Kit lists, what's essential, desirable, optional
Most people find that re-enacting soon fills all the available free space in your home! It's quite easy to buy everything you see at a good price, not because you need it, but because it looks good or is a great price!
However, this list below will give you list of everything you'll need. This is all based on a 101st Enlisted Trooper jumping into Normandy. If your planning on doing a more specialist role, then obviously your kit will be slightly different, but all members will have the complete kit for a rifleman, as well as any other secondary impresion.
Combat Uniform - your first biggest purchase!
The M42 Paratroopers Jump Jacket and Trousers can be purchased from a variety of places, At The Front (ATF) make some great reproduction kit and can supply you with an assortment of great kit. The other one that is easier to purchase, but isn't as good is the one from Soldier of Fortune, we don't recommend buying much else from there and this is the minimum standard M42 jumpsuit that is acceptable
M42 Jump Jacket (Reinforced)
M42 Jump Trousers (Reinforced)
Once you have your M42, you should really get a 101st patch for the arm. If you get a jacket second hand, then it might already come badge'd up. Check the quality of the patch with the ones on the Patches pages as some are appalling and are only good for a fire. Green Army Products is the only good place to buy 101st Infantry Division patches from. The rest are always cheap crap and none actually look correct for a ww2 patch.
Almost all uniforms would have been marked with the first letter of your surname and the last four digits of you Army Serial Number (ASN), these were usually stamped into clothing, but were also hand written in pen and marker. For example M9865, is what was marked on my jacket and trousers. Totally optional, but gives a nice unique touch, although rarely seen by anyone! If you need to be 'issued' a ww2 era ASN, we can give you all the details to match a soldier coming from any location in the USA. If you ever get paperwork like ID cards, pay-books, you'll want it all to make sense and match up.
Uniforms didn't stay clean for long! Grim and oil from weapons, mess from food, mud, soil sand and anything else that was on the ground would be ground into the jump suit. All this can be simulated, the video below gives you some idea on how to do this should you want to. However nothing beats the actual wear and tear of wearing it in and years of abuse you'll give it.
Almost all the clothing worn for the invasion of Normandy was treated with a gas resistant chemical called CC-2. It changed the colour of clothes giving them an darker oily look, with white powdery residue left in places, particularly in the seems. This really is a step above and beyond for accuracy and is a really nice look to the M42. The link here will take you to a page full of information on this CC-2 Chemical.
This is not an optional step. This is mandatory, as all 101st members in Normandy would have had a CC2 treated M42 jumpsuit.
Over the years, Jump Boots have gone up in price, even the cheaper reproductions are racing up in price. The best boots you can buy are Corcorans, one of the wartime manufacturers. They are solid, look great and will last for ever. My pair, although very worn in are about 15 years old and still going strong. However, you will pay extra for a pair of Corcorans. They are not cheap, but you get real quality made from an original wartime manufacture.
Insoles - Even if you buy Corcorans, your feet will not be used to wearing stomping great boots! You don't need to buy extra insoles, although you can from a variety of places. I pulled out the insoles from and old pair of trainers that were going in the bin, trimmed a little of one of each of the sides and now they fit great.
(also, refer to First aid pouch/tin)
You have to have at least one item of headgear, nobody should be bareheaded outside. So the garrison cap was the ideal choice, the helmet will come later. There are so many reproductions (many are dog-shit) of these, but realistically there are so many originals out there in all sizes. Unless if you head is the size of a beach ball then there is almost no reason not to buy an original. Check EBay and militaria fairs. You may need to replace the piping around the edge, but that is hardly difficult. By the way, basic sewing is fairly useful in this hobby. The piping has to be light blue, this signifies the infantry, you can get original un-piped examples, or even purchase an original that has alternative piping on it and removed it. I recently took the piping from an old moth eaten cap and put it on an lovely condition original engineers piped cap that was really cheap was nobody really needs engineers piping, so it kept the price down! Simply adjustments like these can save a lot of money and give you somestunning kit. The piping can also be purchased on its own for a few pounds and sewing really isn't that hard! After all every Trooper would have had to sew their own unit patches on, cap patches on, rank insignia on... so its good practice... also a fairly handy life skill to have.
everything else uniform related that you'll need
That covers the minimum uniform that you can get away with, everything below is desirable and will give you a better appearance and also a better feel for what a Trooper would have worn. Somethings are really simple to obtain, others you'll have to search high and low and some you might already have.
M1, M1C or M2 Helmet
Now if you're not familiar with US World War two helmets that line may already sound complicated! Don't worry, its all straight forward. The M1 helmet is the basic American helmet you will have seen in a 1001 photographs. The M1C is then adopted for wear with the Paratroopers chin cup. Other than the liner the actual steel pot is almost identical, it was the final version that the Paratroopers were issued, these came in for the Rhine Operations in 1945.
The M2 is the best overall style that would suit all operations better, those have 'D' shaped loops, know as bales on either side of the helmet, that would hold the chin strap (don't be confused with the chin cup) that strap is usually folded over the back of the helmet. The A frame which holds the chin cup is attached to the liner. These can be put in yourself; or we can help if you have the parts.
If your technically minded any helmet can be adopted to have a D bale, you just need to be able to weld the small D on to the shell... however if you can do this, expected to be asked to do it lots! Everyone will want this done.
M1 helmets (all helmets are always referred to as an M1, so I will call them this from now on) were made in vast numbers, so there are plenty to buy. However, they are very collectable, so the price is increasing. However, you can get an original helmet from time to time for a bargain. There are also lots of post war shells that are identical (no D bales of course) but with a good liner inserted you can get a cheap and workable helmet. There are reproductions and refurbished helmets. ATF refurbish helmets into both M1 and M2 styles.
Your helmet will be one of those expensive items of kit that makes you into a paratrooper and adds so much to your impressions. so it has to be right, the basic turn out to join us does include this as it will be an expensive purchase. Its better to buy the best when you can than buy rubbish that is wrong and then need to replace it.
For the very best Paratrooper helmets, see either J Murray or TopPots.
Of course we all wear socks! The best looking socks for re-enacting are either thin cotton, what I call 'old man socks' or thick green woollen socks. The later are fairly padded to help with the wear and tear on your feet from the boots. It's not often the public will see you take your boots off, but its always better to know if you have to that you won't be showing the world your modern and very out of character pink flamingo socks! These can be obtain from so many places, just google "woollen green socks", the choice really is yours, there is no right or wrong, as long as they are plain and a military colour green, not lime or luminous greens!
T-Shirt - nope...
T-Shirts .... don't do it... I know the urge is there to buy the Camp Toccoa T-Shirts because you saw them being worn at the start of Bandwagon of Brothels. They were not worn in combat!
Just bare in mind that anything worn under the M42 jacket and the wool shirt, will not be visible. No it still doesn't mean wear the wrong T-Shirt! Wearing the M42 with the T-Shirt directly underneath is consider uber-farby and will class you in a category of re-enactors to not be taken too seriously. Unless you want to wear the Toccoa T-Shirt with the tiny blue PT shorts these should never really be seen. It is best to get a singlet vest, all modern T-Shirts have a very modern shape to them and just look wrong.
There are an assortment of undergarments that can be worn, the common ones being the vest with the thin almost rolled over shoulder straps in OD or white. Long Johns would have been worn and probably taken off (or cut off) the second they had the chance as they would have also been wearing the wool trousers under the M42 jump trousers too!
The vest are a good purchase and can even be gotten from SOF. An easy win for a handy piece of kit that helps keep you warmer in the evening.
Shirt, enlistedmens or officers
As well as the T-Shirt issue, after going through hundreds of original wartime photographs it became very apparent that most Paratroopers wore either the enlistemens shirt or the officers shirt, depending on rank. Which makes sense as just wearing the T-Shirt and Jacket wouldn't be very warm at all. When surviving outside all day and night, the more layers you'd be wearing the better.
There are plenty of original examples of these still available to buy, check EBay and militaria fairs. If you need to buy original, then these need to be obtained from either ATF or QMi.
Shown clearly in this photo of Tommy Lonergan and his buddy Johnny "Peenuts" Hale, both wear the enlistedmans shirt. Tommy Lonergan has closed the gas flap. You can just make out a tiny piece of the white under Johnny's Hales shirt, this could be a T-Shirt, but is most likely a vest.
Lonergan would grieve the rest of his life over Hale's death, both were members of the small group known as the 'Filthy 13' in the 506th PIR
Trousers suspenders or enlistedmans belt
Only one of the two should be worn, this is even stated in the kit list for soldiers jumping into Normandy. The trousers belt isn't seen that often by Paratroopers, but it was still worn by a few. If this is your preferred option then just make sure to get the enlistedmans belt as show right, not the officers belt which is vastly different and to be honest isn't as impressive looking or as difficult to use...
The other option and far more commonly worn by Paratroopers are the M42 trousers suspenders (not to be confused with the M1936 webbing suspenders... or ladies hosiery, and if you don't know what that is, don't Google it, you'll only go blind!)
Shown right are four original pairs of suspenders, top is the early style pair that was issued with the M42. I don't think I know of a company that makes these. The second from top is by far the easiest style to find for sale, QMi or ATF sells these. The other two are rather ugly, but both original, if you want something different in your appearance, then this could be a simply option... provided you can find them of course!
other uniform items that are useful to own
Gloves - tan leather
All Troopers were issued with horsehide tan leather gloves, as the Paratroopers were expected to be dealing with possibilities of extracting them selves from tangle parachute cords or even having to simply hold them in windy conditions these sturdy gloves were essential and became part of their unique appearance. If a soldier can't use his hands, he is pretty ineffective. For us the threat of getting your hands shredded by cords while trying to take of a parachute is fairly minimal, these gloves not only keep your hands warm, but are useful when putting up and taking down the tents.
Just make sure the gloves you buy are tan and not an awful bright yellow colour, there are some terrible copies out there!
One of these you'll find really handy when the weather drops, after all, remember which country we live in! Originals can be found as long as your not big, when I say big, I mean above a 44 chest. They won't be cheap, but are fantastic items to have. If you can't find an original then the French 1950s style is extremely close, the colours is a little off, but with a swap of the buttons it looks pretty good.
However, please note that these cannot be worn when the show is open, they are for after hours only, as no paratrooper jumped into Normandy with one of these huge bulky coats!
Sweater, Wool 5 button or Vest type
Another way of fighting the cold yet still wearing only your M42 as an outer layer is to get hold of a woollen sweater, the high necked 5 button ones are really good at keeping the heat in. There are also vest styles ones.
Although these do keep you warm and are a period item, these are to be worn as an under layer only. As frankly they look pretty ridiculous when worn on the outside! So if you get warm, strip of your M42 jacket, discard the sweater and put the jacket back on.
Although the buttons on the one shown right are incorrect as the one shown is probably a 1950s example.
If you want to have a vest type, I have these hand knitted (not machine knitted) in all sizes to an original wartime pattern. Some of the guys in out unit has them and they love them!
Raincoat, Synthetic Resin Coated, O.D.
The rain coat was widely issued, commonly seen in Normandy photos and far more widely carried since it was a handier item and much more compact than any other type of coat.
There are not too many of these being reproduced, the very best of which is made by QMi and will set you back 110 Euros. It comes in a wide selection of sizes up to 3XL. Consider buying a size or two larger than you need as it can go over all those extra layers of clothes you may have on. I was at one event and the heavens opened up in the way that England is renowned for, the guy next to me pulls out a raincoat and puts it on over his webbing! he purchased the biggest they sold at the time and wore it like a tent!
Of course there are much cheaper examples on the market... but don't expert them to either keep you dry, or look anything near as good