Fakes and reproductions
This section of Camopedia will be dedicated to exposing fakes and commercial reproduction uniforms so that the collecting community is better aware of such items. As years progress, many reproduction items lose (or have removed) the markings that identified them as such, and many are later passed on as originals, much to the dismay of the collecting community. Some dishonest dealers and collectors may even attempt to pass on these forgeries to unknowing individuals. It is our sincere hope that by offering documentation of such items here, we can assist those historians and hobbyists out there to avoid such attempts at deception and keep the collecting pastime pure.
The South African company Camo Joe has been producing camouflage uniforms for many years and is a legitimate source for non-military camouflage outfits for sportsmen. At the time when South Africa experienced a governmental shakeup in 1994, the previous Tribal Homelands (many of which had their own self-defence forces in place) were amalgamated back into the country and all police and military forces were disbanded. Uniforms from the Tribal Homelands such as Transkei and Ciskei were then available as surplus for reasonable prices, but large quantities of raw fabric also existed and some of this ended up in the hands of Camo Joe, who produced a number of uniform items out of original cloth. Although never marketed as "original military uniforms" because so little documentation exists surrounding the Homelands, collectors are cautioned that many uniforms in non-regulation designs exist and were never issued by the governments in question. Odd types of caps, parachutist smocks (slangvels), Camo Joe designed shirts, and even women's skirts have been documented. Photos below show the basic construction of the standard Camo Joe style sportsman's uniform, which can be found in a variety of camouflage patterns, as well as an example of the tag found in these uniforms. Keep in mind that, most of the time, the tags will be missing if the seller is attempting to pass off one of these uniforms are original.
Mexican Digital Camouflage
A couple of years after the Mexican government first released its current series of pixelated or digital camouflage patterns, a dealer in the United States managed to obtain a large quantity of original fabric and made it available for sale by the yard. A handful of collectors and camouflage enthusiasts around the world invested in this cloth and had uniforms produced that are based on the Mexican government issued design; however these items are all complete fakes. Of note on one sample I have seen is the absence of buttons and buttonholes, and of course none of these items have the appropriate issue markings or tags that would be found on Mexican military uniforms. Yet unscrupulous sellers have listed these items at online auction sites as originals. Caveat emptor.
Owing to the popularity of the war in Rhodesia among historians and collectors, and the increasing scarcity of original camouflage uniforms produced for the Rhodesian Forces, copies of the camouflage pattern have appeared from numerous sources over the years. Many of these are mysterious looking and to the untrained eye they may appear as some exotic rare variant.
One peculiar example was produced in the 1980s by a company in Spain. Although not an exact copy of the Rhodesian originals, the colors and design of the pattern are close enough that some unschooled collectors could easily be fooled into thinking these uniforms were originals. Documented here are some details of these Spanish-made Rhodesian uniforms.
Western Survival Research Ltd
This company was active in the 1980s to late 1990s in the state of Indiana and offered a wide selection of unusual camouflage patterns from around the world, nearly all of which were reproductions made in India, Pakistan or other parts of Asia. Virtually all of the uniforms sold by this company were fakes or (at best) commercial products marketed to "large sized" customers who wished to wear their uniforms. In their pristine condition, these uniforms were almost always easily identified by the English language tags identifying their place of manufacture (i.e. "Made in Pakistan," or "Made in India") as well as the fibre content of the fabric. However, the tags were easy to remove and quite often are missing from uniforms that have been passed around for years. For this reason, many collectors have a difficult time ascertaining the authenticity of these uniforms if they do not know what to look for. We have documented a number of faked uniforms that came from this company, including the following: Chilean "spotty mountain" (rana) pattern camouflage jackets, shirts, trousers and floppy bush hats (see photo below), Cuban grey lizard pattern combat jackets, trousers and field shirts, Soviet/Russian KLMK "stair step" pattern combat jackets, trousers and field shirts, Pakistan Bhutto regime "brushstroke" pattern combat jackets, combat shirts and trousers, Chinese-made "barbed wire" pattern camouflage in green and tan colorways (similar to Kuwait patterns), several odd patterns from Indonesia, the so-called Spanish "Sahara" desert pattern (completely fake - see below), and a copy of the Kuwaiti National Guard camouflage pattern.
Although loosely based on the original Chilean rana (frog) pattern, the ones produced for Western Survival Research are made of low quality cotton, with much brighter colors than Chilean originals, and the construction of the fake garments themselves are unlike any of those issued in Chile
Marketed as a design worn by the Spanish Armed Forces operating in the Sahara, this pattern does not appear to have any connection at all to Spain, nor is it likely to have been military issue at any time. Rather, the design seems to have been influenced by WW2 German patterns and produced strictly for the collector or commercial market. Uniforms sold in this pattern were clearly commercial in nature and marked "Made in West Germany."