They called him “Fast Heinz.” Pictured: Heinz Guderian.
Let’s imagine that World War II wasn’t about invading countries, killing people, and achieving world domination. Instead, it was a fashion contest to create the most stylish military pictures. In other words – let’s think that the objective was for ordinary soldiers or leaders or whoever, in some way connected to the war, trying to create a “look” that would pass muster on Madison Avenue.
Soldiers returning home after a war incident (or after the whole war was over) carried more than battle scars. They brought home new styles which were invented by necessity during combat. Military trends that silently became a part of everyday style. The reason for their success was more than aesthetic.
It was due to the function. Any clothing item worn by troops has to be comfortable, sharp, and functional. The first ready-to-wear garments were manufactured in bulk to dress soldiers in standard sizes and proportions to adapt to men with different physiques. The trends popularized in combat effortlessly find their way into fashions on urban streets.
Trench coats, bomber jackets, knit undershirts, pea coats, chino pants, and aviator glasses all have roots in WWII military clothing. With so much military surplus available after the war, civilians would buy and wear military clothing for several more years.
The improvement in machinery, textiles, and manufacturing of military clothing made post-war ready-to-wear civilian clothing a booming industry. Here in this article are a few pictures of some sort of military fashion (or let’s say: styling) during World War II.
Some very spiffy SS men in their Hugo Boss suits.
Adolf Hitler and top cronies in their gangster suits right before the invasion of Poland. They wore these to look inconspicuous for a meeting at the Berghof.
Beppo Schmid, Luftwaffe Intelligence boss. He couldn’t quite get a handle on how many fighters the RAF had left, but he sure could pull off the leather trenchcoat look.
Aleksandra Grigoryevna Samusenko was a Soviet commander of a T-34 tank and a liaison officer during World War II. She was the only female tankman (tankwoman?!) in the 1st Guards Tank Army. She is here because she had the prettiest smile in the 1st Guards Tank Army. You can read more about her on this article.
Bomber jackets could get quite creative.
Winston looking dapper early in the war. Even when he was younger he looked sharp!
And he could handle a Tommy gun, too. More about this picture in this article.
Coco Chanel is a controversial figure. Some say she was a German spy, but she was never charged with anything. Maybe it’s cheating to include her here because basically, she was a model… Whatever – she pulls it off.
Yes, it’s the crying guy from the Fall of France. Never mind the tears, though – anybody knows his tailor? Additional info about this picture on this link.
Unfortunately, we don’t know who this Army nurse was or why she was wearing US Army threads. Our only information is the postcard itself, that she was in Australia during November 1942 – and she might have been somewhere else in the Pacific. Those look like tropical fatigues. However, whoever or wherever she was… her presence here is appreciated.
Do you know how hard it is to pull off that “smokin’ a pipe and lookin’ bad” look? Well, RAF ace Douglas Bader did it with ease.
This is Erich Hartmann. Maybe the greatest Luftwaffe pilot of them all. Maybe you can tell from this shot why they called him “Bubi.” Incidentally, for some reason, the Germans loved lighting people from underneath, which any horror film director will tell you is the best way to make someone normal look like Dracula.
Eva Braun pulls it off at Berchtesgaden.
Adolf Galland looks so awesome in his bomber jacket – and that goofy grin shows why he was dynamite with the ladies, too.
The Reichsmarschall with Galland (right) during an inspection tour in France during the Battle of Britain. Galland was one of the very few guys who could act normally and make sarcastic remarks to the fat man – “Send me a squadron of Spitfires” he once told Goering – but, when you’re the best fighter pilot in the world, you have a little extra leeway.
A French girl wearing what appears to be a very authentic SS uniform. Read more on this article: Sleeping with the enemy: Collaborator girls of German-occupied Europe.
We know the center of attention here is Hitler – which is how he liked it (and probably why he dated a photographer, by the way). But the one who stands out in this shot is Heinz Guderian on the left. You have got to be a real badass to get away with that pimp collar in the middle of a bunch of killers.
Hans Ulrich Rudel. Luftwaffe legend. And, male model wannabe.
Ilse Hirsch was one of the most devoted Germans in the BDM. For some reason, women were among the most fanatical to the end – and beyond. Ilse participated in Operation Carnival and thereby showed that she was a true, honest-to-God, hard-core Party loyalist.
J. Edgar Hoover, boss of the FBI, had files on everyone. If you ever visited Washington, D.C., he knew that you had flipped off that teacher in third grade. It gave him… leverage.
Hermann-Friedrich “Jupp” Joppien had 70 victories, which was more than any Western Allied pilot. However, he was really a killer with the ladies when he donned that leather jacket. Check out the “oh, I’m just casually working my gloves” modeling trick.
Air vice-marshal Keith Park was the point man in the Battle of Britain. If anyone man saved England, he was the guy. For his pains, he basically was cashiered as soon as the smoke cleared so someone else with pull could take his spot. However, he still looked stylish in that flight jacket, and he looks like he’s trying to sell that plane.
King Leopold got a kind of a bad reputation when he surrendered about a week too early for England’s liking. He knew how to stand out among the troops, though. “I’m just stridin’ down by the tanks…”.
Kyra Petrovskaya was a World War II sniper. She kind of looks like Supergirl in this shot. Tough lady. If you’re curious, read more about “The deadly Soviet women snipers“.
Hanna Reitsch, a famous German test pilot, isn’t really wearing anything special, but that 1000-megawatt smile puts her in the high-fashion league all by itself.
Werner Mölders led the Luftwaffe in victories during the Battle of Britain. Werner got along great with everyone and rose to command the Reich’s fighter forces. He also knew how to wear a bomber jacket with style, and soften it with that puckish grin.
(Left) This obviously was a propaganda shot. However, it’s a well-done propaganda picture. (Right) Three tankers showing why black is best.
There is nobody more controversial than Joachim Peiper. Some view him as God’s gift, others as true horror. He’s the kind of guy who gets sentenced to death… and only serves five years. Regardless, he’s really emoting for the camera in this shot.
The famous sniper Roza Shanina. Nobody wore a camouflage smock better. More about here on Smart, beautiful and deadly, 19-year-old Soviet sniper Roza Shanina had 59 confirmed kills.
This is a twofer of Rudel and Galland. It is taken from a film taken as they were taken into custody by the Allies. They look kind of relieved that it is all over, and who can blame them?
Hugo Sperrle commanded Luftlotte 3 in France throughout the war. The failures during the Battle of Britain weren’t his fault: he wanted to continue attacking the airfields which almost everyone now agrees was the winning strategy. Goering once mentioned that Sperrle was his most “brutal-looking” General, and he was probably thinking of this picture. More about him here.
Michael Wittmann was one of the top panzer leaders of the war. You may be good at video games, but he did it for real.
We don’t know why this shot was taken, and why this pretty girl is riding a torpedo. However, it’s from 1944 and, well… we like it.
A Reich post office girl.
(Photo credit: Bundesarchiv / National Archives / US Army Archives. Text: Jammes Bjorkman).