What Are Scrims? Not a Shemagh

A sniper wears a scrim veil for camouflage.
January 20, 2023  
Categories: Assorted Ramblings

One of the most overlooked yet historically useful pieces of gear is the Scrim Scarf. It has many names such as the ‘scrim net’ or the ‘sniper veil’. Its primary use is as a form of camouflage that’s seriously versatile. The word ‘scrim’ means coarse fabric and is largely used in upholstery, books, and curtains, which is why it is the scarf’s namesake. Between being cheap and easy to find (a common source is burlap sacks), they are also easily repurposed for other uses for the military or any civilian.

Scrim Scarf

World War II British camo scrim scarf. (eBay via sofmilitary)

Scrim Scarf [skrim skahrf] noun

A large military scarf, usually camouflage coloured and used for concealment when not used as a scarf.

Scrim Scarves have a history of being used in the British military but have become a staple in concealment worldwide. 

From the book Maverick One: The True Story of a Para, Pathfinder, Renegade, by David Blakeley:

Corporal ‘Johno’ Johnson ran the third section. He was a Kent lad and was a calmer, more mellow kind of bloke. Like Sandy, he had a shaven head, but he complemented it with a long, droopy moustache. Johno wore the same kind of kit the PARAs had done at Arnhem, give or take a smattering of Gore-Tex: a PARA smock, with a scrim scarf (a knitted camouflage scarf) knotted around his neck. In short, he was your archetypical PARA. 

Their high availability, affordability, and lightness aid in the effectiveness of scrims. They come in several colors and patterns to fit multiple environments. The net style of scrims also makes it easy to fit various pieces of brush, sticks, and additional fabric to make it more effective in blending in.

John Lennon wearing helmet scrim.

John Lennon on the set of How I Won The War, 1966, wearing a helmet scrim. (Photo credit via Beetlesbible.com)

 One of the earliest times that scrim can be seen in history is with the Scottish. According to firearmstalk.com

 As far back as the 1800s, Scottish gamekeepers in an effort to catch poachers used scrim fabrics, salvaged from potato sacks, to make effective camouflage. These poacher-catchers were referred to as Ghille, a Gaelic term for ‘lads’, and their rifles and personal camouflage soon became known as Ghillie suits.


What is the scrim net scarf for?

Scrim net scarves’ primary use is for camouflage or to help build camouflage. It provides a flexible base that can offset what is behind it. The net design allows pieces of nature to attach easily for added effect. Scrim scarves offer the perfect solution to anyone looking for an affordable, effective camouflage for many uses.

A sniper wears a scrim veil for camouflage.

Hunter is sporting a full-body scrim draped over his side. (Instagram via @gearupshop_eu)

What is a “military scrim”?

Military scrim is when members utilize scrim on their gear and bodies to help camouflage themselves in different environments. Scrim furnishes an effective choice for soldiers since it is so lightweight and inexpensive.

A man wears head scrim for sun protection.

Sergeant Harold Marshall, a Canadian sniper that served in World War II, wearing scrim on his head. (Photo taken by Ken Bell in Belgium in September 1944)

What is a helmet scrim?

A helmet scrim is a scrim scarf wrapped around a helmet occasionally filled with sticks, brush, or more fabric. It offsets the helmet’s shape and helps it blend into the natural surroundings. It also makes kneeling in brush much easier, so the unnatural shape of a helmet doesn’t shine through.

Helmet scrim is shown up close.

An Example of a helmet scrim used for airborne troops in 1944. Twitter via @ArmyFlyingMuseum.

Helmet scrim was popular during the world wars for airborne troops. For example, on Page 39: British Paratroopers 1940-45…

Two men of the 2nd Parachute Battalion armed with a Bren gun take cover behind rocks at Medjez el Bab in North Africa. Scrim and hessian were used to break up the shape of the helmet for camouflage purposes, and would later become a status symbol amongst Airborne Forces.

What is a rifle scrim wrap?

A rifle scrim wrap is typically multiple small strips of scrim tied to the rifle with paracord or rubber bands. The scrim covers the rifle’s shape while leaving moving parts untouched, making the inorganic rifle blend in with its surroundings outside.

What is a scrim sniper veil?

Scrim sniper veils are scrim scarves that shield the face and weapon from the seeking eyes of an enemy. However, the fact that it is netted makes it easy for the wearer to see what they are doing. This camouflage is essentially a one-way mirror because the user can see out of it while the viewer struggles to see in. This style of scrim aids snipers, hunters, and recreational shooting sports such as airsoft and paintball.

What is the difference between a scrim scarf and a shemagh?

Shemaghs (schmogs) and Scrims have several differences. The main difference is in the base material. A shemagh is woven, while a scrim is netted. Scrims are also more often made from old netting and vary in size and shape. Shemaghs are large heavy-duty handkerchiefs most commonly used as a head wrap. While both can be used for concealment, shemaghs are used for dust and sun protection and have many purposes in other areas useful for the outdoors; scrims are mainly for camouflage in comparison.

Military member shown with helmet scrim in a shooting position.

In the summer of 2008, a B Company 2 PARA sniper patrols out of FOB Inkerman. (Instagram via @timoor198)

Grace Ainsworth

Grace Ainsworth

About the Author

Grace is a freelancer of many talents: writer, artist, designer, and photographer. Maybe also smart-aleck and gunslinger, we're not entirely sure. We'll know better after she's been with us a while!


  1. Charles Cochrane

    Great article. I knew about the old Scots Game Keepers and Ghillie Suits, and appreciate your tying that into this brief history.
    Camouflage has certainly come a long way from the old days.
    Pick an environment, and there’s usually a pattern nearly tailor made for the terrain.

  2. Chuck

    Interesting article. I had never heard camouflage netting called “scrim.” Learned something with this article.


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