M.1909 Koppel (Belt) und
M.1916 Koppelschloß (Belt buckle)
The military uniform of the German army in the war consisted of a heavy leather Koppel (military belt) with a stamped metal Koppelschloß (belt buckle) bearing the insignia of the State for which you served. In the case of IR63, the State is Prussia. The Prussian belt buckle insignia was a roundel with the royal crown in the center with the motto "Gott mit uns" in the surround — God is with us — a phrase used by heraldry in Prussia dating back to 1701, and became the motto of the German Empire during the time of Frederick the Great.
The M.1909 Koppel was issued in natural, rough-out leather but after 1915 would have been ordered blackened. When the Koppel was worn with the tunic, it was held in place by four metal hooks which were attached to the tunic, two on the sides and two (made in the form of buttons) in the back.
The M.1895 Koppelschloß (belt buckle) came in two version, one constructed of one-piece bright brass and one came bright brass with a separate nickel emblem soldered on.
The M.1916 Koppelschloß was changed to stamped steel that was zinc plated and matte painted Feldgrau.
For members of IR63, the Koppel shall be made of leather, rough side out. Belts shall be natural oiled to a medium brown or dyed black. Black belts with the smooth side out are not allowed. The Koppelschloß shall be stamped steel and painted a proper Feldgrau and may or may not have the leather tabs. The M.1895 bright brass Koppelschlösser are not allowed for use at GWA/late war combat events. Belts and buckles shall be properly maintained, including re-painting when necessary.
How to "Operate" German Belts
From time to time, this little detail causes some serious confusion to those who have not previously seen this type of belt. Here is the clearest illustration we can offer.
Notes on blackening leather:
In 1915 order came down that all leather was too be blackened. This was expected to be done by the soldiers themselves and was not part of the production process. Therefore, depending on availability of materials to do the blackening, this was not always done. There has been an ongoing debate since WWI reenacting began on how universal blackening was - and the debate continues.
Members of IR63 over the years have included many serious and casual collectors, and the sheer number of items dated 1916-1918 that we have observed that have never received blackening indicates to us that non-blackened leather was not a rare ocurrance (or blackening was definitely not universal). Therefore, IR63 is not going mandate that all leather be blackened (although blackened is the preferred condition.) See the "How-to" page for a non-dye method of blackening.
Now, deciding not to blacken leather DOES NOT mean you should show up at an event with pristine undyed leather. One limiting factor for blackening is oil - if you tried to blacken/dye heavily oiled leather the color would not take, and worse, it would rub off on everything around it - including your uniform and hands. Germans were fastidious on leather care as leather was a limited quantity and preservation of what they had was more important than its color. So, if you don't dye - OIL.
Over oiling is not good, but a good coat of oil applied periodically will naturally darken leather over time. So, how much is too much? Hard to quantify, but the is an article on leather care Leather Preservation that should help.