World War I uniforms were supplied by countries including the U.S., England and Germany to soldiers who entered the war. Although WWI is long over, passionate collectors and history buffs have kept these uniforms an important part of world history. Teachers, parents, students and history enthusiasts can find elements online with which to recreate World War I uniforms.
American Army Uniform
American soldiers were provided with uniforms by the government. There were many uniform variations, from jackets and woolen coats to the 'trench coat' that became famous during World War I. Locating accurate - and comfortable - WW I uniforms can be a challenge, but there are several excellent sources available.
The typical U.S. Army soldier was issued a green wool uniform that included breeches and a waist-length jacket. A wide-brimmed hat was included, which protected the men from sun glare and driving rain. Also important to his uniform was a blanket roll, a bag for personal items, a small shovel and a canteen that hung from the belt. The government issued the uniform with a .30 caliber U.S. Army rifle.
- You can purchase a men's uniform consisting of a gabardine jacket with eagle buttons and jodhpurs for $300 (small, medium, large and extra-large) at The Costumer. Ladies can purchase a gabardine skirt, jacket and hat for $330 (small, medium.)
- Men's woolen campaign hats can be difficult to find, but at Mike's Militaria, a U.S. hat can be purchased for $225 (sizes 6 3/8 through 7 7/8).
- If you are interested in purchasing original clothing from WW I, then Great War Militaria should be on your shopping list. Check regularly, as the selection of original items changes frequently. They also carry reproduction items, including a tunic for $285 and shoes for $289.50.
- Equipment, including rifle slings and mess plates, may also be found at Soldier of Fortune, which is located in England. The rifle slings are approximately $40 and the mess flats $70.
- Also at Soldier of Fortune, you can find a gas mask with a box respirator and canvas carrying case available for $200.
- Tentsmiths carries tents, blanket rolls and other military equipment. Prices for tents begin at $195 and go up, depending upon the style and size. Armbruster Manufacturing Co. carries army tents made with the same techniques as nearly a century ago. Many of these tents are custom-made, so prices vary.
- Handmade leather boots and shoes for WWI reenactors (men's sizes from 7 to 11 1/) cost $235 from Mattimore Harness.
Army soldiers could earn rankings, called marks or insignia, for their duty and performance. For example, an enlisted Army soldier may have boasted one of 12 various distinguishing marks for their rank. This included patches that showed their rank ranging from U.S. Regular Army to National Army and U.S. Volunteers. To see some of these insignia, this image from Ancestry.com offers details. Griffin Militaria offers many patches for sale, for $6 each.
English Army Uniforms
While American uniforms are highly collectible and sought after, other uniforms from countries that fought in WWI are interesting as well. During this period, many European armies had a mixture of formal, embellished uniforms, coupled with the more durable soldier uniforms that could withstand the trenches, weather and camp life. The British army in World War I wore functional and practical uniforms. A tunic and trousers were the common uniform, with flat hats and leather equipment carriers.
Paddelaters offers complete made-to-order English officer's uniform, including a light woolen tunic and cuff decoration and jodhpurs with leather patches for $175. The visored cap with leather band is $30 if ordered with the uniform, and $45 if ordered separately.
You can also order enlisted soldiers' uniforms from Paddelaters. These come in grey wool and include a tunic, trousers, puttees (leg wraps) and shirt for $175.
Trench coats were worn as early as the Boer War, and became known worldwide during World War I. The coats were warm, had many pockets for storing ammunition, and were treated to be rain- and snow-proof. One Militaria sells a reproduction trench coat in a wool and oilcloth version for $298. It is slightly shorter than the original, and comes in medium (38-40), large (42-44), extra-large (44-46), XXL (48-50) and 2XL (52).
Paddelaters also carries offers an oversized greatcoat made from heavy wool for $155. British army trench caps are $20 if ordered with a uniform, or $29 if ordered separately.
German Imperial Army Uniforms
The German Imperial Army was made up of several nations and had many different uniforms. For example, collars were important in the Austrian-Hungarian uniform, because this is where the soldier's rank was worn. The Waffenrock tunic was made of grey wool with red piping down the front. The soldier would have also worn dark trousers and a cap, called a "fieldmutz" cap, with red borders and buttons. You can purchase these uniforms in separate pieces or as a set.
Top Pots carries a number of reproduction German Imperial Army uniforms, all of which are made to order. You can purchase each item individually to make a full set:
The uniform trousers in grey are $125. Piping colors vary. They feature a watch pocket.
The wool tunic is $140 and you can specify piping and cuff decoration colors.
- Top Pots also carries German leather cavalry boots. They are available in black or brown from $110, in men's sizes 8-13.
Special Order Items
With the centennial of World War I in 2014, interest in war uniforms and reenactment clothing has grown. Just remember that many of these uniforms are now handmade and special orders, so factor in the extra time when planning your battles.