long clothes

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The seaman's name, during the 18th and early 19th centuries, for the clothes worn by men ashore. It was a wise precaution for a British merchant seaman to have a suit of long clothes to wear when going ashore to avoid impressment. ‘When the [press] boat left the vessel we crept from our hiding hole,’ wrote John Nicol in The Life and Adventures of John Nicol, Mariner (1822), ‘and not long after, a custom-house officer came on board. When we cast anchor, as I had a suit of long clothes in my chest, I put them on immediately and gave the custom-house officer half a guinea for the loan of his cocked hat and powdered wig. I got a waterman to put me on shore. I am confident that my own father, had he been alive, could not have known me. All these precautions were necessary. Had the waterman suspected me to be a sailor, he would have informed the press-gang in one minute.’ See also sailors' dress.

Subjects: Maritime History.

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