At The Front
430 Rose Lane
Columbia, KY 42728
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Friday 10-4 Central Standard Time
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Phone: (270)384-1965
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About German Wool Uniforms
German Tunic Models
Heer Tunics
SS Tunics
Heer Tunics Worn by the SS

German Army & Waffen-SS Tunics

The Different Models
We get a lot of anxious requests concerning which "model" is correct for what period and "my unit only allows M43s" or some nonsense. The model numbers have been assigned to different tunics styles over the years by collectors to identify variations in the German coats...  NOT THE GERMAN military!  We have over a dozen original tunics here and we have examined probably a hundred more over the last few years:  the information gleaned from authentic garments and photos concerning the different models is as follows:

The "M--" numbers assigned by the reference books refer to the approximate period (despite what some "experts" may blather) that these variations appeared. There are original photos of troops at the 1938 Party Rally wearing "M40's" and my originals are dated 38, 39 and 43 respectively. So much for "M40". Our original "M42" is dated 1944 but I have seen an "M42" dated 1945. Many people have the misconception that each model was made and issued for that year only, and none prior to or afterwards... I.E., "no M40's were made after 1940 and no M43's were issued in 1944." It is entirely possible for a recruit entering service in 1944 to have been issued an M36 tunic, either from old stocks or one that was remanufactured.  (The Germans as well as the US Army, often rebuilt previously worn garments.)

Heer vs. SS Tunics: The Waffen SS was at odds with the German Army throughout the entire conflict. They continuously were forced to improvise in order to obtain enough equipment for their troops. Many of the uniforms worn by the Waffen SS were contracted separately from those of the Army or were produced in their own labor "facilities". Buchenwald and Ravensbruck being the primary sources. These uniforms exhibited minor pattern differences from those produced by the Army. However, for myriad reasons, the SS "violated authenticity standards" and wore Army pattern uniforms much of the time. See below for more details on the specifics.

"What is an M36 versus an M43?"
OK, the Germans started the War with what everyone terms an "M36" tunic.  All future uniforms were a gradual simplification of this model.  I have no evidence that the Germans made any distinction between "models".  The "service jacket" was gradually modified over the years to speed up production.  The basic highlights are as follows.  On subsequent models only the changes from the previous one are listed.  The years produced were gleaned from dates seen on original uniforms.  The principle features of each tunic and our observations of production dates on real uniforms are as follows:

 

German Army (Heer) Tunics
Tunics in photos are for illustration only. 
They are not for sale.
M36: Dark Green collar, scalloped pocket flaps, pleated pockets and internal belt suspenders (Y-straps weren't universally used yet)
Produced: 1935-1941
Issued: 1935-1945
M40/41: Collar changed to field gray. The "M41" is a an M40 with a 6 button front, and often rayon lining. Most references do not make this distinction. All are usually lumped together as "M40". 
Produced:  1938-1943
Issued:  1938-1945
M42: Pleats eliminated on the pocket, lining usually satin instead of cotton twill, and internal suspenders eliminated. 6-button front. 
Produced: 1941*-1945
Issued: 1941*-1945
*
Some photos of troops in the Leningrad and Stalingrad battles of late 1941 and 1942 appear to show these tunics.  However, it is quite possible that they were taken in the Fall of '42 and the '41 photos are mis-dated. 
Note: The designations "M42" and "M43" are superfluous.  It is probably more correct to simply consider them a variation of the same jacket rather than separate models.  The only difference being the pocket flap, this is more likely an idiosyncrasy of different factories, than an official "model change".
M43: Scalloped flaps eliminated in favor of straight cut. 
Produced:  1943-1945
Issued: 1943-1945
M44/45:  Totally new jacket. This was such a radical change to the tunic design, that the Germans actually called it "Modelle 1944" or "1945". Short, 2 pocket coat, similar to the US Ike Jacket or British battle dress.
Produced:  1944-1945
Issued:  Summer 1944-1945 (First issued to several divisions in the summer of 1944 on a trial basis for approval)

Waffen SS Tunics
Tunics produced by and for the Waffen SS were slightly different in detail from those produced for the Army. The details provided below should clarify the mess and help you avoid such pitfalls.
Tunics in photos are for illustration only. 
They are not for sale.

SS M36, M40 and M41 Tunics
SS vs. Heer M40
Collar and lining differ
SSM40 vs. SSM41
Lining differences




Appears identical to 
the Army M40
Collar is about 1/2" wider.
SS BW and Waffen SS property stamps.
Janke mistakes

Dates on SS tunics are unknown! The model numbers are collector lingo, not that of the German military. Aside from pre-War uniforms with RZM tags, later SS garments don't have dates. This information I've gleaned from looking through hundreds of original photos and the few originals that have turned up. The only way to tell them from Heer tunics in photos is by the collar width. If there's plenty of room around the collar tabs for tresse it's SS. If it's a close call, it's Heer. many times you can't be sure unless the photo is crystal. Some SS M40's or M41's might have been made in 1944- there's no way to tell.

Production: The SS used both civilian and WVHA (forced labor) contractors. The WVHA had shops both in various ghettos and concentration camps. This accounts for the mix of markings. "SS BW" and "Betr Ra." (Ravensbruck) are camp and possibly ghetto manufacture, while company names, and later numbers are regular contractors. (Later War civilian contractors were assigned code numbers- similar to RB Numbers. "910" and "622" are known examples.)

What is correct? Answer: Both Heer and SS M36 and M40 pattern. From combing through photos, the following trends are apparent. In Poland and France, the vast majority of troops seem to be wearing SS pattern tunics...M34, M37 and M36. By "Barbarossa", summer 1941, Heer tunics are commonly seen. By late 1942 and 1943, SS pattern make up the majority again. My personal suspicion is that SS contractors were able to keep up with uniform requirements for the early SS and SS-VT. When the Waffen SS was expanded after the French campaign, I think there was a shortfall and one way or another, Heer stocks were used to make up the difference. Whether these came from contractors, or Army warehouses, or both, is unknown. By 1942, the WVHA had increased production and managed to fill the orders.

Notes:
1. SS M36/39/40/41 tunics had 3 belt hook holes per station. They were not reduced to 2 holes until the M42.
2. All SS 4 pocket tunics have shorter skirts than their Heer counterparts. If you know the sizing stamps, you can distinguish an SS tunic by those alone.

SS M36 (we call this the "M39"): These are nearly identical to the Heer "M36". The SS contract tunics differ in only two ways- they have a wider, slightly flared collar, and they have the shorter skirt which can be determined by the size stamps. The few sames I have seen were marked "VA1939 or VA1940".

SS M40: Almost identical to the M36/39 other than the fieldgray collar. The undercollar fabric is sometimes made from the pre-War SS VT HBT. The main points to note are the wider collar and shorter skirt. A few have the simplified "two step" lining panel.

SS M41: Similar to the M40, but rayon has appeared, most have the simplified lining and many have the breat pocket sewn through it in order to close the internal suspender channel with a machine stitch rather than having to hand sew them. 

Markings: I have only seen perhaps a half dozen M36's or M40's that I believed were truly SS made. Some had only the size stamps, others have regular contractor markings, some had depot marks and dates, and a few have SS-BW. Early tunics (M36/39) were VA marked.
 
No Big Deal! For Reenactors, no. This is not. But for a collector who is contemplating a purchase of several thousand dollars, it is critical. 

Repros: 
- Janke in Germany makes "SS pattern" M36 and M40 tunics. However, all he does is add the wider collar and mistakenly puts 2 belt hook holes per station in them- many have a mix of M36/40 and M42/43 lining panels.
-Texled: We now have made custom order SS tunics since 2011. All details are copied correctly.


SS M42/M43 Tunics

Contractor made M42 tunic. Field gray wool, machine sewn buttonholes, etc.

Ravensbruck M43 tunic made from Italian wool. hand sewn buttonholes.

R Ravensbruck maker mark

Wider Collar

2 belt hook holes.

Belt hook loop.

Hand sewn buttonholes on some tunics.

Belt hook loop detail

M42/43 Tunics: SS tunics made from late 1942 until the end of the War differ in those of the Army in 4-6 details. 
1. Wider collar.
2. The breast pockets sewn through the lining. 
3. 5 button fronts (compared with 6 on Army tunics.)
4. 2 belt hook holes per station instead of 3.
5. The belt hook hangers are a loop instead of simply a single strip of webbing or lining fabric.
6. Some SS M43's lack the chest darts.
7. Some SS M43's are lined with gray HBT instead of smooth satin. 
8. Some SS Tunics have hand sewn buttonholes. This is a rarity on Army tunics, except for tailor made (usually officer) uniforms. 

 

Army Tunics used by the SS
Tunics in photos are for illustration only. 
They are not for sale.


The SS did, undoubtedly, use Army tunics (just like the US Marines "acquired" tons of gear from the Army), and thousands of men transferred from the Army to the SS during the War. The SS was almost always short of uniforms and their scrounging escapades were legendary. Particularly in the last year of the War, with the chaos wrought on of their supply system by Allied air attacks on their trains and trucks, it's doubtful that any uniform combination was left undone. However, collecting and reenacting purists frown on such "unauthentic" combinations and most "real" SS tunics offered by "upstanding" vendors are original Army tunics with SS insignia installed. In the case of such tunics, the only ones that have any value as "SS" tunics are those with supporting documentation of some sort to support their provenance.

Some people suffer loose-bowel syndrome if an "SS" style tunic is not available in their size. The possibility of an Army soldier in 1944 having his six-button tunic ripped off and a five button tunic shoved down his throat upon transferring to an SS unit is ludicrous.  Although Army troops wearing SS tunics is less likely, it is within the realm of possibility.

In a country with nearly 10 million people in uniform, suffering desperate supply problems, it is beyond doubtful that anyone would have been refused a chance to go to the front due to the wrong number of buttons on his jacket! 



Army Tunics Used by the SS: Although this had to be a common practice during the War, most such uniforms are eschewed by collectors as postwar modifications. With the price of a nice SS tunic running 3-4 times that of a comparable Heer tunic, the fraud artists are hard at it. However, once in awhile one comes along that appears to be legit and we post it here to back up our assertions that this happened. 

This 1944 dated Heer M43 tunic has no evidence of having had or having been used with Heer insignia (although breast eagles and Litzen were often affixed at the factory), the SS insignia is definitely original and the capture papers kind of end the debate. To add further insult to injury to the purists, the collar tabs are BeVo and the eagle is embroidered. And the eagle is hand sewn, the tabs machine. I know, I know, "they wouldn't have done that!"

Original uniforms, none of which match. The 4 on the right are all made in 1943. 
If this is difficult to swallow, please call A.Speer at the Reich Economic office in 
order to lodge a complaint. I'm sure that Deutsche Telekom in Berlin
information will be most helpful in locating his number!

Wool and Color

"If my pants don't match my coat, I'm gonna call my Mommy....!"
We have a lot of questions about wool color.  Here's the one and only deal:
We copied original field gray garments.  "Field gray" comes in dozens of shades, depending on dye lot, material content (wool versus substitute fibers) and so on.  The base color is essential a mix of gray, green and blue fibers, that blend together to yield the color. 

The Germans were extremely supply conscious and recycled everything.  An M36 tunic made from late war material is not a typical thing, but an M43 made from earlier stocks is entirely feasible.  Originals come in numerous shades of green, gray, olive, and even brown. There is no single, correct "field gray" color! There are only acceptable parameters, and we are familiar with those.

"So why can't I have a 100% color match with my pants, cap and tunic?"
Life would be easier if we had just ONE color.  Please understand this.  It is a supply nightmare, but we are striving for authenticity, not mass marketing of cabbage patch doll wear.  Just like the authentic garments, we use several shades at different times for different items.  Moreover, the tint of one roll of the same wool, will sometimes be different from that of the next.  We will not alter our policy to fit modern misconceptions of historical fact! We will not change history to satisfy the customer.  If all originals matched, then we would do it.  Our measuring sticks are originals, not the fantasies of Professorus-Emeritus-Knowitallicus-Reenactoricallus.

"I MUST have a matching set for my impression and to be satisfied."
You're a farb.
  Call another company for farb-wear. We don't copy repros and our standards are not dictated by modern fantasies and factual ignorance. We're striving to duplicate WWII-era uniforms and please our own sense of creativity, not to please customers unfamiliar with or unwilling to accept historical fact!  If our unwillingness to make incorrect garments offends your sensibilities or makes you pissy, tough.  

Our colors and patterns are Historically Correct.
End of Story.

Other Notes

Belt Hooks Suck
My personal recommendation regarding belt hooks is to skip them. This is based upon experience rather than hearsay or our lack of them to sell to you. (On the contrary, we have thousands in stock.) They are rarely, if ever, in the correct position and they can be massively uncomfortable. 

 

 


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