Painting German figures in WW2
The Panzer uniform

by Rob Haelterman

The black tank uniform, originally worn by Panzer and Panzerjäger crews, was a coveted item, and as such its use was expanded to other personnel during the war and in the end it also appeared in other colors.

1. The tunic and fatigues

We can basically distinguish 4 types

  1. The black tunic, always without breast pocket.
  2. The Fieldgray (FG) version of the black tunic, for other AFV troops.
  3. A reed green tunic without breast pocket.
  4. A reed green tunic with breast pocket.

1.1. Black Panzer Tunic

Originally, the black tunic was meant for tank troops and Panzerjäger only, but was extended to other units as well:
- 1937: signals
- 1938: artillery
- March 1940: armored reconnaissance
- May 1940 until 1941: armored engineers / pioniers. In 1941 the engineers switched to the FG version of the Panzer uniform - vide infra.
- February 1942: Panzerjäger switched to FG.
- 1944: Panzerjäger in Panzer, Panzergrenadier units and Army or Corps level Elefant units switched back to black again.

The collar patches on this uniform contained aluminum skulls; patches and collar were piped in pink, although 24PD used yellow.
Underneath the tunic a mouse gray or dark gray shirt with black tie was worn. Often insignia and collar straps were added to this shirt.

The late 1942 model tunic (introduced July 1942) had a somewhat narrower collar and no longer had piping on the collar. The collar patches were still piped.

The shoulder straps/boards were based on black cloth instead of DBG/FG.

    1.2. FG Panzer Tunic

    1.2.1. StuG crews
    In May/June 1940 a FG version (including FG beret, although rare) of the Panzer tunic appeared for the StuG Bn without collar piping. FG collar patches with aluminum skull and piped in red were worn. After a while the removal of the skull was ordered. Sources disagree about the date, but it most likely this was 1941. In January 1943 the StuG and SPG were ordered to wear guard braids (Litzen) on the collar instead of the Panzer skull patches (which at that time no longer had skulls).
    Some StuG crews nevertheless wore the black uniform, with or without skulls or with Litzen. StuGs used in Panzer Divisions would have a crew that would be dressed like regular Panzer troops.

    1.2.2. Pioniere
    In 1941 Pionier troops were allowed to wear the FG panzer uniform. At that time their Waffenfarbe changed from black/white to black.

    1.2.3. Panzerjäger
    Panzerjäger troops wore the black panzer uniform, until February 1942, when they were to change for the FG version, with pink waffenfarbe and black skull patches. To distinguish them from Panzer units they wore a P on the shoulderstraps. In May 1944 a complete revision for Panzerjäger was ordered:

    1. Black uniform with pink Waffenfarbe for Panzerjäger troops within Pz or PzGren Divisions and Army or Corps level Elefant crews.
    2. Field Gray with pink Waffenfarbe and black collar patches with skulls for non-Elefant equipped Army or Corps level units and Infantry, Jäger and Mountain Divisions.
    3. Field Gray with pink Waffenfarbe on shoulders but Litzen with varying (!) waffenfarbe on the collar for Infantry (White), Jäger (Grass Green) and Mountain Regiments (Grass Green).

    1.2.4. SP Artillery
    Self-propelled artillery crews gradually acquired the FG Panzer uniform starting in late 1942, and wore them with Litzen.

    1.2.5. Recce
    Reconnaissance troops also appeared with FG uniforms from 1943 onwards.

    1.2.6. Panzer Grenadiere
    Panzer Grenadiers were allowed to wear the FG Panzer uniform from 1944 onwards. Few units actually received them. The most prominent user being Panzer Lehr.


  1936 1937 1938 1939 1940 1941 1942 1943 1944-45
Piping on collar yes yes yes yes yes yes until July no no
Tank troops black tunic black tunic black tunic black tunic black tunic black tunic black tunic black tunic black tunic
Signal troops   black tunic black tunic black tunic black tunic black tunic black tunic black tunic black tunic
Artillery troops     black tunic black tunic black tunic black tunic black tunic black tunic
black tunic
Armored recce         black tunic black tunic black tunic black or FG tunic
black or FG tunic
Panzerjäger black tunic black tunic black tunic black tunic black tunic black tunic FG tunic FG tunic black tunic (some), FG others
StuG outside Panzer unit         FG tunic with skull FG tunic FG tunic FG tunic with Litzen FG tunic with Litzen
Pioneers         black tunic FG tunic FG tunic FG tunic FG tunic
SP Artillery             FG tunic FG tunic FG tunic
Panzergrenadier                 FG tunic

1.3. Denims / Fatigues

1.3.1. Early denims
Early in the war, two-part working denims existed in off white. In February 1940 a dark green version appeared. (See chapter on infantry.)

1.3.2. Baggy denims (1941).
In 1941 one-piece baggy khaki denims appeared with two breast pockets. Sometimes rank insignia were worn on the sleeve. Sometimes it was worn over the black Panzer tunic.
FG, mouse gray, off white, light brown, reed green or black versions were also seen. This type of equipment was mostly used by artillery troops.

1.3.2. Reed Green fatigues (1941)
In May 1941 a reed green (sometimes, white or mouse gray) uniform, cut like the black one (without piping) appeared for armored car crews. Black patches with skulls were worn on this tunic by eligible crews.
The matching trousers were different, in that they had a large thigh pocket. Some were also acquired by tank crews.
After August 1942 the new sleeve rank insignia was to be worn on it, but this was widely ignored and the shoulder insignia used instead.

1.3.3. Reed green tank fatigues (1942)
Also in 1942 a special reed green version for tank crews appeared, cut like the black uniform, but with a large breast and large thigh pocket.
Some existed in a camouflage pattern. (Italian camo was popular.) Insignia were often applied; officially the rank was to be worn on the sleeve, but shoulder ranks were popular.

1.3.4. Coveralls
One piece coveralls of various types were also popular for AFV crews and could be seen in different shades, including camouflage.


    1.4. North Africa

    In North Africa troops were the standard German tropical army uniform. Sometimes Panzer collar patches were added instead of the Litzen, or only the skulls added underneath the Litzen.


    1.5. Miscellaneous

    Luftwaffe tank troops used the same uniform as the Heer, but with white piping until 1943 and branch related Waffenfarbe afterwards.
    Collar patches were army style until 1943, when they were replaced with white patches. In 1944 the patches were removed altogether but the skulls were kept.
    Waffen SS troop had basically the same uniform as the Heer, but

    • without piping on the collar for lower ranks, while aluminum piping could be seen for officers;
    • (from 1942 onwards) with a more vertical front opening and with rounded (and somewhat smaller) collars, existing in black and FG;
    • (from 1942 onwards) a black sidecap with an unscooped front (like the Luftwaffe sidecap).


1.6 Summary

  • if you see a Panzer tunic with a breast pocket, paint it reed green or in camo and don't use it before 1942; if it hasn't got this pocket, choose between black, FG or reed green.
  • if you see trousers with a thigh pocket, paint it reed green or in camo and don't use it before 1941; if it hasn't got this pocket, paint it black or FG.
  • if it looks like a regular infantry tunic, but with no breast pockets, only hip pockets, paint it off-white for a very early war scene or in green from 1940 onwards.


2. Shirts

Early in the war the shirts were mouse gray, without pockets or insignia. Later versions in mouse gray or FG had pockets and shoulder straps, and were often seen with the breast eagle.
Mid 1943 saw the appearance of shirts in darker gray with pockets and all insignia.


3. Winter gear

Winter gear followed infantry standards.

Until mid 1942 the only protective clothing was the FG greatcoat. Personally tailored fur or leather coats soon appeared.
In the winter of 42/43 a padded mouse gray/white reversible parka with hood and overtrousers appeared. Later versions replaced the gray side with a splinter camouflage, and even later with blotch camouflage patterns. Rank was worn on the sleeve.


4. Headgear

4.1. Beret
Early in the war the beret was worn. It was officially abolished in January 1941, although already rare by then. Limited quantities of FG berets existed for StuG crews.

FG Schirmmütze were popular for tank commanders because it allowed easier use of the headset.

4.3. Feldmütze
In early 1940 some crews started to wear the FG Feldmütze, awaiting the arrival of the black version that appeared in March 1940. Officers wore the cap with silver piping on the crown, and for all ranks the eagle was enclosed in a Waffenfarbe chevron.
The black version was widespread by the start of the Balkan campaign, although senior NCOs and officers sometimes wore the FG Schirmmütze, often without the crown stiffener.
The chevron was removed on the Feldmütze in July 1942 (as for the FG field cap).
Occasionally the old beret could still be seen in 1941.
Between March 1941 and November 1943 helmets were standard issue for AFV crews, although rarely worn inside the vehicle.
The black Feldmütze was also worn in North Africa although it was sometimes replaced by the tropical field cap (which was occasionally modified with a pink chevron).

4.4. Einheitsmütze
In 1943 a black version of the M1943 peaked field cap appeared. Again it was piped at the crown for officers. The earlier Feldmütze was still used however.


5. Footwear

High boots were worn, but with the trousers over them. In 1941 low boots appeared.


6. Belt
Normally black for all, but some officers used brown belts early in the war.


7. Insignia
General's insignia (gold on red) could be seen on the collar of the black jacket instead of skulls.

Rank insignia was always on a black background for Panzer troops. StuG crews had them on a FG background.

NCOs didn't wear collar braids on the Panzer uniform. I am not sure if this was also the case for the fatigues.

The breast eagle started the war in silver gray or aluminum (gold or yellow for generals), but this was changed to mouse gray in June 1940. Depending on the frequency an individual saw combat, the earlier version was sometimes retained.
In principle it was only worn on the Black or FG Panzer tunic, i.e. not on greatcoats, fatigue uniforms, etc. but sometimes troops added them regardless.

I am sure this article can be vastly improved upon, so I would invite anyone with superior knowledge to contact me.

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Article Last Updated:
25 July 2013
10 July 2019