line-uniform-1912.html