An Introductory Guide to Uniform Collecting
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An introductory guide to 253 Squadrons kit buying guide
Greetings all! My name is Huwen ‘Boy’ Biggart. Today I will be taking you into an introductory guide on purchasing kit and equipment for your RAF impression. Chances are if you are reading this then you would’ve only just joined our group or are thinking of doing so, well worry not, I am here to ensure that you can rest easy knowing that it won't be a daunting task. So chocks away! tally ho! And let's dive into it shall we?
So you're thinking about starting reenactment?
Joining a reenactment group for the first time is often a huge financial commitment, it can typically require summs in the triple digits and takes months and even years to complete uniforms. An intimidating statistic ’m sure, one that often disengages the younger people out there, but fear not as 253 Sqn is building a stockpile of spare uniforms for the ladies and gents to don while they build up the money for their own uniforms. This is perfect for public displays as well as it means passers-by can quickly don a jacket for a quick picture and grab the interests of soon-to-be reenactors.
‘So Huwen’ I hear you ask, ‘How can I get around the triple digit sums to start reenacting?’ Well I’m glad you asked, let's get into it shall we?
From my own personal experiences I can recommend 3 types of spending tactics to buying your first kits: Beginner, intermediate and advanced.
What do I buy first?
To be quite frank there isn’t one definite answer to this question, everyone likes to do it in their own ways, so I shall just explain my own view of the order of buying clothing.
Uniform: A basic uniform to start you off at events while you build up funds to purchase a dedicated uniform
Footwear: Replica service shoes aren’t too expensive so you could most likely get away with buying them straight away
Headwear: This can be anything from an officer’s cap to a forage cap
Flight Equipment: Flight equipment is any clothing or special equipment the pilots would wear while piloting their aircraft, some examples being a sheepskin flying jacket, a life preserver and a flying helmet among other such items.
Additional Equipment: This can be anything ranging from personnel items such as newspapers or paper work, to field equipment such as tents or eating equipment.
Beginners are often young individuals, only just getting into the reenactment scene, often they will open a tab on google to look for kit, only to open the first link they see, become put off by the triple, or high double digit price tag and never think about it again because it's too expensive. This isn’t the case, I can not stress this enough,
do your research.
Look around on the internet for the best possible prices, all the while adhering to your budget you’ve set out for yourself. Ask reenactors about their thoughts on certain brands of kit as they often know some good websites where you can get good quality items for cheap prices and ensure you check reviews if there are any, because often you’ll find that cheaper items won't last very long.
My advice to you would be to start extremely simple, not all pilots and ground crew wore the same clothing while on duty, use this to your advantage. Something else to keep in mind is that the basic design of the RAFs service dress (the uniform predominantly worn by all RAF personnel during early WW2) hasn’t changed much over the 80 years since it was introduced, so with a little modification you can make it look just like the WW2 service dress of old. But even if the modern day RAF Service Dress (or No1s as they are now known) are a bit steep for your pockets then worry not as there is another alternative.
This is a simple trick of how you can make a RAF uniform out of household clothing, you will need:
A Navy/Airforce Blue or white roll neck jumper
Navy/Airforce Blue School trousers
A pair of black laced school shoes
An RAF Forage Cap
So there you go, a very basic impression complete using only 4 items which shouldn’t number in the 100s and you're pretty much set to start reenacting. As time goes by you’ll have time to begin buying more advanced/ period accurate clothing to make your kit look more clean and true to the real deal. However, and I can’t stress this enough, spend within your limits, even if it takes a great deal of time.
Now chances are if you are at an intermediate level of spending when it comes to clothing for your kit, you are in the same boat as many young/middle-aged individuals with us. At this level you most likely have a job/source of income and are able to buy medium to high quality kit in an extended amount of time. Now it is important to do research on the uniform you want to wear, especially when it comes to buying it, try to get the best value for your money while ensuring to get a somewhat good quality. You want to try and buy pieces of uniform that will last for years and still be in one piece at the end.
There's not really all that much else I can say to intermediate buyers. By this point the individuals in question will typically have a good idea of what to look for and advice from their fellow reenactors as to where to get it. At this point you the buyer are left to judge what you want, all I can do is advise you as to what websites to look on (a subject that will be covered in a separate page).
To advanced buyers, or the people who have the funds to buy there and then, I can say only this. Don’t buy the most expensive kit you see, because chances are your gonna take a slip in some mud and totally trash your expensive kit. But something to keep in mind in the very rare occasions where it happens, is to the young people out there who somehow start at this stage, don't buy the most expensive things you see. As chances are there was an almost identical (in quality) version that was half the price, to put it simply, gucci kit isn’t always the best kit, ask others for advice.