Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Owning the Vintage Military Look

Surplus military clothing has always been a go-to option for many people within the last century; whether for rugged outdoor activities or ironic anti-war protesting, military clothing was there.  That's because surplus is abundant, it tends to be fairly well-made, and it's cheap.

Putting modern surplus to use is easy, but finding and using vintage military pieces the right way to create the kind of look you want is difficult.  You first must decide what kind of look you're going for.  Stylish and mature?  Rugged and carefree?  Dark and mysterious?

Depending upon which you decide, there is a plethora of military surplus from which to choose.  M65 jackets, trench coats, various military caps, even different styles of camouflage can work.  Choosing the right pieces and colors/patterns will aid you in creating your look.  Just be wary of using too much camouflage or camo that is too loud or just doesn't work.  

click images to enlarge

The stylish, old-world aristocratic look in the photo above was put together using a WW2-era U.S. Marine Corp. jacket combined with vintage civilian pieces.  This shows us that utilizing one or perhaps even two military pieces with civilian pieces is key.  If we take multiple military pieces and put them together we'll look like we're trying too hard or, worse yet, we'll look like we just came out of combat.  Simplicity and moderation are the keys to make the vintage military look work well.  Too much military and you look like a soldier, too little and it won't be unique.

Below is a pretty poor quality 'selfie' of myself several months ago while it was still cool outside.  I'm wearing a vintage newsboy cap, an unissued M43 combat jacket, a rare original WW2 paratrooper's scarf made of camouflage parachute material, and, unseen, a pair of dress trousers (look at that ugly mug).

I've combined two vintage military pieces with other rather manly accoutrements to create what I believe to be a rugged yet stylish and maybe even 'elegant' look.  Something that stands out in the crowd, is pleasing to the eye, but still looks tough while remaining pretty casual.  It's something you'd wear for a stroll in the country or to see a man about a dog.

A favorite style of jacket of mine is the old M42 paratrooper jacket.  With it's large, bellowed saddle pockets, belted waist, angled chest pockets, and gusseted back not only looks great but speaks of utilitarianism.  It's a great look that could, if desired, be paired with either jeans or trousers for a casual look.

The M42 brings to mind the safari jackets of old or even the famous Belstaff racing jacket.

Heck, there's even a reproduction M42 available in modern Multicam camouflage.  I actually kind of like it.

There's all sorts of vintage military pieces that you can use to create your own, unique military inspired look.  Experiment with what you can find to see what works and what doesn't.  Don't just wear the woodland camouflage pants like everyone else, try something new and unusual, I think you'll be pleasantly surprised!  The choices are limitless.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Custom-made M-1 Helmets

Following the 70th anniversary of the Normandy Landings, here's something a bit off the beaten path for this vintage blog.  You can now get custom-created M-1 helmets refurbished to WW2 standards at the Houndstooth Kid Haberdashery.  These are perfect for reenactors or if you are just looking for an attractive display piece.

click images to enlarge

What does this mean exactly?   I can recreate either WW2 U.S. infantry or airborne helmet shells. These postwar shells are refurbished to plain-jane, standard as-issued helmets and you can add on any markings, camo, etc. that you wish.  Airborne markings? MP markings? Medic markings? Camo? 'Follow me' bars? No problem.  These are individually hand-crafted to your specifications.

I take a postwar shell, strip off the awful silica texture and apple green paint, paint it with correct extra-flat OD paint and texture it with cork, and then bar tack the repro chinstraps onto the shell.  I then hand paint any markings and/or camo you want.

A before and after shot of an M1C helmet for a fellow reenactor.

The liner is a decent repro made of shiny plastic, so I also paint the outside of the liner with flat OD paint to make it look more correct.  I can provide either infantry or airborne liners.  These liners have OD7 webbing and are green inside, so not the most accurate, however most non-reenacting folks don't know the difference and most likely won't even see the inside of the liner. These fit both WW2 and postwar shells but fit a tad tight. Overall, I'm happy with them seeing how expensive USGI liners are becoming these days.  I don't yet have liners up for sale on the Etsy site but should soon.

These helmets are strictly for reenacting and/or display purposes. If you're a WW2 reenactor or just want a nice display piece, these are for you.  They look great as the photos below can attest to.

The M1C from the comparison photo above.

An infantry helmet I created for my 41st Armored Infantry Regiment, 2nd Armored Division impression.  The 2nd Armored emblem was hand painted and the entire helmet lightly aged to give it that combat-used look.

Photos of the above helmet in use, along with another one of my infantry helmets being worn by a fellow reenactor at an airsoft game.

Here's an M1C airborne helmet I created for myself out of a rusted late-WW2 shell.  Detail shots are included, as well as shots of the airborne liner.

Showing the airborne chinstraps.

Detail shot of the corking and the chinstrap bar tack.

The repro airborne liner.  The scuffs are from being in the shell.

Interior shot.  The exterior was also shiny plastic until painted.

How I intend to use it: with a piece of camo parachute material, as was occasionally done by paratroopers and infantrymen alike.

Some comparison shots of my M1C (left) and an early-war infantry M-1 (right).  Note that the paint color of original shells often differed depending upon manufacturer and the period of the war they were made, just like original webgear and uniforms throughout the war.  There was no perfect standard.  While different, both the reproduction and original helmets shown in the photos below are accurate for the Second World War.

Detail of the corking.

Liners.  Repro on the left, original on the right.

So, if you're interested either go to the Houndstooth Haberdashery and check out your options and pricing or contact me at houndstoothkid@hotmail.com.  I look forward to being able to recreate a piece of history for you to wear and display.

Friday, June 6, 2014

D-Day: 70th Anniversary

70 years ago today Allied soldiers parachuted into and stormed the wave-swept beaches of Normandy.  It was the greatest invasion in history.  Thousands of American, British, Canadian, Free-French soldiers and French Resistance fighters gave their lives on this day in history.  Remember their sacrifice.

Below are some interesting links to browse as you remember the battle that raged 70 years ago.

Then and Now images

93 year-old paratrooper jumps again

Great color footage from the invasion and beyond

British veteran goes AWOL from nursing home to attend D-Day ceremonies

The myths of D-Day

Video: the C-47s of D-Day

Exercise Tiger: deadly practice for D-Day

Darker side of the invasion: treatment of collaborators

Video: D-Day veteran graduates from high school

Eisenhower's 'soul-racking' D-Day decision

D-Day through the lens of a regular soldier 

Another Then and Now photo set

The other side: few remember the fallen foes of Normandy

Iconic photographs from the "Day of Days"

WW2 veterans are passing away at an ever increasing rate.  Remember and thank these men and women, for, like WW1 veterans, eventually there will be no more of them left.



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