Rich Iott, a Republican and Tea Party candidate for Congress in Ohio, has run into trouble after a photo of him dressed as an SS soldier found its way to the press.

Mr Iott has defended his actions, saying that he is a regular re-enactor who dresses up as soldiers from many different conflicts in history. The photo raises the question, is it ever acceptable or excusable to wear an SS uniform?

Some of the criticism of Mr Iott seems to come from people who have very little knowledge of the re-enacting hobby and are using this as a very helpful stick with which to beat Mr Iott.

By coincidence I attended a re-enactment myself this weekend. It being October it was the annual re-enactment of the Battle of Hastings in which the Norman invaders defeated (again) the Saxon army of Harold Godwinson.

The event has become something of a family day out and now even has Norman and Saxon flags on sale for people to wave depending on who they are supporting. There is no suggestion that any of the re-enactors (many of whom double up as Vikings) would dearly love to go around burning villages and putting their inhabitants to the sword.

The people who take part in re-enactments are, by-and-large, lovers of history and more often than not adults who have not grown out of playing cowboys and Indians as children. They are harmless and good-humoured for the most part.

Looking at the other photos of Mr Iott, in which he is dressed as an American soldier from the First and Second World Wars and as a Union soldier from the American Civil War, one could conclude he is such a person.

However there is another side to the re-enactment hobby which does leave some who attend such events as spectators (such as myself) just a little uneasy and should have given Mr Iott pause for thought.

It is the SS.

Mr Iott has been accused of taking part in "Nazi re-enactments". This is highly unlikely. In my many years attending re-enactments for everything from Roman drills to the Vietnam War I have yet to see or even hear of a "Nazi re-enactment".

However there are plenty of World War II re-enactments, with battles between the Germans and the British and Americans, and even on occasion, between the Russians and the Germans.

As Mr Iott points out and as every schoolboy knows, someone has to be the Germans. This is certainly true and World War II re-enactments would be dull without them, but, no one has to be the SS.

There are groups which play the part of regular German Wehrmacht forces and in doing so educate people about the lives, equipment and tactics of the average German soldier.

However there are also groups who cause unease, not just because they portray the SS, but because there is a feeling that they are sometimes enjoying it a little too much. Such a feeling is only enhanced when the re-enactors start marching around singing the Horst Wessel song and dress their children as Hitler Youth as part of the re-enactment. Wiking, which Mr Iott was a member of, sounds like it could be such a group.

Mr Iott denies that he has any sympathy for Nazism and indeed it is likely to be the case. But as someone who professes a deep interest in military history he should know that wearing an SS uniform is not the same as dressing as a Viking, or a Confederate soldier or even as a regular German soldier.

The SS were not just a group of soldiers fighting for their country, they were also a political expression of Nazi ideology. That is why no matter how attractive the uniform (they were made by Hugo Boss after all) anyone should think long and hard about whether the put it on. In most cases it's probably better not to go there.