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Bell-bottoms away, my boys: Navy goes with straight legs

SHARE Bell-bottoms away, my boys: Navy goes with straight legs

Bell-bottoms are going back into the U.S. Navy's closet.

After 60 years with little change, the Navy - which invented the wide-leg denim utility uniform for sailors - is scrapping the look in favor of an updated, straight-leg version.Replacing the traditional flared dungarees will be tailored straight twill pants. The familiar light blue denim work shirt will give way to a chambray polyester/cotton number.

The Navy Uniform Board expects the new materials will wear more comfortably, last longer and look smarter than the customary denim.

The bells have been traditional onboard work attire as long as Navy historians can remember.

Jean Hort, director of the Navy Department Library in Washington, D.C., said they served functional purposes: They were easy to slip off over the shoes if a sailor went overboard, they could be rolled up for wading or swabbing decks, and they covered boots, keeping sailors' socks from getting soaked during rain or ocean spray.

After months of testing on ships and at shore stations, the new uniforms "were found to meet the needs better than the old uniforms," said Navy spokesman Lt. Merritt Allen.

The Navy will retain the bell-bottom look for its less frequently used service dress uniforms.