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How to age/distress combat uniforms


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Ok, I have been WWII reenacting for several years now and have given up on aging my combat uniform through actual use. My M41 has been through many tacticals, very wet and nasty tacticals at that and still looks almost new. I'd like some tips on how to distress some of my uniforms a little bit and give it a more battle worn and overall dirty appearance. I have been told twice no by vets that "You sure look clean!" I know they didn't always look like hell, but most of the time they did. Please save all negative comments for yourself. I say this because I know how vicious threads such as this can get. I would appreciate all the help I can get. I know some of you guys are experts on this because I have seen you! Thanks in advance!

 

Chase

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OK, I've only been doing this for about a year, but here's what I've done to age mine...

 

1. Leave the clothes outside during sunny days to fade them out.

2. Take sandpaper to the cuffs, elbows, knees and other "high traffic" areas.

3. Motor oil does wonders to stain the uniforms- dump some in a puddle of mud and low crawl though it.

4. Re-stitch one or two buttons with slightly different thread- maybe OD 7. Stitch rips/tears with OD 7 thread. (Gives it that "I've been in the field so long, the uniform colors have changed!" look)

5. Get muddy! Let them freeze a few times next winter, while they are muddy. I even ran my jacket over with a GPW.

 

When you have crap caked on, let it dry then rinse it off by hand with water. Repeat until desired effect is reached.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Disclaimer- Wool shrinks. Be careful with the liners on certain jackets. Muddy up at your own risk!

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Buffalo Grunt

I don't know about the motor oil, but soaking them in various levels of tea will give a good effect .. especially for winter whites, etc.

 

I used to also have good effects with putting the uniform in a dryer with scrap pieces of wood, etc

 

My ex-wife used to get pretty ticked when I'd spend hundreds of dollars for reenactment clothing, then virtually destroy it to make it look authentic.

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Do not wash them!

 

Ok, I know that that is not acceptable to most people... If (when) you wash them, wash in cold water and hang out to dry. My advice, do not try to artificially age them, just wear them! The soldier did get issued a new jacket some time in his service life.. Your first season you will always look like a rookie, face it: you are...The look will come eventually.

 

Can not wait? A lot of movie prop company's use a blowtorch and thinned mud that is "baked in" by the sun and brushed off....

 

Good luck!

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Ok, I have been WWII reenacting for several years now and have given up on aging my combat uniform through actual use. My M41 has been through many tacticals, very wet and nasty tacticals at that and still looks almost new. I'd like some tips on how to distress some of my uniforms a little bit and give it a more battle worn and overall dirty appearance. I have been told twice no by vets that "You sure look clean!" I know they didn't always look like hell, but most of the time they did. Please save all negative comments for yourself. I say this because I know how vicious threads such as this can get. I would appreciate all the help I can get. I know some of you guys are experts on this because I have seen you! Thanks in advance!

 

Chase

Chase, I see your a new member so, I'll assume you've been on some other forums and had some bad experiences there so, just for the record, the USMF is not like those "other" sites. Rudeness and derogatory remarks are not tolerated here and the moderators do a good job of keeping this a family friendly forum. So, relax and enjoy the USMF. ;)

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Wear your stuff in the summer time in that warehouse you "work" in.

 

Seriously though, since you're restoring a vehicle, wear it when working on it. Enough crawling around and wiping your hands on it. It should get dirty. It's what Ive always done.

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I have read that back during the old days before people had washers & dryers, most people avoided over washing clothing because it would wear them out faster

 

some people would hang them outside to air out instead of washing and hand wash under wear & socks regularly, but not regularly wash outer clothing like jackets & trousers since they usualy wore undergarments.

 

hanging them outside in the sun to air out would also cause some fading without excess wear from washings

 

most soldiers carried extra socks & underwear and maybe one extra uniform, but they changed their socks & underwear more often.

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The gear was new back then, not 70 odd years old.... Though have to agree, different dyes we use today... Just wear it... it'll soon wear out, and then ye'll need to buy a new set, and the cycle will start all over again... :w00t:

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Rub dirt into the fabric as hard as you can, and then brush off whatever is left over.

 

You gotta figure.....say you do one event a month for 7 months out of the year.....an event is a "get there friday night, go home sunday afternoon" routine. So...you are actually in the field maybe 2 hours on friday; 24 on saturday; maybe 12 on sunday. That's 38 hours for a weekend, times 7 per year...266 hours per year worth of wear on your kit....or between 11 and 12 days of wear per year.

 

Unless you're in a real hardcore unit, you can probably deduct a little bit off that total.

 

That's why your stuff looks new.....because it is....more or less.

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Exactly! I appreciate the info guys. My aim is more or less to speed up the process. I have had this jacket and used it for about three years now, I guess I just need to torture it. I'm looking to fade it just a tiny bit and overall just make it dirty. I know it was new when they got it, but it wasn't clean for very long! Dave- What stinks about working on the jeep with it is that I already finished the dirty work! Now it just needs reassembly!

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Mr. Standfast

Sleep on the bare ground several nights in a row and that will work wonders on it in a hurry. Worked great in Civil War reenacting.

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Use a product called Fullers earth, it will give you the dirty nasty look with out being filthy. You can buy it on line, our unit uses it all the time. It is a powder that is mixed with water and can be put on the skin and clothes, gear etc. It is the stuff they use in Hollywood. I bought the grey color to simulate the European dirt which would have been found on the combat equipment. They have various colors. Paul

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I remember years ago low-crawling through what must have been somebody's old campfire pit under a cluster of scotchbroom & scrub trees at Oregon's Fort Stevens. I wound up with charcoal & ash stains all over the front of my jumpsuit, on its elbows, knees, and so on. After getting soaking wet with rain, sweat, & more running around, I hung up the uniform in my garage, brushed it off for the next event, and found that it had the perfect "look." I'd also recommend sleeping in your uniform, preferably in a fox-hole for up to two or more nights to get the dirt in all the right places as well as getting the uniform to hang right. The fabric stretches nicely around your knees and backside (as well as other stress points) when you've gotten yourself drawn up in the dirt.

 

John

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i bought some artists charcoal, i.e. black, brown, and rubbed it into areas all over to replicate powder stains, etc. Washes right out.

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There is a very good article in the previous issue of WW2 Re-enactor magazine written by a certain someone on just this topic. :w00t:

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  • 3 weeks later...
Ok, I have been WWII reenacting for several years now and have given up on aging my combat uniform through actual use. My M41 has been through many tacticals, very wet and nasty tacticals at that and still looks almost new. I'd like some tips on how to distress some of my uniforms a little bit and give it a more battle worn and overall dirty appearance. I have been told twice no by vets that "You sure look clean!" I know they didn't always look like hell, but most of the time they did. Please save all negative comments for yourself. I say this because I know how vicious threads such as this can get. I would appreciate all the help I can get. I know some of you guys are experts on this because I have seen you! Thanks in advance!

 

Chase

There only thing that will give your gear a really authentic combat look is to wear it is actual combat but I assume you mean some manner other than that.

 

Step 1: Run about 5 miles in all your gear....hot day preferred.

 

Step 2: Crawl in the dirt/mud for about 4 hours a day for a couple weeks (at least) in all your gear without washing anything.

 

Step 3: After step 2, wash your stuff by hand in a muddy stream using only yellow laundry soap or Ivory hand soap (or similar).

 

Step 4: After washing, beat the stuff on nearby rocks and rinse it again in the same muddy water.

 

Step 5: Roll each item separately into a long line and twist as if you're trying to make a rope to squeeze water out of it.

 

Step 6: Shake each item out and lay it out in the sun to dry.

 

Step 7: Repeat steps 1-6 as necessary.

 

Now for the realistic wear....

 

Step 1: Crawl around in thorny vegetation for a couple hours a day for a couple weeks. Repeat as necessary.

 

Step 2: Roll around in crushed rock and cinders. Again, repeat as necessary.

 

Step 3: Roll/crawl around on blacktop/concrete for about an hour a day per week or so (a real manly man, does it without pads). ;)

 

Finally; evaluate your work. Repeat any of the above steps as necessary. That will give you a start.

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