Daily entries from the 17th century London diary
L&M define this as "seamen's ready made clothes".
1. slops Articles of clothing and bedding issued or sold to sailors.2. slops Short full trousers worn in the 16th century.3. A loose outer garment, such as a smock or overalls.4. slops Chiefly British. Cheap, ready-made garments.
[Middle English sloppe, a kind of garment, from Old English -slop (in oferslop, surplice).]
4. Wide baggy breeches or hose, of the kind commonly worn in the 16th and early 17th cent.; loose trousers, esp. those worn by sailors.
5. Ready-made clothing and other furnishings supplied to seamen from the ship's stores; hence, ready-made, cheap, or inferior garments generally.1663 PEPYS Diary 16 Mar., Advising upon the business of Slopps, wherein the seaman is so much abused by the pursers. 1764 COMM. BYRON Voy. in Hawkesworth I. 9 The men.. who had contrived to sell not only all their warm clothes, but their bedding,.. now applied in great distress for slops. [...]
1867 SMYTH Sailor's Word-bk. 633 *Slop-Book, a register of the slop clothing, soap, and tobacco, issued to the men; also of the religious books supplied.
1840 R. H. DANA Bef. Mast xxix. 102 Having begun the voyage with very few clothes, he had taken up the greater part of his wages in the *slop-chest.
1699 LUTTRELL Brief Rel. (1857) IV. 493 The deduction of 12d. in the pound by the paymaster for *slop cloaths.. is without warrant.
On Uniformity in the Royal Navy:
There is a persistent belief among the general public, and many reenactors as well, that sailors in the Royal Navy wore whatever they wished. This is only partially true. To be sure, enlisted men’s clothing was not officially regulated until 1857, but the supply system designed to provide the men with clothing had been in place since at least 1627.[i] Purser’s “slops” were available for purchase aboard nearly every ship in the fleet. Prior to 1758, individual contractors’ agents supplied clothing to the navy. When a ship was outfitted for sea, the vessel’s purser bought the items required from these purveyors. The clothing, wrapped in bundles and shipped in casks, was stowed in the “slop room,” a compartment usually located at the after end of the orlop deck. When a sailor needed or wanted new clothes, the purser charged the items against the man’s pay and the contractors themselves drew the money from the Pay Office. As one might expect, this system was extremely vulnerable to all manner of dishonest transactions: it was quite easy to cheat the men, the government, or both. http://www.hmssomerset.com/clothing.htm
SLOPS, a wide Sort of Breeches worn by Seamen.---An Universal Etymological English Dictionary. N. Bailey, 1675.
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