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How many stripes are there on a sailor’s shirt? St. Petersburg marks the birthday of the naval uniform


St. Petersburg marks the birthday of “Telnyashka” – sailors’ uniform. 140 years ago it became part of naval servicemen’s outfit. Nowadays the typical stripe is a fashionable print for many. But – initially – it was an element of safety. Alexandra Lee found out all nuances of the naval style and counted how many stripes are really there on a telnyashka.


The captain of a yacht with a mathematical name “Delta” has never wondered how many stripes he was wearing on his body. That’s despite this outfit accompanying the sea wolf for 43 years on every trip. Even during Soviet times – when there was a deficit in “telnyashkas” for the civilians – he constantly updated his wardrobe, like a jeans smuggler.

Oleg Kapranov, captain of the “Delta” yacht: “You can easily buy those nowadays, but they are not of a good quality. Have to replace those every 3-4 years”

It was created in the dawn of the Russian navy – in the beginning of the 18th century – primarily to contrast white sails and grey sea waters, so that a drowning man could be easily spotted and rescued. On August 19th 1874 “telnyashka” became an integral part of naval uniform.

Freshmen navy students put those in school, and it warms their hearts. 

Igor Kurdin, 1 rank captain, chairman of St. Petersburg’s sailors and divers club: “We say telnyashka, we mean the Navy. Everything else is not true. When I see some fake sailors who may have sailed the seas on “Gromovoy” cruiser. Those are fake, a real sailor would never tear a telnyashka on his chest. Shevchuk can do it”

Women – even those not in the Navy – can wear it too. Lets recall famous pictures, rooted in the heads of several generations. Hepburn, Chanel. The latter came up with an idea – just like many other fashion innovations – to combine striped blouse and pants with a wide belt. Or, as it was called in the soviet times - a sword-belt.

Vladimir Bukhinnik, clothes designer: “It stormed into 20th century fashion when sports and active way of life were starting to trend. This season, the navy style was a hit. Next year it won’t be, everyone’s a bit fed up with the navy style. But I think that in our city telnyashka is always popular”

For residents of a sea-side city, “telnyashka” really is a special item on their style list. And even part of culture. Famous painters Mitki can’t even imagine themselves wearing something else. The telnyashka has long ago made a step from catwalks and ship decks to wardrobes of the ordinary people.

Vladimir Bukhinnik, clothes designer: “If you’re a man of big forms, its best to cover the telnyashka with a jacket. Thus you will have a narrow line like that, which a person of any proportions can wear”

If you know its length and proportion of stripes – its 1 to 1 now – its not so hard to mathematically count the number of white-blue stripes.

Alexandra Lee, reporter: “The number of stripes on a telnyashka varies from 33 to 52 – depending on a wearer’s build. There are, however, national peculiarities. From mid 17th century, the British and the Dutch wore the so-called “Breton sweaters” with 12 stripes – exactly as the number of human’s ribs. Thus sailors wanted to cheat death - by looking like skeletons. As for Russian navy, our sailors are typically humorous about it – saying that a telnyashka only has 2 stripes – a blue one and a white one”