First off, read these short textual passages.

A dickey (alternately written as dickie or dicky; sometimes known as a tuxedo front or tux front) is a type of false shirt-front - originally known as a detachable bosom - designed to be worn with a tuxedo or men's white tie, usually attached to the collar and then tucked into the waistcoat or cummerbund. The rigid plastic dickey came into fashion in the latter years of the 19th century, and was one of the first successful commercial applications of celluloid. Royal Naval officers wore a dickie with mess undress and for other social occasions.

Dickeys came in three types - Celluloid, Cardboard & Cloth

Celluloid (Hard Plastic)

Celluloid dickeys were popular for their waterproof and stain-resistant properties. Unlike traditional cloth shirt-fronts, they remained sleek, bright white, and did not wilt or wrinkle. Celluloid dickeys simulated the look of a formal shirt bib for day and evening wear. They were designed in a variety of patents, such as: rounded, flat-end, no restraints, a restraint tab at the end of the bib or side straps that tied at the wearer's back. For this reason, they were popular with entertainers, musicians, and other performers. Nevertheless, they were frequently maligned and spoofed for their stiffness, unmanageability, and tendency to pop out of place. In one notable Looney Tunes segment, Bugs Bunny conducts an arrogant opera singer and makes him hold a note so long that his dickey snaps out of his waistcoat and rolls up to his throat. "The flapping dickey", a famous Vaudeville cliché, involves a dickey which has been intentionally rigged to flap in a comical fashion.


Cardboard dickies were worn in theatre and service professions to save money from using linen formal shirts for uniforms. Examples of professions that used cardboard dickies include waiters, hotel managers, doormen, bellboys, limo drivers, and servants. Cardboard dickeys are still manufactured.


Cloth dickeys simulate many different styles, some often seen examples include dress shirt front and collar, formal frilled shirt front.

The name "Dickie Bow Tie" was an appendage to the dickie, and socially at the time of its introduction, they were either white or black. Nowadays, they can be any colour or pattern under the sun.

Good.  Now for the story.

By the time of the 1937 'Coronation Day' which was planned for Edward VIII but used instead for George VI namely the 12th of May, Ganges boys' had long worn winter and summer uniforms.  Both uniforms consisted of a white duck suit [for working and whilst under instructions] and a blue serge suit [for ceremonial and leave outside the Establishment], and in summer they were with white hats and white fronts, with black hats and dark blue sea jerseys for winter. The original white front had long sleeves which had to be uniformly rolled up and neatly folded just above the elbow. Sailors in the fleet wore more or less the same uniforms. White singlets [vests] were issued to be worn underneath both the white front and the sea jersey. In BTE's [boys' training establishments] it was easy for all boys to be turned-out in an immaculate manner, each having a brilliant white but non bleached white front, where the top blue band, dyed dark blue, often ran when placed in water, but largely remained the colour of its issue if washed using a soap-bar issued by the navy. In the fleet, sailors wouldn't have been seen dead in such a garment, and like their broad blue collars, everything was bleached until the blue was barely discernable:  wearing such tampered garments was a sign of being and "old sailor" ! Bleaching,  rotted the fabric stitching of the garments and was not recommended.

When the Coronation organisation sprang into action, three lieutenants from HMS Ganges - nobody else - were temporarily appointed to HMS Pembroke, the Chatham Depot of the Nore Command, to be trained to be  'Street Liners'.  Hundreds of men from the Nore Command were drafted into HMS Pembroke also to be trained for the same role. These sailors came from far and wide {shore stations in the Command; submarines; small ships; large ships and in-transit ratings awaiting draft to any of the foregoing} and their kits were as diverse as their ships, and all of course "old sailor" kits.  Those that didn't posses a good cap or a respectable best blue suit with gold badges were made to pay for cleaning at best, or sent to SLOPS to purchase [on the ledger] new replacements.  Those without good boots were issued with them on temporary loan for the duration. For the rehearsal days [all except for the dress rehearsal] they continued to wear their own kit but for the dress rehearsal and Coronation Day proper they were each issued with a HMS Pembroke cap ribbon [tally], a lanyard, one blue collar with the caveat "not to be washed", and one WHITE FLANNEL DICKIE which became known [especially to the wardroom] as a WHITE FLANNEL "RICHARD".  Whilst not recorded as such, it is reasonable to believe that in a class-conscious navy, the word "dickie" was a wardroom article of clothing, and if ratings were to wear a device achieving the same ends as did the dickie albeit in a totally different form, it would have to be renamed. Since dickie and richard are synonymous, it was an easy and obvious transition.  All of this was on temporary loan to be returned to the Depot on completion of the parade.

The white flannel "richard" was a cheap expedient to ensure that all sailors had a pure white frontal appearance to their uniforms which had a dark blue [unbleached] top.  Just like the dickie mentioned above, it was tied at the rear with tie-tapes and once the jumper had been donned, the "richard" was tucked into the edges of the jumper and down to the bell bottom trouser top and pulled taught so that no creases were seen.

During this period, the white flannel "richard" was discussed by the officers appointed to Coronation Duties [subsequently written down, referred on to the Admiralty and recorded for posterity] that the adoption of the white flannel "richard" for pan-naval use would save the Admiralty a handsome sum of money for wear with a jumper i.e., for ceremonial and liberty occasions, and moreover, all sailors irrespective of age or time in the Service, would wear an identical white flannel "richard" and matching collar of course !  For half blues or half white duck suit wear, the traditional long sleeved flannel white front would still be issued. Much thought was given to the suggestion and after the three lieutenants had returned to their duties back in HMS Ganges, they wrote of their experiences as 'Street Liners' and forewarned the boys' of the forthcoming introduction of the "richard". For those of you who can visit the Ganges Museum, try and source the Summer Shotley Magazine for the Term ending August 1937 and have a read of Page 12 entitled "Street Lining" by A.D.O. The article has four pages -12 through 15- but if you don't want to read them all just read the fifth paragraph on page 12 starting with "On Saturday....." For those of you who cannot visit the Museum, and, just in case the Museum does not have this edition in their archive, here is that short paragraph.

In the event, the Admiralty dropped the idea and instead, before WW2 had commenced [September 1939], had introduced white flannel fronts with short sleeves.

In my time in the Service [at Ganges 13th October 1953 to 5th February 1955] as soon as we left Ganges and came under the influence of older sailors serving in our first ships, we 'modified' articles of kit obtained from official sources [SLOPS] and made a bee-line for the naval civilian tailors for a real tidily 'going ashore' blue suit. In defence of the navy I have to add here that upon joining, clothing was bulk issued and not made to measure.  However, near to the end of our time in Ganges we were measured-up for a "draft suit" and whilst the quality of the serge was still relatively poor [clothing was still on rationing from the war], at least the suit fitted properly.  In addition to tidily suits, we also wore tidily white fronts.  These were manufactured with a light pale blue top [so no bleaching required] and were low cut so as to reveal ones hairy chest.  The jumper of the blue suit had to be skin tight and had a large u-shaped finish where the tape fastening beckets were instead of the official issue v-shape. Blue collars were purchased [or bleached] to a light blue colour and the bottom holding strap was cut, allowing the collar to be spread around the manufactured u-shape hugging the rib cage. Lanyards, bleached of course, were stretched to half the diameter of official issue, and tapes were elongated to twice the length dictated in dress regulations.  Silks were ironed after running a candle inside the material so when they cooled, they were stiffer and almost shone with the melted candle grease/wax. Trousers were manufactured so that they hugged [not over tight] ones legs until below the knees, when they would then mushroom out to bell-bottoms to sizes around the twenty two inch mark when standard issue was fifteen inches. Service issued trousers were often wetted and then stretched over an up-turned bucket and left to dry. The hat, blancoed white in summer and brushed port and starboard in winter, was subtly bent or moulded so it fitted snugly both on top and at the back of ones head, and the joint in the gold wire cap ribbon/tally culminated with a grand and tidily bow as near to the left eye as possible.  None of this was worth the effort without addressing the shoes, which were spit and polished. In those days, the great coat was the norm as an overcoat, but in the mid 50's this was replaced by the Burberry rain coat.  It was much better than the heavy and cumbersome naval great coat but was belted whereas officers Burberry's were not.  Whenever possible, we would purchase a naval tailor's model which was unbelted and hung in tidily fashion. When at home on leave, the addition of a white scarf tucked through the silk finished the desired aim, which was to attract the girls and to get the mum's touching ones collar for luck, whilst at the same time making impressionable young men envious and desirous of becoming a Royal Sailor.  

Good bye.