Re-enacting is probably one of the most enjoyable, engrossing, and addicting hobbies that you can engage in. This is largely due to the fact that it combines many other enjoyable hobbies into one. Re-enacting combines; collecting, war gaming, model building, camping, reading, foreign languages, acting, and firearms (ownership, collecting, shooting, maintenance). But before you get started, here are some basic things about the hobby that you should know. This should help those of you just getting started and the well seasoned re-enacting verteran.
THE TWO MOST IMPORTANT THINGS I CAN TELL YOU ABOUT RE-ENACTING ARE:
1)THIS IS A VERY EXPENSIVE HOBBY!!!! DO NOT LET ANYONE FOOL YOU INTO BELIEVING THAT YOU CAN PUT TOGETHER AN IMPRESSION "CHEAPLY"!!!!!!
2) RE-ENACTING IS THE WORSE ADDICTION YOU CAN HAVE!!!! (IT'S EASIER TO GIVE UP A CRACK COCAINE ADDICTION THAN A MILITARIA HOBBY!!!)
Re-enacting can be a great hobby, but it also can be a very disappointing one. The whole idea is to re-create the conditions, hardships, excitement, and danger of the time period/conflict of your choosing. "Period" is a slang term re-enactors use for the time frame/century/or conflict they portray, such as French & Indian War, 18thCentury, 12th Century, Wild West, Roman, English Civil War, WWI, WWII etc. The downfall of re-enacting is that (as with most things that are screwed up), people are involved. Unfortunately, re-enactment "units" are an all volunteer army in the truest sense. If any give reenactor doesn't like something, they will inevitably (1)quit, ( 2)start their own unit and 'allow' the things they like, (3)make things miserable for others, OR (4) -very rarely- they suck it up and act like the soldiers they are portraying. With that in mind, re-enactors can be divided into two distinct groups. The "true living historians" are those that really care and want to re-create life as it was in that particular period. The others are not-so-affectionately called "farbes".
IMPORTANT TERM - "farbe" - is usually pronounced "farb" (silent e) but sometimes it is pronounced "far-be" (said quickly). While re-enacting "historians" debate its origination, the general use of the term today means that something, someone, some event, some period, or some piece of equipment, is screwed up beyond hope -or an impossible anachronism!!!
These farbes (plural) usually don't care if their 'kit' (kit is a slang term for the uniform and equipment you wear) is correct or not. Well, maybe they care a tiny bit, but they won't let it get in the way of them hanging out with 'the guys'. They are usually motivated by $$$ (less = better) and they buy cheap uniforms and equipment that, at best, may slightly resemble pieces of equipment or uniforms from the period they are attempting to portray. A prime example of this was brought about by the fall of Communism (believe it or not)! With the collapse of the Soviet empire came a flood of surplus Eastern Block uniforms and equipment. The Eastern Block (EB) copied a lot of WWII German stuff but usually altered it somewhat or made things out of funky materials. Some re-enactment units feel that using EB stuff is okay. "Why, after all, " they figure, "it looks like German WWII". The naked truth is that it really doesn't look like WWII. They only do it because they would rather pay $5 for a bad item than $20 for a correct one. A great example are East German tunics (jackets). They are the wrong color, have two French cuffs, have a seam down the back (NOTE: no WWII German WOOL M-36, M-41, or M-43 combat tunic had a seam down the back), have wrong pockets, and above all, look like they were made from some third world sound deadening material! Despite all this, some unit leaders deemed them "acceptable", largely due to the fact that you can /could buy them for about $10. Conversely, an acceptable tunic made by "Janke" (pronounced Yonk-uh; they are in Germany), that is corect in every detail, cost about $600 for tunic and trousers. REMEMBER RULE #1: THIS HOBBY IS EXPENSIVE!!!
The most important thing to do as a perspective WWII re-enactor is join a respectable unit that is squared away.
They will teach you what is right to get and what to avoid. They will usually be able to loan you a kit (for your first few events) to let you try it out. Authentic units are always invited to every event. The worst thing you can do is join a farbe unit. They'll try to sell you things they know aren't correct (because they got duped when they were in your shoes and now want to recoup a financial loss), and they'll say the incorrect things they wear are perfectly acceptable. But worse than that, your unit (and you) will be avoided by other reenactors, ridiculed, labeled a farbe, etc. And farbe units don't get invited to good/authentic events. You see, it's a vicious cycle. If you're not around quality reenactors, it's difficult to learn 'right' and 'wrong'. Even if (by some miracle) you can become an authentic reenactor, you will be fought tooth and nail by all the other unit members who don't share your convictions. Everything will turn into some sort of confrontation, and all of a sudden your hobby isn't so fun anymore. I'm telling you this because I know some great reenactors who are going through this RIGHT NOW. Lastly, you'll inevitably be missing out on the social aspects of the hobby. Since reenactors generally avoid farbes, you'd deprive yourself of some really great people and wonderful, long lasting friendships.
If you think expense may be a problem, here is a list of kits from the most expensive to the least.
This 'cost analysis' assumes you have 1-2 months to put it together (there are bargains on good stuff, it just takes a while to find em'). You can easily spend more than this, it depends on how much extra stuff you want. The below are "guestimates" for a BASIC kit (1997 prices) and do not include your weapon!
One more thing that you need to know....
I defy you to find original photographs of german troops, 1944-45 that are overweight, let alone FAT. Horrible conditions and lack of steady meals makes one lean and mean---Not fat and friendly! You will also PAY dearly (I call it the FAT tax) because original and repro equipment & uniforms cost more for larger sizes!!! You will not find an original pair of German para jump trousers bigger than 36/38. They did not make them bigger! We talked to a German Para vet who was 6' 3" and 200lbs when he went to Russia; when he left in 44' he weighed 130lbs!!! I am including the authenticity statement from an event my unit hosted in 93' that may help put you on the right track.....