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Costuming

 

From Wild Bunch Shooters Handbook
Copyright © Single Action Shooting Society, Inc 2010
Third Edition

"CLOTHING AND ACCOUTERMENTS

SASS Wild Bunch Action Shooting is a combination of historical reenactment and
Saturday morning at the matinee. Participants may choose the style of costume they wish to
wear, but all clothing must be typical of the late 19th century and early 20th century cowboy and military. Emphasis is put on period US military from 1900 to 1916. Period western dress is allowed such as Pike, Dutch, Lyle, or Tector in the closing scene of the Wild Bunch movie (e.g., Western style pants with or without suspenders, and long sleeve western shirt). Vests are optional. Boots must be SASS legal. Legal SASS headgear must be worn. Mexican dress is also appropriate.

"SASS puts a great deal of emphasis on costuming because it adds so much to the
uniqueness of our game and helps create a festive, informal atmosphere that supports the
friendly, fraternal feeling we encourage in our competitors.

"All shooters must be in costume, and we encourage invited guests and family also to be
costumed. Shooters must remain in costume at all match events: dinners, award
ceremonies, dances, etcetera.
(Note. Bold added for emphasis. Don't pick up your trophy/belt buckle wearing a T-shirt and shorts.)

"ALL clothing and equipment MUST be worn appropriately, how it was intended, and
how it would have been worn in the OLD WEST or as seen on B-Western movies and television."

*****

The original intent was for contestants to dress as characters in The Wild Bunch or military of the era. This was soon discovered to be too restrictive and would have kept a lot of people from entering. So, bottom line is you may shoot wearing the outfit you normally shoot in, or you may wear a specifically "Wild Bunch" costume.

Wild Bunch Men's Costume winners, 2009 End of Trail, first Wild Bunch Costume Contest at EOT

The Scary Part

Why did I save this for last? Because I know that whatever I write about uniforms of the American Punitive Expedition, someone will come on the SASS Wire immediately and tell me I'm wrong.

So I'll just admit it. I've put one or more items here that are not correct.

Now, let's start with:

Uniforms of the Mexican Punitive Expedition

From The Mexican Revolution 1910-20, by P. Jowet and A de Quesada, Illustrated by Stephen Walsh, Osprey Publishing

The man on our left: 1st Lieutenant, 7th Cavalry Regiment. "This figure wears a typical uniform for US officers during the border fighting. The M1911"Olive drab" Montana-peaked" hat has officers' black and gold cords with two acorn tassels. His wool pullover campaign shirt in a similar shade has four dark brown buttons on the placket, and bears his rank bars on the collar; he chooses not to wear his black necktie. His wool riding trousers are a rather darker "olive drab" shade. He is armed with a .45 cal Colt M1911 semi-automatic pistol in a cavalry-type swiveling russet brown holster with "US" embossed on the flap, and secured by a long khaki lanyard looped diagonally around his torso. The M1912 belt also supports a double pistol magazine pouch and is itself supported by a pair of leather suspenders."

Center: Dispatch rider, 1st Provisional Motorcycle Company. "The motorcyclist wears an M1911 olive drab knit wool service sweater with two open hip pockets, worn over the soldier's campaign shirt and cavalry-style wool trousers. Bandanas were often sported by American soldiers. His goggles are commercially manufactured — The US Army never issued them for Mexican border service. His equipment is limited to the M1910 cartridge belt, leather cavalry style gloves, and cavalry brown leather leggings worn over the russet brown shoes. Slung across his back is his M1903 Springfield and on his right hip is a non-regulation early model dispatch case of olive drab canvas..."

Right: Sergeant, 24th Infantry Regiment. "This NCO from the African-American US 24th Infantry wears the M1911 Montana-peak hat with light blue infantry cords, a well-worn OD campaign shirt, wool trousers and laced khaki canvas leggings, with the M1910 pack, cartridge belt, and first-aid pouch. The bayonet for his M1903 Springfield is carried in a scabbard covered with canvas and a leather chape. He is drinking from his M1910 aluminum canteen. His chevrons of rank on both sleeves are now of more modest size than" (the previous uniform)

The Bad News: Most of the soldiers wore wool uniforms in the Mexican desert. The OD material faded badly. Pinkish, or khaki-ish or OD can all be justified. Cotton was available, but even most photos of officers show them wearing OD wool.

This major is wearing OD wool, as are his troops. He is wearing M1903 walking shoes with leather leggings. The enlisted man is wearing canvas leggings.

 

These troops are wearing wool OD uniforms. Note the man on our left is wearing trousers that have faded considerably.

 

An officer appears to be wearing khakis (with sleeves that are a little long), web US M1910 Mills Garrison Belt. Close examination shows top-loading front pockets.

From Leta at Coon Creek Old West: re: cotton and wool uniforms

(Coon Creek Old West, Hon. W.F. Buck Butler (SASS # 4827) & Miss Leta Butler (SASS # 4828) 520-886-8273 is SASS's best vendor in the realm of militaria from the Civil War through the Mexican Punitive Expedition.) Leta send me this: "I was looking up something today and ran across this great info on the cotton and olive-drab wool uniforms between 1898 and the end of WWI. This is in the book "Encyclopedia of United States Army Insignia and Uniforms" by Wm. K. Emerson (a great book). Anyway, a whole chapter on cotton uniforms. The khaki cotton was issued in 1898 and the wool one in 1903 for winter only and was very slowly produced and distributed. The cotton one was issued to all enlisted for summer, so there was always a cotton uniform after 1898. It seems "they" had trouble constantly with the dyes for olive-drab and khaki, regs changed every few months it seems. If you get a chance to read this, I know you'd appreciate it, VERY interesting and informative. Pocket flaps, collars, 5 button and 6 button, changed constantly." (I looked up the book. Amazon wants $91+ for it. I don't have it.)

Re: Pocket Flaps:

"about the pocket "flaps" on the tan shirt. Looks like 1916. In Vol. III Horse soldiers page 180 and also Osprey Men-at-arms-series "The US Army 1890-1920 color plate E... They say the 1916 pattern changed from the 1912 only in the quality for the flannel and the addition of pocket flaps, and could also be made in cotton olive drab for summer wear. (this often faded to a tan or yellow or green color)."

The Plate Mentioned Above.

Soldiers of the Mexican Punitive Expedition

Left: Battery Quartermaster Sergeant, 1St Battalion, 4th Regiment of Field Artillery (Mountain), I9I6
The 4th was organized in 1907, and its 1st Battalion was on the Mexican border when Pancho Villa raided Columbus, New Mexico. It was then sent into Mexico to capture Villa. This sergeant is armed with a Colt automatic pistol and an MIg03 Springfield rifle. The hat cord indicates branch of service.(The sergeant is wearing leather (officer's) puttees, probably a perk of working for quartermaster. His garrison belt and magazine pouch seem to be the natural leather of new equipment.)

Center: First Lieutenant, 1916
When wearing the shirt as the outer garment, as was the practice in the campaign against Pancho Villa, the officer’s branch of service could not be told. Indeed, a second lieutenant, who did not have a rank badge but wore plain officer’s dress, would wear no insignia at all save his gold and black hat cord that would identify him as an officer.

(Note that wearing the branch insignia on the left collar was not done then. Rank was on both sides. He is wearing custom officer's boots and leather gear that has aged to brown or russet. He has leather suspenders for his garrison belt and equipment. Other sources say the hat cord could be gold.)

Right: Colonel. Inspector General's Department, 1916
The all-white uniform was worn as a dress uniform in hot climates, The duties of officers of the Inspector General’s Department, as defined in 1865 were to inspect ‘all matters pertaining to the military art or having interest in a military point of view’. They made sure that company funds were not misused, that the men were treated fairly, and that all public property was accounted for.

 

Even General Pershing wore wool. This is his dress uniform with tunic. He is wearing his brown boots. Some officers wore custom made boots. Some wore the M1904 marching shoes and leather puttees (leggings):

M1905 Russet Marching Shoe

As far as I can determine no replica of this model is being made today. The M1904 is available from What Price Glory

M1911 Spurs and spur straps.

Officers who wore M1904 marching shoes usually wore leather puttees:

Enlisted men wore canvas leggings:

(Photo courtesy of Schipperfabrik)

Reproduction officer's boots Wild Bunch Era

Replica Officer's boots with M1911 spurs (This particular boot is a prototype and is not currently for sale)

Trouser belt

M1910 Mills Garrison Belt with two 2-magazine pouches and a bayonet frog

M1912 Mills Garrison Belt

US M1912 Mills Garrison Belt

M1912 leather mag pouches, left, after aging, right, new

El Paso Saddlery's version of the US Garrison belt, russet brown

1904 Garrison belt and saber belt (from What Price Glory)

The lieutenant in the first Osprey plate was wearing leather suspenders to support his garrison belt and equipment. I haven't been able to find that exact setup. This is a 1921 Sam Brown Belt from What Price Glory. Shooters who need suspenders to support their holster and magazines might consider it. The canvas Mills belt above has canvas suspenders as an option for it for the same reason.

 

1903 Mills Belt Suspenders

US Pea Green M1907 Equipment suspenders

M1907 Pea Green Equipment suspenders (Schipperfabrik)

.

General Pershing, wearing a campaign hat with chin strap in place. Campaign hats were made by three different manufacturers. Some quickly faded from olive drab to kangaroo. Brim sizes were from 3" to 5", and crowns from 3-1/2" to 6". Officers bought their own. General Pershing's hat has vent eyelets. Some hats didn't. A Grosgrain hatband was normal. Acorn hat bands were worn. Enlisted men wore branch colors, yellow for cavalry, blue for infantry, or red for artillery for example. Officers wore gold braid acorn hat bands.

D Bar J officer's campaign hat, olive drab, 5-1/2" crown, 4" brim, gold braid, 3 rows of stitching on the brim, all within the regulations of the time.

Stetson Doughboy campaign hat, 3-1/2" turn down brim, 5-5/8" crown, Kangaroo color (many hats faded to kangaroo.)

I can find no photographs of anyone, enlisted or officer, wearing any insignia on the campaign hats, no crossed sabers, insignia of rank, or regimental insignias, nothing. Some hats had metal eyelet vents. Some did not.

 

The plate shows General Pershing and his aide, 2nd Lieutenant George S. Patton, Jr. Both officer footgear are shown here. Both men are shown wearing what looks like leather garrison belts in their belt loops, an impossibility since they're 2" wide. The trouser belt was canvas, but I suppose if a Brigadier General wanted to wear a leather trousers belt, he could, and his aide could follow his example.. Patton is shown with his Patton holster mounted on his trouser belt. The holster requires a 2" belt, and pistols were worn on garrison belts, which were taken off when not needed. General Pershing's trousers show to have front pockets. Some issued trousers did not.

Pershing and his staff. some are wearing leather garrison belts. Some are wearing mesh belts. It APPEARS that pershing is wearing a canvas trousers belt, no garrison belt, and is unarmed.

Colonel White, wearing his dress uniform with tunic and older style campaign hat.

 

An enlisted man in full wool uniform with Mills M1912 Cavalry Bandolier for his Springfield rifle. He is wearing M1903 marching shoes and cotton puttees (leggings)

General Pershing with his hand in his pocket, an important point since the uniform trousers I have don't have front pockets. He is wearing his high top boots. The lieutenant is wearing leather puttees. Note the lieutenant's two toned uniform, due to fading when washed.

M1916 shirt, cotton

M1916 shirt, cotton

M1916 shirt wool

M1916 shirt, wool

US Officer's Tunic, cotton, M1912

M1912 Cotton Officer's Tunic. Tunics were available in both wool and cotton.

Insignia:

Enlisted collar disc. This would go on the right side

infantry collar discs

Enlisted Infantry collar disc. This would go on the left side.

Corporal stripes

 

Sergeant's stripes

First Sergean chevrons

First sergeant chevrons

Sergeant major chevrons

Officer's Insignia:

As best as I can tell, modern supply of major, lieutenant colonel, colonel, and brigadier general (the highest rank in the Mexican Punitive Expedition) will work, but lieutenant and captain's bars have changed. You will need antique insignia:

1916 captains bars

These antique captain's bars, though metal, look like sewn-on bullion insignia as were worn on shoulder boards

modern captain's bars are polished metal

 

American Civilians:

 

Most SASS costumes are actually more appropriate for the Wild Bunch era than they are for the 1870s-90s. Women had started riding aside instead of side-saddle, and the riding skirt had been invented and popularized. The term "cowgirl" had been popularized by women rodeo and wild west show stars. Women rodeo competitors were involved in the dangerous riding and roping events until a star was killed, and women were relegated to less dangerous sports. The lady on our left is dressed in a riding skirt. The man on the right is wearing a six-button bib shirt that was sold by Sears, Roebuck and Co. and other retailers. I've found examples as far back as 1870s and as modern as this photo, which was in a collection of Mexican Revolution photos. The shirt was blue flannel. River Junction Trade Company sells it in cotton in blue, red, and black. They used to have the white buttons, but now they're black, I suppose because of supply problems, because all of the photos I've seen have white buttons.

River Junction Trade Co. 6-button bib shirt:

 

And, for women who don't want to dress as soiled doves there's always the temperance ladies. For more ideas, go to part 2