A Buyer’s Guide
There are no two ways about it, nothing says that you’re a tacticool guy like wearing Crye Precision’s combat cut uniform in the classic US Woodland Camouflage Pattern. The pattern itself was adopted in 1981, hence the colloquial term ‘M81’, though M81 is not an official DoD designation and never has been. Garand Thumb probably owes some portion of his early rise in following to the wearing of Chinese clones of G3 combats in woodland camouflage and Travis Haley has been seen on the range and playing airsoft many times in Woodland G3s, which I would expect to also be clones since the display mannequins at the HSP showroom have been pictured sporting Chinese made replicas. There is of course also no shortage of airsoft players and people who enjoy tactical-type cosplay on Instagram who cottoned on to the popularity of these uniforms which also helped to create a snowball effect in their popularity as an aesthetic.
Crye Precision’s combat uniforms have long represented what is arguably the most advanced design in their arena, so it is understandable to see the clamour for that design to be combined with one of the most prolific camouflage patterns in existence. It would also be arguable US Woodland is the most iconic camouflage of all time given the amount of usage it has seen across the globe and the amount of screen time it has seen in Games, Films and on TV.
The primary intention of this article is not to dissect which military units purchased or made use of the different types of apparel discussed within. The goal is simply to provide a resource for potential buyers in order to aid them in making informed decisions, as well as being a piece for general interest to those who enjoy the aesthetics of such items of militaria.
On a personal note related to the above, I have received quite a few messages from people around the world querying either the authenticity or pricing of these uniforms when they have found them up for sale. Given that there are multiple variants which have been manufactured by Crye that all look very, very similar in the badly lit phone camera pictures that get posted to Facebook sales groups (usually upside-down or sideways) I can fully understand how and why the confusion abounds.
Standard NY/CO AC
While some very early Crye prototypes were created in US Desert Camouflage Pattern (prior to any commercial sales), I am yet to see any images of the Gen 1 apparel in the Woodland pattern, so it would be fairly safe to assume the first variant of production combat uniform from Crye in the Woodland pattern is the Gen 2/Army Custom type, likely manufactured some time around the mid-2000s.
Aside from the actual camouflage NYCO, all of the other materials such as the trouser’s stretch panels and the shirt’s loop fields, torso fabric and zip are of the exact same style and colouring as those found on the Ranger Green AC uniforms.
The labels on these sets are the same as those found on any commercial Army Custom items. The cut and feature set found on both the shirts and trousers are also exactly the same as those found on standard AC items. None of the extra buttons, lanyard loops or closed elbow pad pockets seen on the NC and UKSF sets are featured.
Given that the ACs are the least common of all the variants discussed in this particular article I have dug up this image depicting a member of US SOF wearing a set of Woodland Camo Crye combat uniform. This is the one and only image of this set in military usage I could find. The X stitching running through the lower portion of the loop field on the sleeve of the shirt is a dead giveaway to it being an Army Custom/Gen 2 item, rather than one of the more common Drifire shirts made in flame resistant Woodland fabric.
I have been unable to locate even so much as a picture of a replica of the AC/Gen 2 combat shirt in Woodland. Semapo Gear do list replicas of the trousers, but fortunately it will be easy to tell those from the real thing if you are looking to make a purchase since Semapo labels do not attempt to exactly copy Crye’s. They follow the overall style of CP Gen 2 labels, but the replication stops at the level of the general aesthetic and does not extend to the text.
2020 Update: I have since found Semapo replicas of a Gen 2 combat shirt in Woodland for sale on eBay, however it was an NC cut with enclosed elbow pad pockets and button closures on the upper arm pockets.
“CUSTOM” Label FR G3
While the ACs may have come first, it is these G3 sets in a flame resistant fabric that were the originators of the viral popularity of Crye combat cut apparel in Woodland pattern. The ACs hardly appear in any pictures and never really received much in the way of exposure (and were most likely made in extremely limited quantities), but SOF elements of the US Marine Corps have appeared in quite a few photos wearing the uniforms shown below and the whole aesthetic really caught on once those pictures emerged and were circulated online.
As far as I have been able to gather these G3s are manufactured primarily out of Tencate’s Defender-M flame resistant fabric, which would make sense given the USMC’s extensive usage of that same fabric in their commonly issued ‘FROG’ MARPAT apparel. The problem with Defender-M (or at the very least the Woodland Camouflage version of it) is that it does not stand up well to vigorous usage. It fades extremely quickly and it tears and abrades very easily in field conditions, so you will find very few examples of these specific Crye uniforms in immaculate condition today. The ones you do find that appear to be in good condition will most likely not have seen any use and since these were produced in relatively small batches some years ago, the surviving examples that never did see any use are few and far between.
There was a period some time ago when these variants were the only legitimate Crye uniforms in this pattern floating around on the 2nd hand sales market and almost all examples were in extremely bad condition yet could still easily fetch well in excess of $1000 US or more per set. I witnessed multiple occasions of the pants alone selling for $800 or more at auction, even with rips, holes and substantial fading throughout.
The labelling on these versions is interestingly the same as that seen on the Multicam Gen 2 sets generally referred to as UKSF Custom, along with some other uniform variants manufactured in comparatively small batches for specialist military units. Specific labels for Gen 2 uniforms with accurate material information were generally only produced for items which were manufactured in quite significant quantities for US government customers or commercial sale. It is also unusual to see these characteristically Gen 2 labels sewn in to Gen 3 uniforms, but it was done for a few military contract production runs in the early years of G3 production.
Crye-Drifire FR G3
Easily the most prevalent of all the uniform types covered in this article is the Crye-Drifire collaboration. These happen to be the only variants that can be easily purchased by anybody at all, presuming that person has an internet connection and good amount of money to spare.
As mentioned previously, the early Woodland G3s made using Tencate’s Defender-M had issues with fading as well as being easily torn and generally worn beyond usefulness. Drifire’s proprietary Foretrex fabric that is used for these variations seems to have a better reputation for performance in those particular regards. These uniforms are cut and sewn by Crye Precision using the Foretrex fabric provided by Drifire. The overall construction quality shows through and is exactly what one would expect from the apparel Crye sell themselves.
The proprietary red and black cardboard tags are distinct to this variant and the printed labels are also somewhat unique, featuring the Drifire phoenix imagery as well as the black (in place of orange) rectangular backgrounds to the nomenclature.
The labels may vary slightly in terms of location of sizing information as shown below, but there are no fakes of this variant of the uniform.
Due to the extreme popularity and high demand for G3 combat cut Woodlands, in combination with the fact that these Drifire variants are the only ones which are available commercially, Tactical Distributors have even gone to the trouble of buying in stock of the pants for their online store.
I have not personally seen any other US retailer carrying legitimate Crye uniforms in US Woodland Camouflage Pattern. Even with that high retail price Tac Distributors have sold out of multiple batches of the popular sizes, which just goes to show the level of demand that exists in the marketplace. For those in Europe or otherwise outside of the US who are feeling flush, you can purchase these uniforms via AG-Tactical who also retail the combat shirts, the field variants and full sets in both Temperate and Arid MARPAT.
This image posted by Soldier Systems depicts members of MARSOC wearing the Drifire collaboration G3 combat sets while taking part in a sniper training course.
Standard NY/CO G3
Essentially what we see here is a standard commercial G3 Combat set, except that the main body of NYCO fabric is comprised of the Woodland Camouflage Pattern. The Tweave stretch panels are of the same colour and type as those found on commercial equivalents in Ranger Green, though the thread is a medium brown colour I have not seen on any other variation of the G3 uniform.
What little speculative information and imagery I have come across with regards to these types of the Crye Combat uniform indicates that a few sets may have been made for US Army SF and there are a few pictures floating around to potentially support that. However given that there are two other Gen 3 uniform variants out there in this camo pattern it is difficult to say for certain. Without seeing the labels one would require an incredibly high resolution image to ascertain the fabric is NYCO rather than a flame resistant type and even then it would be hard to make a definitive call either way.
At least one batch of these combat shirts and pants has been manufactured (via GSS Gear) at the request of private individuals who have paid enough to meet Crye’s minimum order quantities for a custom production run. One such individual kindly provided me with the following image of a batch of Woodland Combat cut G3s freshly delivered from Crye.
Now the unfortunate issue when it comes to making a purchase and identifying these variants via their labels is that there have been multiple batches manufactured over the past few years for both military contracts and private buyers as mentioned previously. Crye have changed the template for their labels at least twice during that same period. Changes to the labelling format can be perceived by some as signs of a fake which has the potential to add another layer of complexity to identifying a worthwhile or legitimate item to purchase.
The above example of a label in these NYCO uniforms is the most recent layout as of the time of writing, whereby the sizing information is placed at the very bottom. However, you will find earlier examples that feature the sizing (e.g. ’34 R’) placed inbetween the orange bar and the first line of small, white text starting ‘P/N’. There will also be a white square outline around all of the information.
Additionally there is an interim version, which is the same as the label shown above other than the lack of the white square and with changes to the patent information. The last line of text featuring said patent information varies between shirts and pants and some earlier versions mention specific patents, whereas newer production simply directs the reader to a website. Some examples of the aforementioned label types found on Crye garments in other colourways are depicted here:
All three label formats can be legitimate for the NYCO G3s and the key signs to look for when identifying a fake product are detailed in the next section of this article.
For an example of what is (most likely) these specific variants in use by military personnel, here is an image that was posted to the Crye Official Instagram page, where the front man in the stack who is operating the cutter can be seen wearing a Woodland Camouflage G3 combat set. Presumably these are USMC SOF members given the use of woodland pattern and the visible M45A1 pistol that is holstered by the individual wearing the Crye set.
2020 Update: Since the initial posting of this article a lot more of these NYCO G3s have been sold and retailed through legitimate channels and are now (comparatively speaking) much more common on the marketplace. A couple of gear reselling accounts on Instagram have been retailing these and O.P. Tactical have brought in a fair few sets in various sizes on a couple of occasions now, with broadcasted intentions to stock more whenever they can.
The Convincing Fakes (NYCO G3 Clones)
As discussed earlier on, there are numerous other copies and knock-offs of the G3 combats on the market in the Woodland pattern, created in response to the very high level of demand. Most of them do not attempt to exactly replicate the Crye labels and will explicitly state the true name of the manufacturer i.e. Semapo, TMC, Emerson, FFI (Flash Force Industries) etc. That said there are unfortunately some replicas of the NYCO G3s floating around which do attempt to precisely copy the Crye labels in both wording, physical appearance and nature of application.
There was a period when one specific manufacturer in east Asia (allegedly South Korea) was making and selling these very legitimate looking fakes and passing them off as the real thing, which unfortunately means there are a small number of people out there who will be under the impression that their copies are in fact real. On a positive note, that number of people is legitimately quite tiny and the knowledge of these clones has been disseminated fairly widely amongst the community who collect these uniforms.
It is extremely unlikely you will run in to a seller trying to pass off these variants as real, but then again given how real they do look it is worth paying close attention to the details with any potential purchase. As this eBay listing shows, these people are out there and whether they are simply ignorant of what they have or maliciously trying to pass off a copy as the real thing in order to turn a profit the end result is the same if you fail to be appropriately sceptical and diligent.
The image below depicts a legitimate Crye shirt and its’ associated label at the top, with examples of the labels inside the fake shirt and pants at the bottom. The key thing to look for here as far as the shirts go is in the last line of text, where ‘OTHERPATENTS’ is missing a space. On the trousers the Part Number (P/N:) should read ‘APR-CPE’ (apparel-combat pant) but on the fake trousers it reads ‘APR-CSE’ (apparel-combat shirt), I have added the bold letters myself for the sake of emphasis. These two errors in text are by far the best and most definitive methods for proper identification of the fake uniforms as there is no nuance or room for interpretation.
The next best thing to look for is the shape of the letter P within the circular CP logo in the top left of the label, as it is incorrect on both shirts and trousers. The space inside the letter is larger than on the real thing and while it may not jump out at first, it should be an easy spot once you know it’s there.
Other indicators include the orange bar being overly bright in colour and the text within it (G3 Combat Pant/Shirt) being subtly smaller than that found on an original Crye uniform. Again, hard to notice if you are unfamiliar with the nuances of these fakes, but if you look closely and compare the fake label to either an original label in your possession or one of the images of an original label contained within this article, you will be able to see a difference.
Also pay close attention to the branded black edging tape that is placed at a 45 degree angle on the left pocket flaps of the shirts and left main cargo pockets on the trousers. If the CP logo and Crye Precision text is not sharply defined and evenly printed then the item is most likely fake as this knock-off CP branding tape is produced in large quantities in China.
This is one of the more nuanced aspects to the identification issue; but do examine the colouration of the woodland pattern. If you are familiar with US issue Woodland NYCO BDUs you should be able to perceive the colouration difference in the fakes. Pay particular attention to the edges on a used item, since the fabric will turn white on corners and edges far more quickly than the rest of the garment in a way that is not consistent with original material.
I have not seen any examples of the replica uniforms using the labels that do not feature the square white outline, so if the white outline is not present that is a good indicator you are looking at the real thing. Lastly, if the sizing information is right at the bottom versus directly beneath the orange bar, then again you are most likely looking at a genuine item.
Only some of the imagery used here is my own as I personally do not own every variant of the uniform or any of the replicas, but I have put this guide together and will continue to host it at my own expense in the hope that it is useful. I am also hopeful that the creators of the images I have used that are not my own will be on board with this goal.
If, having read this guide, you have questions, comments or further information you would like to add, then please follow the social media links in the top right corner of the home page and get in touch with me via Facebook or Instagram.