Liberty Cuffs

By Kim Medders

My daughter’s boyfriend is a Navy Corpsman attending “C” school to be a medical lab technologist. When we visited her a few weeks ago, he was wearing a jacket with a very nice caduceus embroidered on the sleeve. She later shared that he had done the embroidery himself. I told her of the old Navy tradition of liberty cuffs.

Old time sailors were handy with the needle in order to keep their uniforms in good repair at sea and often (when bored) would embellish them (in places not readily seen) with embroidery.

In my time, you saw a lot of liberty cuffs. These were tabs sewn in or embroidered into the jumper cuffs of your dress blues. It was a minor defiance of uniform regs that was (for the most part) tolerated for liberty uniforms. The idea was when you sat in a bar or in an informal setting, you unbuttoned your cuffs and turned them up, displaying your art work.

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In this picture is, at the top, my liberty cuffs, denoting a tribute to my rating, but it could be anything from dragons and naked mermaids, to rebel flags.

On the left is a sailor with dragons, in the middle is some embroidery done on the underside of the jumper (these are tailor-mades from the orient) and hey, Steve McQueen on the right sporting them in the movie, Sand Pebbles.

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