At the Constitution Museum, we’ve spent years combing seaman protection certificates, size rolls, prisoner of war records and other documents that tell us what sailors physically looked like. We now know the height, build, hair and eye color of many of Constitution’s sailors and Marines. But this is only one, unchangeable part of their appearance.
To get a complete picture, we must ask what their clothes looked like. Sailors certainly put a great deal of effort into looking like seamen. Their clothes embodied the skills and knowledge of their profession, and signified that they were “part of the club.” Without his jacket and trousers, the sailor seemed to lose a little bit of himself.
A recently discovered document gives us a glimpse of the ready-made “slop” clothing provided Constitution’s very first crew in 1798.