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Here's How WWI Soldiers Actually Dressed

Kyle Mizokami
Photo credit: YouTube/CrowsEye Productions

From Popular Mechanics

Many weapons of the modern age first entered the combat stage during the First World War, but the uniforms of a century ago still reflected the trends of the previous centuries more than the high-tech gear of today.

A new video shows the typical clothing worn by British troops in World War I to protect them from the weather and hostile fire. The clothing, relatively simply by today’s standards, was often produced at home by volunteer civilians and made from wool, cotton, and metal.

The video, called “Getting Dressed in World War I,” follows a British Army soldier of the Artists Rifles regiment as he dresses for a typical day of military duty. The soldier’s long johns and underclothes are made of cotton, while his pants, socks, gloves tunic and even hat are made of khaki-colored wool.

Most of the clothing is military issue although some items, including wool underlayers and socks, were often made by civilian women back home supporting the war effort. The video points out that socks tended to last just three days during long distances marches, so large numbers of knitted socks were continually needed.

The uniform showed in the video is plain and simple, designed to be easy to manufacture to support armies that numbered in the millions. The truly striking thing about the uniform is that advances in modern textiles have given today’s soldiers much lighter, warmer, and comfortable equipment. In addition to modern wool and cotton blends fleece for warmth, Gore-tex for water repellency, and even Kevlar for bullet-resistant helmets and vests all provide modern soldiers with the gear to operate in the toughest conditions.

As difficult as it is to conceive of serving on any battlefield in a scratchy wool uniform, wearing such an outfit in the cold, wet, disease-ridden trenches of the Western Front is staggers the imagination-until one realizes the historical fact that millions served in such an environment wearing as little, or worse.

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