Uniforms and insignia of the Schutzstaffel
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Uniform design and function
2nd pattern SS Totenkopf or death’s head, 1934-45
While a multitude of uniforms existed for the SS, often depending on the theatre of war where they were stationed, the all black SS uniform is the most well known. Black, traditionally a German colour, was seen as sombre and authoritative. The black-white-red color scheme was characteristic of the German Empire, and was later adopted by the Nazi Party. Further, black was popular with fascist movements: a black uniform was introduced by the blackshirts in Italy before the creation of the SS. There was a traditional reason, as well. Just as the Prussian kings’ and emperors’ life-guard cavalry (Leibhusaren) had worn black uniforms with skull-and-crossbones badges, so would the Führer‘s bodyguard unit. As with many more formal military uniforms, these SS uniforms were tailored to project authority, and foster fear and respect. As Himmler put it, “I know there are many people who fall ill when they see this black uniform; we understand that and don’t expect that we will be loved by many people.” 
Once the war began, however, the black uniform was seldom worn. The combat units of the SS-Verfügungstruppe (SS-VT) and the later Waffen-SS wore a variation of the field-grey (grey-green) (feldgrau) army (Heer) uniform with SS insignia. The majority of SS personnel wore variations of the Waffen-SS uniform or the grey-green SS service tunic. Branches with personnel that normally would wear civilian attire in the Reich (such as the Gestapo and Kripo) were issued grey-green SS uniforms in occupied territory to avoid being mistaken for civilians.
SS uniforms used a variety of insignia, the most standard of which were collar patches to denote rank and shoulder boards to denote rank and position, along with sleeve cuffbands and “sleeve diamond” patches to indicate membership in specific branches of the SS.