You are here:Home > History > About Original SS Smocks

About Original SS Smocks


Over the course of the War, the Waffen SS attempted to equip most of their front line combat troops with the smocks. The Panzer Divisions were largely successful in this task, while the Panzergrenadier, Gebirgsjager and Freiwillige units were only partially able to do so. Some were also issued to the Hermann Goring Division in 1942, and a few members of the Polizei Panzer companies apparently received them.

Smocks were made from the same reversible poplin cloth as the zeltbahns, helmet covers, and camo caps. A few later models were made from HBT but only in Oak Leaf or Blurred Edge camouflage. Not "44 dot".

There are two main patterns of SS Smocks, each with a couple of variations. Both were baggy, pull-over garments, designed to be worn over the field tunic as well as the greatcoat. The first pattern, introduced in 1938, and altered slightly in 1940, was intended to be worn over the fieldgear. Thus, the elastic waistband was placed low on the skirt, to wrap under the cartridge belt. Two vertical openings were provided in the chest so the soldier could access his ammunition. This was rapidly proven to be more effort than it was worth, so most troops quickly switched and wore their gear outside the smock.

In 1942, several changes were made. Realizing that it was more practical to wear the gear outside the smock, the vertical openings were eliminated. The waistband was raised and two slash pockets were placed below it. Small loops, grouped in threes, were added around the shoulders for attaching foliage. Later smocks had the waistband lowered several centimeters and others had the pockets angled like those on the winter parkas.

Size. I have measured over 50 original smocks. They are very consistent in size- they vary by no more than 2 inches. The chests are 54-56" around and the "wingspan" (cuff to cuff of the sleeves) is 72-74 inches. The smock was not a fitted garment. Small, short soldiers often appear to be wearing camouflage dresses. The design offers good freedom of movement and ample room for clothing underneath.

Production

After much research, my hypothesis is that the majority of SS Smocks were made by one company. Texled. How do I make such a ludicrous claim? Simple math. An interview with several former inmates, published by the Brandenburgishe Landeszentral fur politische Bildung, reveals that the daily quota of Tarnjacken at Texled was approximately 3,000. By the end of the War, it was nearly 5,000. The Waffen SS had roughly 1 million troops over the course of the War- only the frontline combat troops received smocks. Even at the early War rate of 3,000 per day, Texled could have supplied every member of the Waffen SS with a smock in less than a year. In reality, I suspect less than 500,000 were made, putting this number easily within the capabilities of the firm. SS smocks exhibit a consistency in construction, rarely seen in other garments- sewing machine type, thread color, and pattern. It is my opinion that most, if not all, were made by this company.

M38 and M40 Smocks

I currently do not have any original examples of these to photograph. However, "Camouflage Uniforms of the Waffen SS" by Michael Beaver has several examples shown. aside from the cut of the garment, their construction and cloth is very similar to the M42's.

M42 Smocks

I have personally come to wonder whether "M42" is a misnomer. If introduced in 1942, it was very late indeed. After examining several hundred photos of the Kursk Offensive in July, 1943, I found only one M42 smock even at that point. And most of II SS Panzer Korps had recently been refitted so one could assume they would have had the newest gear. Regardless, most Living History events are only concerned with the period after June 5th, 1944 and by early 1944, the M42 was the predominate camo smock.

M42 Type I
Plane Tree 5/6
Oak Leaf
Overprint 1/2, 1944
Early Plane Tree



M42 Smock, Early Plane Tree

This pattern is actually unnamed. The only other example we have found in any reference is a camo cap in the Beaver books. However, the cap was too small to notice that this is an oddball pattern. It's similar to the "Ployspot" Plane Tree, but still different. Like other plane trees, this pattern is hand screened, and the repeat is very long. However, like only Polyspot and Lateral variants, there are no Zeltbahn cuts lines or numbers.
The sleeves, flaps, placket and pocket facings are made from 5/6 plane tree which at first confused many collectors when this thing turned up. Aside from the camouflage, this mint condition smock is typically textbook in pattern and assembly. Selvedge elbow seams, 6mm double needle flat felled sides, charcoal thread, etc, etc.



M42 Smock, Type I 1944 Production

At first glance, this smock appears to be a typical M42 Type I. However, it has several changes of interest. Firstly, I am able to date this one since it some parts are made from 44 dot HBT. It is likely made at Ravensbruck which made both smocks and 44 dot. The main change is that the waistband has been lowered several inches- note that it no longer ties in with the placket. This is a much more practical position- the and on most smocks sits on the wearer's ribs- which is probably the reason that so many soldiers cut the elastic.

Less obvious are several variations in the construction. The camo loops are made on a 2 needle belt loop machine- rather than a single needle with a folder. This is actually a better quality loop. The waistband, in addition to being lower, is now sewn on the green side of the jacket.


M42 Smock, Type II

During the production of the M42 smocks, the pockets were sometimes angled- this made it easier to access them, especially when wearing fieldgear. Hence, "Type II". Why or how this came to pass is not known. It may have been specific to certain contracts- since the "1944" Planet Tree smock above is a Type I, this does not seem to have been a universal change to the pattern.


Plane Tree 3/4
Blurred Edge, HBT

SS Sewing Methods and "Quality"

SS Smocks were made under less than ideal working conditions by unwilling workers. Although the Texled had very modern machines for the time, the workers were pushed constantly to increase production- and quality suffered accordingly. It's obvious that their inspection standards were very, very liberal.

Early smocks tend to be well made- very few flaws are evident on M38's and M40's. However, M42's are basically an inspectors' nightmare. When we have a customer whine about a loose thread or an imperfect seam on a reproduction, and then lectures us on the exacting standards of all things made in the Vaterland, we just laugh at the imbecile.

Of all my original M42 smocks, not one would have passed inspection in a US sewing factory. Most have at least half a dozen flaws, and one has 14. Of all German WWII garments I have examined, SS smocks are by far the bottom of the barrel in sewing quality. But, the proof is in the pudding- so here's your treat:

Early Plane Tree body, with 5/6 sleeves
Plane Tree 3/4- but two very different shade
Oak B body, Oak A sleeves, 5/6 cuffs and pocket flaps
Bad printing
Ink spatters
Two shades of 5/6

Mis-Prints and Mixed Shades

SS Camouflage was some of the earliest and most complex camouflage patterns ever made. Both the hand-screened and roller printed patterns suffered from printing errors. The same pattern often appeared in numerous shades due to inconsistent dyes and mixing of the colors. Things that would have been rejected by a US factory were "kein Problem" in Germany. Finding an original smock or zeltbahn in which all pieces are the same pattern and shade is nearly unheard of. The "severity" of the mix-match varies, but it's often very obvious.

Buttonhole Issues

Buttonhole machines are one of the most troublesome pieces of equipment in a sewing factory. The Germans were not exempt. Broken thread, dropped thread and bad cuts are common. The SS often used hand sewn buttonholes- likely when the machine was down (happens alot) and they wanted production to continue. All of these smocks are in unissued or nearly new, unused condition- as they came from he factory. So, for those of you anal picky types, feast your eyes and weep.

Folder Problems

The sides seams of smocks are sewn on a 2 needle machine, which utilizes a sheet metal folder to roll the material together as it goes under the needles. It takes a skilled, attentive operator to prevent the fabric from being spit out of the folder when the machine crosses thick areas. I have yet to find a smock without at least one "spit out".

Not exactly worried about things lining up that day were they?
Issues with elastic.
More problems sewing the waist and cuff bands.