The basic concept behind the Navy’s service stripes—to indicate how many years of cumulative service an enlisted Sailor has under his or her belt—hasn’t changed since they were introduced into Uniform Regulations in 1894. But to say they have remained “basically unchanged,” as we read in the monograph History of US Navy Uniforms, 1776-1981 found on the Naval History and Heritage Command Web site, is to overlook several revisions and additions to the rules regarding service stripes, commonly referred to as “hashmarks.” Here are a few:

Name: Service stripes were originally called “continuous-service marks,” but by the time the 1905 Uniform Regulations were published they had become “continuous-service stripes.” With the release of the 1913 edition of the regulations, they had become simply “service stripes.

Size: Service stripes came in just one size, 8 inches long by 3/8 of an inch wide, when they were originally introduced. It is difficult for armchair researchers to pin down the exact date those dimensions were changed, but by 1947 the stripe’s measurements were 7” x 3/8”. Today, service stripes come in two sizes for Male Sailors and one for Female Sailors.

Good Conduct: Initially there was no provision for uniquely colored service stripes indicating good conduct, but in 1905 an addendum was added to the section on continuous-service stripes stating that “for permanent petty officers holding three consecutive good¬ conduct badges, the continuous-service stripes are to be made of gold lace, instead of scarlet cloth.” The current regulations grant the gold stripes to personnel whose most recent twelve years(cumulative) of active Naval or active Navy Reserve service meets the requirements for issuance of a Good Conduct Award.

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