I have had a few questions every now and then regarding the “Manchu Hair” that can be seen in some of the images I post. It is about time I explain something about it and how I made it.
The reason I made it in the first place was my Operation Just Cause Ranger impression. There are photos of the 2nd Battalion using these during the operation, but they were not limited to just them. Several units can be seen with them as well. According to my research, these were not just camouflage items but were also used for IFF during darkness hours. Since the Panamanian Defense Force was also using M16s and Woodland camouflage, the US units adopted the Manchu hair as their choice of IFF, in addition to the large US flags that can be seen in their arms of some soldiers during the invasion.
While these covers were made just prior to the operation, they were used to some small extent after the operation as well by some units. It does break the familiar human head and shoulder shape and provided a small amount of extra camouflage for the user. In addition to that, it also looks pretty damn cool in my opinion, which is always the main thing.
To make these, you will need an old M81 woodland BDU, which you feel comfortable cutting into strips. I had a broken one laying around, so I went with that. I cut the strips to the length of 30cm a piece. If they got in the way afterwards, I just tuned them to my preference. The strips are attached to a camo netting, from which I removed the “camo” and left the netting. You do not have to remove the camo parts at all if you do not want to. To ensure the netting you are using is the correct size, lay the netting over the helmet and cut around the edges. Better too big than too small as you can adjust it later.
The strips of woodland fabric are then attached to the netting with gutted 550 cord. Just take a length of 550 and pull the insides out. Do not dispose of the outer 550 just yet which is left over, as you will need that later. I took about 2 meters and it was sufficient. You can get more later if needed.
Once you feel you have enough strips of fabric ready, we can start with the actual fun part. To make it easier and to see the results, I attached the netting to the helmet before I began adding the fabric to it. Again, lay the netting on the helmet. I used my helmet band for this by placing the netting under it to keep it in place. Once you have done that, turn the helmet over. Take the 550 cord from which you ripped the insides out of and attach the netting to the inside of the helmet with it. I have 6 attachment points, but you can make more if you want it more secure. I have found that 6 is quite enough for my use and the cover keeps in place very well. I attach the paracord to the webbing suspension assembly, which is the very inner part of the helmet. It is attached with screws. so for me, this is the obvious location to attach the cover.
Once you have attached the netting, turn the helmet over and see how it looks. If there are some “bald places” add more fabric to it. Mine is quite bare at places and I need to add more fabric to it. You can also use strips from a camo scrim net in addition to the woodland fabric, if you are not doing an actual Panama impression. It works wonders as well when combined with woodland fabric.
Making one of these is easy but it can be a bit time consuming. The best part is that you can take some pride in the fact that you have made it yourself. Every single one of these will be different from each other, so in that sense they are unique. Hope this helps you out in making one of your own.
Youtube video also available below!