Red Sea Rig

Vikram Karve
3 min readApr 4, 2021


Musings by Navy Veteran Vikram Karve


Red Sea Rig was originally a Royal Navy concept appearing during the nineteenth century.

In the 19th Century — when the Sun never set on the British Empire — and the British Royal Navy ruled the waves — Royal Navy Officers were required to wear the full Naval Mess-Dress Uniform in Wardrooms on Warships.

The sole exception was when the ship was in the Red Sea — where the heat and humidity often made this physically impossible.

Here — Naval Officers were permitted to remove their mess jackets in the wardroom — provided they added a Cummerbund to temper the somewhat informal look.


(A Wardroom is a Navy Officers Mess — on ships — and — ashore too)


Since this modified evening mess-dress was worn when ships were in the Red Sea — this Naval Uniform was nicknamed as the “Red Sea Rig”.

Because of its comfort and practicality in hot and humid climates — “Red Sea Rig” was gradually adopted as daily summer evening mess-dress in tropical waters on ships and in Stone Frigates located in hot climate stations.

The Indian Navy (IN) evolved from the Royal Indian Navy (RIN) — and — adopted all its customs and traditions from the Royal Navy (RN).

“Red Sea Rig” is worn by Naval Officers as daily informal summer evening mess-dress in Wardrooms on board Warships and Naval Establishments.

“Red Sea Rig” consists of a white half sleeved shirt, worn with shoulderboards (rank stripe epaulettes) and chest medal ribbons and badges, with black trousers, black socks, black shoes, and a black cummerbund.

“Red Sea Rig” is worn at night in darkness hours — from sunset to sunrise (reveille)

“Red Sea Rig” is never worn during the daytime.

On most ships and naval establishments — officers change into “Red Sea Rig” after sunset.

A Naval Peak Cap is worn as headgear with “Red Sea Rig” when the Officer is outside the Wardroom.



In the 1980’s — a frontline Naval Warship — INS Rajput was affiliated to the Rajput Regiment of the Army.

(I had the privilege of serving on this mighty Destroyer INS RAJPUT in the 1980’s)


The affiliation of INS Rajput to the Rajput Regiment was the first inter-service affiliation.

In order to “celebrate” this affiliation — Officers of INS Rajput started wearing the colourful Regimental Cummerbund of the Rajput Regiment in the Wardroom instead of the Black Navy Cummerband.

Taking a cue — Naval Aviators started designing their own cummerbunds to wear with “Red Sea Rig”.

The CNS (Navy Chief) put a stop to this “colourful cummerband” fashion spreading any further — and orders were issued that only Navy Pattern Black Cummerbunds were to be worn with “Red Sea Rig” — which was a distinctive Naval Evening Mess Dress.

On the other hand — the Army and Air Force imitated the Navy — and they modified their Evening Mess Dress on the pattern of the “Red Sea Rig” — and today — both the Army and Air Force wear similar Black/White Evening Mess Dresses — though not as smart as the Navy “Red Sea Rig”.


(Imitation can never surpass the Original)


With the advent of Women Officers in the Navy in the 1990’s — an option was given to Women Naval Officers to wear a Black Cotton Saree (in lieu of Trousers) and White Half Sleeved Blouse (in lieu of Half Sleeved Shirt) — but — it has been observed that Women Officers prefer to wear the original “Red Sea Rig” instead of the Indianised Feminine Version.

A Navy sails across the oceans — and operates in international waters.

So — Naval Uniforms have an “international” flavour.

Hence — you will observe “Red Sea Rig” (or slight variations thereof) being worn in most Navies worldwide.



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Vikram Karve

A creative person with a zest for life, alumnus IIT Delhi, Lawrence School Lovedale, Vikram Karve is a retired Navy Officer turned full time Writer and Blogger