By Courtney Kube, NBC News Pentagon producer
WASHINGTON – The Navy uniform is going retro.
About 100 U.S. sailors around the world are testing out the Navy's new service dress khaki uniform.
The look isn't really new though – it is actually a throwback to the old World War II-style uniform which was worn through the Vietnam era – and includes a black tie worn with a khaki coat that has large black shoulder boards.
|U.S. Navy/ Chad J. McNeeley|
Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, sports the "new" Navy look at a press conference at the Pentagon on July 2.
The dress khakis, which are worn for events ranging from business meetings and promotion ceremonies to meetings at the White House and testimony on Capitol Hill, can be worn year round.
While the new uniform will add to the larger collections of uniforms rather than replacing one, Navy officers and Chiefs will ultimately be allowed to wear it in place of three other existing uniforms – the less formal service khakis, the formal dress blues, and the formal whites.
Admiral Elmo Zumwalt, the chief of naval operations in the early 1970's, discarded the look, arguing that it forced sailors to carry too many uniforms in their sea bags when deployed.
Navy officials today argue the opposite, saying it will actually decrease the number of uniforms a sailor will have to carry on deployment: officers and chiefs can wear the long-sleeved khaki shirt and tie for formal work situations and then easily change to a formal dress uniform by putting on the jacket.
The officer who is bringing back the look is Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen, who was the chief of naval operations before taking on his current post.
Mullen believes the new dress khakis distinguish the officers from the enlisted sailors, and he is proving it by wearing the uniform during the trial period.
The testing began in June, runs through the end of the summer, and includes sailors at the Pentagon, in Norfolk, Virginia, Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, and even as far away as Yokosuka, Japan. At the end of the summer, the testers will evaluate the uniform in focus groups and online.
So far, the sailors wearing the uniform in the Pentagon are raving about it. A few civilian Pentagon staffers have less praise for the attire, though, saying it looks "too old-fashioned." The large shoulder boards take the most criticism, with one civilian reporter at the Pentagon calling them "big and awkward."
Admiral Mullen debuted the new uniform at a White House event last month, where the president reportedly gave the look a thumbs-up.
Asked how he likes the uniform after a recent press conference, Mullen said with a laugh, "Actually, I love it! What do you think?"