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Blast From The Past – The Smock

Enjoy this story from November, 2011 (slight updated) on one of my favorite clothing items; the Smock.

Finally, the smock is beginning to gain some traction here in the US. We’ve written about them in the past, mentioning smocks from Drop Zone, the now defunct EOTAC, SOD Gear, Level Peaks, SORD as well as the (then) upcoming Vertx smock. But, we’ve never really talked about them and explained what they are all about.

The smock is literally a concept unlike anything we have in the US. I’ve heard them compared to the M65 field jacket but that idea is simply uniformed. A smock isn’t just a coat.

Rather, the smock is much more than a simple jacket. In addition to use as clothing, the smock is also intended to carry much, if not all of the wearer’s fighting load. They were originally envisioned to carry several days of combat equipment including rations, ammunition, and radios.

Primarily, the smock is a European concept and in particular, used by Commonwealth nations. I got my first SAS smock in 1989 in a trade for a poncho liner during an exercise in Belgium. Its use as an issue garment has traditionally been restricted to Special Forces, yet several nations have adopted it for general issue in one form or another. One example of a much watered down smock on general issue is the Canadian Army’s combat jacket. When this design was initially adopted in the 1960s it was envisioned that the Soldier would carry his ammunition and other fighting load components in the jacket’s pockets. What’s more, the British military now issues a Smock as a general purpose item.

There is very limited use of Smocks by US forces. During the early 1990s, an experimental clothing system called Battle Dress System (BDS) was developed by the US Army Special Operations Command. It was a layered clothing system that eventually became the Lightweight Environmental Protection sub-system of SPEAR. The outermost layer, called the SOF BDU, was a solid grey combat jacket and over trouser. With its solid grey color the item was rejected due to institutional prejudice. When LEP was adopted by SOF years later, it was without the SOF BDU. Interestingly, LEP was even later adopted wholesale for issue to General Purpose Forces Soldiers by the Rapid Equipping Force during the early stages of Operation Enduring Freedom.

Issue items like the SAS Smock are pretty good, but commercial interests have taken them to a whole new level. Britain’s Special Air Sea Services has been manufacturing specialized variants of the smock since the 1980s. Other companies like Canada’s now defunct Drop Zone picked up the torch in the 90s and now, commercial items are more prevalent than the issue garment.

Smocks have made a lot of sense in Northern Europe where the cold, wet climate requires layering. You see, as smocks are coat-like garments they are generally worn layered over shirts. In many climates the US military finds itself in, this would be too warm as a daily wear item. The US issue Extreme Cold Weather Clothing System in all three of its incarnations has offered various technical parka-style shells. It seems as if the US skipped the smock altogether for a time. But, with the advent of the most modern smocks, new fabrics have been introduced into the design essentially making them softshells. Conversely, Australian Mission Pac has developed a MultiCam ripstop 100% Cotton Smock for use in warm climates. Aside from that and a developmental Crye Precision Desert smock, hot weather models are few and far between.

Other interesting concepts have been developed such as the Arktis SF Sleeveless Smock which looks like a hybrid between a smock and a 5.11 shooting vest.

Oftentimes, those with no experience with smocks will criticize the design. They don’t understand that use of a fully featured smock allows the reconfiguration of the load. For example, armor can be worn under the smock. Perhaps a chest rig may be required and perhaps not, but much of the items normally carried on the armor or in a pack can be carried in pockets, readily available.

With even more products hitting the market soon, smocks look to be making an indelible mark on the US market and as they become more and more prevalent, we will begin to see more widespread use, including on the battlefield. Think of the smock as yet another tool in the toolbox and use accordingly. Remember, it’s a tool, not the tool, and you’ll be ok.

35 Responses to “Blast From The Past – The Smock”

  1. Sierra Charlie says:

    Smocks are cool and all, but why the left most bloke in the OD smock have a hand sticking out his stomach.

    • Lasse says:

      it’s a thumbs up cause smocks are awesome.

      also he is on the other left.

    • SSD says:

      There’s a guy standing next to him with a fleece jacket held open. The under layers in that program became SPEAR LEP which was later issued to Big Army under RFI early in the war.

      • Sierra Charlie says:

        I knew US SOF guys were handy, didn’t think to take it that literally. Thanks for the explaination, makes loads more sense. BFO.

  2. Dellis says:

    Ya, I got a smock issue. I have several of them in my closet, sold 4 of them a year ago and am now eyeing one just put up on Ebay. A Medium Drop Zone Recce smock in multicam for $179!

    I have 3 Drop Zones already buut I just may NEED another so if someone can please buy it before I do, that would be great!

    • Terry Baldwin says:

      Dellis,

      I have to confess that I just smock blocked you on ebay. I only had one. Now I just have to explain to my Wife why I needed two!

      TLB

      • Dellis says:

        “smock blocked” now that’s damn funny and creative!

        Trust me, if I get another article or piece of gear my wife will be seriously pissed off so you did me a favor!

        • Terry Baldwin says:

          Dellis,

          Same here. Unfortunately for me, my Wife isn’t going to buy the “I was doing someone a favor” excuse…again!

          TLB

  3. Will sew 4 kit says:

    There was a Smock in use by the US 10th mountain in WWII with a built in pack on the back. I don’t know if it was popular…

  4. Dellis says:

    First smock I was introduced to was years ago hunting bird in Arizona. It seemed to be some British type in a camo pattern but what I remember best was the large rear pocket area.

    The guy who loaned me it said to stash my birds in the back and it worked great. Just enough warmth for the cool early morning hunt and plenty of pockets for ammo and such. Hooked ever since

    • James says:

      A large, rear, pocket on a Smock is called a “Poachers pocket” for this very reason.

  5. Mike B. says:

    I love smocks. I got my first smock in a trade with a former Brit Soldier when I was stationed in Germany back in the 90’s. It was a great windproof, with a wife hood, and in DPM Camo. I used it for many years, til I gave it to a friend in teh SF as a gift on his passing out. I have had many smocks sionce then, and currently use two. A standard model in OD and a tan one. both have been used now going on 10 years. best piece of kit I have along with the Poncho liner. anyway, I have always wished the US Army would have gone with a smock. Now I’m on the look out of the new UK issue model. Just hard finding my size.

    • Jim says:

      What size are you after?

      • Mike B. says:

        I have a 50 inch chest and a 38 inch waist. I have some large arms, I tried one on last year but it was too just of a size. YOu know where I can get one?

        • Forrest Adcock says:

          You know you can work out your legs and waist also, right?

          Leg day is a thing.

  6. Mike B. says:

    I love smocks. I got my first smock in a trade with a former Brit Soldier when I was stationed in Germany back in the 90’s. It was a great windproof, with a wire hood, and in DPM Camo. I used it for many years, til I gave it to a friend in teh SF as a gift on his passing out. I have had many smocks sionce then, and currently use two. A standard model in OD and a tan one. both have been used now going on 10 years. best piece of kit I have along with the Poncho liner. anyway, I have always wished the US Army would have gone with a smock. Now I’m on the look out of the new UK issue model. Just hard finding my size.

  7. Dev says:

    Got a smock disease as well. First one from an ex 3RAR dude, second one from Level Peaks, third from Platatac, fourth from a friend in the UK (latest issue in British MTP) and looking to score another; maybe from SODGear or First Spear. Or perhaps NFM (although that jacket pushes the definition of an archetypal smock).

    Smocks. Can’t get enough of ’em.

  8. windy says:

    back in the day we wore our body armour under the smock and had good access to the pockets. that’s not gonna happen these days with the virtus/ospray body armour. the british army smock might be on its last incarnation.

    • Jim says:

      How far back, N.I?

    • Bobby Davro says:

      Most blokes have given up on smocks now and moved to soft shell jackets in the field for that very reason, the only time people wear them is around camp

  9. Bobby Davro says:

    Level peaks smock is the new sas smock

  10. rowan11b says:

    I have a newer mtp smock I picked up off eBay that I’ve been able to wear several times playing opfor in jrtc. Really great garment suited for light infantry type work. Sadly I don’t think conventional forces in the states will ever be issued something comparable, I prefer it over the ecwcs level 5 garments although it would be much bulkier under armor.

  11. I just like to say the word “smock.”

  12. Billiam says:

    Does anybody know if First Spear plans to bring back the Squadron Smock? Waited too long to pick one up, and now it seems they’re gone from the FS website.

  13. Platatac says:

    Smocks are the goods.

    Our Multicam NSNed Nansophere windproof smock initially made for NZDF is undergoing a revamp and will be available again soon.

    Team Platatac

  14. Hans says:

    the Smock has protected me from the harsh Norwegian winter time and again.and as stated made too protect you from the cold (in a layered system) but also keep much of our gear on and near the body.like dry gloves, bandages, food/snacks, a dry shirt, watch cap or extra gloves and even water in the winter.

  15. mark says:

    I have an Arktis smock that I’ve been very impressed with. I have it pre-loaded on a hanger as a sort of ‘bug out jacket’ with food, gear, and water. All I have to do is ‘grab my coat’ and head out the door.

  16. Matt says:

    I’ve got a CRYE Smock and a First Spear Sqadron smock and I love them.

  17. russel says:

    Does Vertx still make their smock? I had a quick look on their website but couldn’t find it.

  18. Michael says:

    Can Anyone name me the name and brand of the smock in the first picture?