German Army Uniform - Blitzkrieg Era

At which point did the German Army’s uniform trousers change from a slate-grey colour to
the grey-green matching the jacket? From what I recall, it was sometime during the Blitzkrieg era …



Was that ever something for real, or just something model companies showed us on box art?

This is an original WWII color photo from the 1940 campaign

For the most part, aside from the 4th guy back on the right column, it’s pretty uniform or any differences are hard to distinguish.

I have several books on German uniforms, (although by no means an exhaustive collection), and I’m not seeing any mention of a formal switch in the trousers’ color. However, I did find the following passage, taken from page 8 of German Military Combat Dress, 1939-1945:

“On some formal occasions in the 1939-40 period it was possible to see units parading in the field grey service tunic worn with the grey parade dress trousers, but parade dress as such was not issued after the outbreak of war and is beyond the scope of this book.”

Sad to say I’m resorting to Wikipedia for this:


M22 (M36)[edit]

Wehrmacht NCO with M22 trousers, tall prewar boots and 1941 pattern uniform modified with green collar.

Originally the M1936 tunic was worn with the same stone gray (steingrau) trousers that the Reichswehr had introduced in 1922. These were high-waisted, straight legged, button-fly trousers with suspenders (braces) and three internal pockets plus a watch-pocket; in the field they were worn tucked into [jackboots](Jackboot - Wikipedia

In 1940 contractors were ordered to discontinue the manufacture of steingrau fabric and instead produce trousers from the same feldgrau cloth as the tunic; however Army depots continued to issue existing stocks and the older dark trousers were still frequently seen until around 1942.

From the War Department Technical Manual Handbook on German Military Forces we read:
“Until 1943, full field trousers of the same field-grey material as the field uniform coat were issued to the German Army”. Seems somewhat contradictory to the above statements. :face_with_raised_eyebrow:


You have to be careful with the US War Department manuals. Firstly, of course, they are based on the study of captured personnel and are going to date from after the US entered the War in December 1941. They also have numerous inaccuracies, often due to misinterpretation of information received. This is true of all data obtained during war conditions on the “other side”, of course, not just US manuals.
Under the circumstances, I tend to fall back on established and trusted research. Firstly, I turned to Brian Leigh Davis’s “German Army Uniforms and Insignia, 1933-1945”. It’s an old book but is exhaustively researched and set a standard for uniform volumes back in the 1970s. However, he makes no real mention of the grey as opposed to field grey trousers, merely noting the trousers matched the jacket. A more recent volume in the Haynes series, “The German Infantryman” by Simon Forty, notes “The trousers that accompanied the Feldbluse were of a slate grey (steingrau) colour in the M36 version, but this was changed to field grey to match the rest of the uniform in 1940”. Numerous colour photographs in the book show models wearing mix and match jackets and trousers, where the latter are plain grey. Another source I use a lot is Andrew Mollo’s “Uniforms of the SS” series, especially Volume 6 on the Waffen SS. Mollo bases his pronouncements on the SS-Verordnungsblatt, the official SS bulletins, so they can be taken as the expected official view (infringements are possible and noted where relevant). Obviously, the SS used a lot of similar or identical clothing to the Wehrmacht. In the section on trousers, Mollo notes the 1937 SS Feldhose were identical to the 1935 (M36) army model and were at first manufactured in new-grey cloth, but from 1939 matched the jacket. Finally, in Jean de Lagarde’s “German Soldiers of World War Two”, which despite the title shows all three services, plus the Waffen SS and police, pages 10-12 show an early war infantryman in plain grey trousers. This book uses original equipment and clothing worn by models to give large, clear photographs.
I do have numerous other books on German WW2 Dress, but this is a small cross section.
The conclusion I reach from this reading is that the plain grey trousers were pre-War issue, retained by those regulars issued with them, or possibly still retained in unit stores and issued to early recruits. So certainly, in the early Blitzkrieg years, it was very likely to see a colour mismatch between jackets and trousers, a situation that evolved steadily from 1940 on.


Thanks to you all for your informative responses.
While there is still some doubt as to the use of the
slate-grey coloured trousers, the consensus appears
to be that they were occasionally worn during the early
months of the war.

Many thanks,


This image illustrates the uniform in question, from German Army Uniforms of WWII in Color Photographs. I forgot that I even had this book. :unamused: The text also confirms the 1940 cut-off date of the trouser’s manufacture.
I know that the War Dept manual is a dated reference to say the least. I throw in counterpoints sometimes just to illustrate that not all references are created equal.

From the colour, I suspect the guy 4th on the right is wearing the Drill trousers, which were nominally white or cement coloured. They soon got mucky. It was common for engineers in particular to wear them in combat or on exercise.

There’s generally a slow evolution of German uniforms from pre-war to the end, and even uniforms that are actually one pattern or another can be found with minor detail differences.

The German military demanded a number of changes based on practical combat experiences (for example dropping brightly colored insignia and moving to subdued types).

The overall color differences had much to do with the changes in the percentages of natural fibers in the material versus the percentages of man-made and recycled fibers. The nature of the dyes used also changed to reflect the availability of certain chemicals as well as requirements to color fabrics that were not all natural or that had been dyed before and reused. Having said this, the actual uniform colors also depended on the lots of cloth used to make them, so at any given time, there could be a huge variation in color between any two uniforms that are nearly identical in all other details.

The Germans tended to issue uniforms at the division replacement / training unit level (even during the war these “home station” units continued and were used as convalescent locations for division casualties who often did double duty as recruiters and trainers for new recruits and replacements). Uniform supplies to these units tended to come from the same manufacturer at the same time (although perhaps various manufacturers over the course of the war), so units tended to have large batches of uniforms on-hand that were essentially identical in materials and colors. Therefore, the troops in a unit tended to appear more or less uniform when compared to troops from another unit. (Although all of this evolved over the course of the war as different cohorts of troops assigned to the same unit passed through recruitment, training and on to the front).

There were also elements of the economy of scale needed to manufacture sufficient uniforms. These also forced changes in design and other details. For example, the early bottle green “badge cloth” collars were relatively expensive to make, so those and then the pocket pleats were some of the first features to be dropped simply because of costs.

However, the pre-war M36 and the next “official” change, the M40, were both quite similar and both used high quality materials. Still, colors vary from a mossy green to a grayer green when different examples are compared to each other.

The main visual cues for modelers between early uniforms and later one are things like pocket pleats, the colors of the collars, and the colors and designs of the insignia, buttons, etc. Of course, the M44 uniform is a quite radical change in overall cut and design.