Sicherungs-Regiment 195 has authenticity requirements that are very simple. The items we use must be correct to the time before 1945, period. Our members must obtain a basic soldier's kit, and we maintain a list of the uniform and equipment items that every member needs to have and also lists of items that are not permitted. Nowhere in this material do we stipulate that items must be from specific vendors only. We accept and use items from any and all sources as long as they are correct for the time. Despite the fact that our members are entirely free to choose items from whatever supplier they prefer, we would gladly put our impressions up against any group in the country when it comes to authenticity and realism. Why is that?
There is, in this hobby, a school of thought that the one and only way to a realistic impression is through spending a fortune at glamour vendors. Although we are happy to support vendors who offer top quality products, we reject the view that only the "very best" (that is, most expensive) items should be used by anyone. Instead, we simply judge each item on its own merits. There are items from every supplier that we regard as usable. There are also items from many suppliers, including some with the most devoted fans, which we would prefer not to use.
Making a silk purse from a sow's ear is an important skill for a reenactor. A brand-new reproduction item fresh out of the box is like a blank canvas. It has no soul. Use, wear, passion, and attitude go a long way to making almost anything look convincing. Minute details of stitching, hardware or color shade lose importance on an item that is grimy, faded, threadbare, reworked and repaired. An item that has been worked on and used hard will have a uniqueness and character that an off-the-shelf piece lacks.
Give us an array of cheap imported gear and we will pick and choose and hit it out of the park. Offer us a choice between a "low-end" and a "high-end" item, we aren't going to be asking where each was made- we are simply going to go with what looks real. To us, $100 for a 90+ percent accurate item is (generally speaking) a far better deal for most than paying many hundreds more for something so marginally better that the quality difference can only be discerned through hands-on inspection by dedicated enthusiasts. For most reenactors, who are faced with financial contraints when assembling an impression, it is better to save the money and put it towards a German language course, or gas and event fees so that a reenactor can put his face in the place and hone his craft.
There are people out there who regard themselves as "elite" reenactors simply because they spent the most money while building an impression. We see it differently. For us, being an elite reenactor means being extremely advanced in specialized knowledge gained through study and experience. It also means one has perfected his craft and raised it to an art form. Elite reenactors are almost always in elite reenacting groups (not to be confused with those portraying real-world elite units). Becoming an elite reenactor takes time. It's not something that can be obtained instantly by someone with the funds to purchase the costliest kit. It can't be bought. It comes down to skill, knowledge, style and guts. Hard work. Attention to detail. How you wear it is as important as what you are wearing.
Ultimate authenticity is a phantom but that won't stop us from striving in that direction. Looking beyond the material is an important step on that road. See you out there.