Note: I originally wrote this article for a completely different website of mine quite a while ago. While veteran reenactors have learned to deal with their leggings in their own way, new reenactors coming out into the field this season (we’re getting close) will undoubtedly be confused by these things. Since it’s embarrassing to have to ask for help to dress yourself, I figured I’d provide this guide.
For veteran reenactors, I offer a way of lacing your leggings that keeps them fairly secure, but doesn’t require a knot at the top thereby making it easier to get them off so that you can pour water out of your boot when needed.
Although most reenactors hate them, leggings are an important part of the uniform. The use of leggings allowed the US Army during WWII conserve leather by being able to create low cut boots that still kept the debris, snow, and mud out of their pant legs and shoes. The standard issue leggings during the war, and the ones you should be using for reenacting a US infantryman, are the M-1936 Khaki leggings shown and described below.
This first picture shows the leggings closed (but not laced) and open. You’ll notice that the cord is done in an over-under fashion starting from the side with the hooks (use a simple overhand knot), laced across to the side with the grommets and then weaved in and out. Information regarding the leggings can be shown on the inside center flap. Note that all of the stamped information has been worn off. Leggings are sized 1, 2, 3 etc…
Lacing the leggings are difficult, but fairly obvious. Put the legging shoes strap (shown at extreme left on this picture), as well as the lacing over the toe of your boot. The legging strap will end in the arch of your boot, but the lacing should be pulled back over the heel. Start lacing the leggings on the outside of your legs. Note. The lacing must be on the outside of your leg, and the hooks opening rearward. leggings do have a right and a left leg! Do this starting at the bottom by pulling the lacing between two grommets out and putting it over the corresponding hook. Keeping tension on the lace, work your way up to the top. Start again if part of the legging is loose. The goal (and it won’t work for everyone) is to get the two sides of the leggings directly next to one another as seen in this photograph.
Finally, the laces need to be tied off to keep tension on the hooks so they don’t come undone, but also easy to remove at the end of the day. There were never specific instructions published on how to finish of the legging laces, so men have come up with their own systems. Outlined below is what I use because it keeps slight tension on the leggings without use of a knot (so it’s super easy to untie).
The first step after the leggings are all laced up. is to feed the lacing around (toward your leg) and back out the top grommet provided on the hook side of the legging.
At this time, if you have a smaller leg, or you want some extra tension, you can use the grommet that is further out before continuing. Sometimes I do, sometimes I don’t.
Then it’s simply a matter of doubling up with the top grommet on the grommet side of the leggings and pulling tight. The friction that 2 laces through one grommet causes the lacing to stick.
If you have small calves you may be able to get away with ordering one of the really inexpensive original or reproduction legging pairs. If you have larger legs you’ll need to purchase reproduction leggings in large sizes. I purchased mine from At the Front. Note that they didn’t come with any laces.
A final note: I realize that double buckle or “paratrooper” boots may be more appealing when faced with the idea of wearing these. All I can say is that for early war (and through most of Europe) these are your only option to remain authentic. However, medics would have had easier access to rear areas including the graves registration folks. Therefore, it is entirely conceivable that a medic would have had quicker access to M-1943 gear such as double buckle boots.