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"When did Puttees go out of fashion, why" Topic

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Personal logo Bobgnar Supporting Member of TMP08 May 2010 6:04 p.m. PST

I have been making up units for Very British Civil War, 1938 games using Great War and WW2 figs. I realized that almost all of the Great War figs have puttees (wrappings) around the lower leg. Yet, the other source, very early WW2 figures are all in trousers open to the bottom.

When did the puttee go out of favor, and why?

Jemima Fawr08 May 2010 6:13 p.m. PST

I was issued with puttees (for wear with DMS ankle boots) in 1989!

Mal Wright Fezian08 May 2010 6:17 p.m. PST


Puttees were realised to be restrictive to blood flow. They were also very slow to put on and hard to keep looking neat. They offered much less protection for the lower legs than had been thought and when wet were liable to cause medical problems. These things came up during WW1 but it was difficult to get governments to change in the middle of a war.

They went out of fashion just prior to WW2 for most countries, but some retained them for a time.

Gaiters were provided for the same reason as intended for Putee's….that is to protect the lower legs, especially in rough ground. However Putee's were originally thought to look 'smarter' than gaiters and do the same job. Hence the change to them. The trouble was, that to make them look very neat, it was required to put them on very tightly in a criss cross fashion. This was pointed out by medical authorities as being the very same method used to restrict blood flow, but were not listened too at first.

There were a few units of the BEF that deployed with Putte's, but were soon replaced. As late as 1940 training units used them while waiting for gaiters.

Sterling Moose08 May 2010 6:20 p.m. PST

The British Army were still wearing puttees, albeit not wound up to the knee, until the mid 1980s when ankle boots were phased out and high leg boots became general issue.

there's two pics on this page

Sterling Moose08 May 2010 6:27 p.m. PST
Lee Brilleaux Fezian08 May 2010 6:52 p.m. PST

Ah, but those aren't proper, pukkah knee-high puttees!

Those are mere gaiters. I say "Pshaw!" to 'em. And possibly "Pish!"

Proper puttees put the primitive fighting man of the nether reaches of the empire at a disadvantage when he considers the elegance, the neatness, the sheer martial bearing that comes with, ah, restricted blood flow to the lower extremities.

I'm wearing a pair right now!

artaxerxes08 May 2010 7:43 p.m. PST

MJS is right – those look like short 'ankle gaiters' to me.

Try putting on a pair of proper puttees and you'll soon understand why they were dropped.

Terry L08 May 2010 7:55 p.m. PST

I do WW1 reenacting and puttees are a pain the in the….
They have a tendency to get caught in the wire. Especially when you are crawling in no man's land and plan on sneaking up on the Hun.
I think one of the selling features of them were they were cheaper to make. It was easier to clean them once the mud dried. Just shake them out but I have to agree with Mal on everything he said. They are just not practical for the soldier.

Personal logo Der Alte Fritz Sponsoring Member of TMP08 May 2010 9:42 p.m. PST

MJS said:

I'm wearing a pair right now!

No, those are Spanx that you are wearing. evil grin

Martin Rapier09 May 2010 12:31 a.m. PST

"those look like short 'ankle gaiters' to me."

Well, they aren't. They are described and issued as 'puttees', they just aren't as long as the WW1 ones. I've got a pair. Anklets have buckled fastenings.

What I don't understand is why the British Army went from puttees, to anklets then back to puttees again…

John D Salt09 May 2010 1:58 a.m. PST

Puttees, as I wore from 1978 to 1983, were extremely good at keeping water and loose crud from creeping in to the top of the boot. The webbing gaiter, which I wore in the CCF navy cadets, possibly looked smarter when blancoed, but I cannot imagine having as good water-resistant qualities as the properly-wound puttee.

Then again, for parade smartness, experienced soldiers would have a second pair of cut-down puttees, much quicker to wind on, but pretty useless in the field.

All the best,


By John 5409 May 2010 3:24 a.m. PST

Don't forget, British cavalry wound them top to bottom, and infantry, ankle up! (or was it the other way round?)

bruntonboy09 May 2010 4:31 a.m. PST

Clockwise or anti-clockwise though?

morrigan09 May 2010 5:41 a.m. PST

Clockwise ankle up for me in the late '60's. You needed a set of weights to make the legs of your trousers fall properly over the top of the puttees or they just didn't look right.

tuscaloosa09 May 2010 6:58 a.m. PST

Could be worse; you could have been Soviet and had to have to use wrappings in place of socks.

No Name09 May 2010 7:08 a.m. PST

Clockwise on the right leg and anticlockwise on the left, so that the end of the puttee was always on the outside of the leg pointing to the rear; and as above, I wore these from the early 70's until we got the high legged combat boots in the early 80's.

Martin Rapier09 May 2010 7:28 a.m. PST

Yes, opposite directions on each leg, and you need to make sure the triangular tab bit ends up on the outside of the leg facing back.

Personally I am amazed at their ability not to fall off, even when moving through thick undergrowth and brambles.

"experienced soldiers would have a second pair of cut-down puttees"

Mine were originally sewn doubled back on themselves, I unpicked the stitching so they would actually stay on.

Frederick Supporting Member of TMP09 May 2010 7:47 a.m. PST

My father-in-law wore puttees for shore parade (Royal Canadian Navy) in the 1950's and No. 2 son wore WWI style puttees for The Great War – he was an extra and the Canadian Broadcasting Company, who filmed it, insisted on accuracy so they all wore WWI kit

My father-in-law remembered them fondly, but No. 2 son thinks they were a huge pain in the neck

Jemima Fawr09 May 2010 11:22 a.m. PST

I liked them. Like JDS, I found that they were great for keeping the crud out of your boots. Lots of guys kept on wearing them with high-leg boots.

I too was an extra in a WW1 film (Hedd Wyn, 1991, Oscar-nominated…) and found long puttees to be a mild embugrance, but not overwhelmingly so. I didn't find them to be tight or restrictive in any way no more so than the long gaiters I wear for walking.

PaintsByNumbers09 May 2010 7:57 p.m. PST

So how precisely does on put them on? How are they anchored at the start?

Frontovik10 May 2010 1:53 a.m. PST

Could be worse; you could have been Soviet and had to have to use wrappings in place of socks.

Once you learn how to wrap 'em they're better than socks.

Blisters are a thing of the past, you get layers of insulation on the foot, if you get a hole you just move then round a bit and they're easier to dry after you've washed them.

nickinsomerset10 May 2010 2:26 a.m. PST

I remember seeing a WO2 wearing DMS Boots and Putees in 1997, he pointed out that whilst my Lightweight Assault Boots (Issued in Bosnia 1994) did not feature in Dress Regulations, Boots and Putees still did!

Tally Ho!

Martin Rapier10 May 2010 3:22 a.m. PST

"So how precisely does on put them on? How are they anchored at the start?"

The internet is a wonderful thing:


Cyclops10 May 2010 3:33 a.m. PST

I've just been reading about stormtroopers in WW1 and how they adopted puttees unofficially as they found them much less hassle than the jackboots the regular infantry wore. Seems odd to me but I wasn't there.
Could just have been the usual phenomenon of 'elite' units wanting to look different from everybody else. The Germans were still using the jackboot in early WW2 so it obvioulsy didn't catch on.

7dot62mm10 May 2010 4:22 a.m. PST

tuscaloosa, wrappings are actually pretty useful in boots. In the Finnish army we wore wrappings in woolen socks in our boots during long marches (foot, wrapping, woolen sock and rubber boot, in that order) in 1986-87. Wrappings are very comfortable when wrapped correctly, but will cause problems if wrapped incorrectly. When wet, they dry much faster than socks do so you can just take them off and hang them onto a branch to dry during a break.

Some Soviet army infantry units wore puttees in the Winter War, and probably afterward too.

Michael Dorosh10 May 2010 4:49 a.m. PST

"They offered much less protection for the lower legs than had been thought and when wet were liable to cause medical problems. "

Canadian troops in Italy were of the opposite opinion; they preferred them to web anklets as they thought they would help control blood loss in the event of lower extremity injuries.

Michael Dorosh10 May 2010 4:52 a.m. PST

"So how precisely does on put them on? How are they anchored at the start?"

Like some others that have posted already, I wore them as a film extra as well – Legends of the Fall. I was also impressed by their durability. There was no magic to them – you simply lay it on your leg and start winding. It holds itself in place. The only trick is to roll them up to begin – hard to do if covered in mud from previous days' wear. Or else you have to bunch them up as you're winding them, and the First World War style are frightfully long, especially with the cloth tapes included. Getting them to end up in the right place (on the outside of the leg, pointing back – unless you're mounted troops, which means you start at the top and work down, the opposite of dismounted troops) is tricky too but you start to memorize where you have to start to end up right.

Marc33594 Supporting Member of TMP10 May 2010 4:59 a.m. PST

Not to change the topic but where were you in Bosnia Nick? Was there and all over in 94 as well, june-dec.

Contact me at marc33594ATyahooDotCom so as not to bore the folks here.

cwbuff10 May 2010 5:03 a.m. PST

Thanks guys. A topic I had never thought about.

tuscaloosa10 May 2010 9:46 a.m. PST

In the last Soviet memoir I read, the author was not happy at all with his foot-wrappings-instead-of-socks. Could be the ungrateful b*st*rd just didn't know how to wrap them right!

Personal logo Bobgnar Supporting Member of TMP10 May 2010 1:41 p.m. PST

Thanks for all the great info. I guess I will not worry about the look of my VBCW units in puttees in 1938, nor with those in boots or shoes.

PaintsByNumbers10 May 2010 7:29 p.m. PST

How do you keep from getting a gap at the top of the boot, once you have moved around and flexed that area? How wide is the strip, 3-4" ?

7dot62mm10 May 2010 9:21 p.m. PST

Tuscaloosa, if is also possible that the veteran's wrappings were made of some terrible war-time Soviet cloth with the smoothness of sandpaper, not the nice stuff we had in the Finnish Army. And of course I only wore wrappings on marches, not daily, and the wrappings were always clean when I put them on.

Michael Dorosh11 May 2010 4:44 a.m. PST

"How do you keep from getting a gap at the top of the boot, once you have moved around and flexed that area?"

There's nothing you actually DO. You just don't. The ankle boots are not low cut like running shoes; the puttees actually overlap the top of the boot. Don't forget that you're wrapping the puttee overtop of itself several times over as it goes up the leg. If you want to know what its like, buy three metres of scrap fabric and make yourself a pair and try it out with your hiking boots.

Just not where anyone sane can see you. ;-)

Jemima Fawr11 May 2010 7:20 a.m. PST

My puttees would very occasionally ride up over the boot-tops if we were doing a lot of running, but it wasn't really an issue.

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