How Military ‘Stole’ Civilian Attire

Published on 9th October 2007

Just like politics, fashion is a game of numbers. A style and the number of people who want to go for it determines whether or not a fad will graduate into a fashion. A fad is a short-lived trend that is not as widespread as fashion.

The adorning of military camouflage by civilians is a widespread practice. The practice began as a fad among the French civilians who admired the colours on their national military trucks. The French military was the first to use military camouflage on their trucks (not on their clothes). During the 1914 German invasion, the trucks came into public view for the first time.  After observing the camouflage patterns, fashion designers in Paris turned the abstract patterns into designs for women’s clothing. Ironically, military camouflage was used on civilian clothing long before it was relegated to the armed forces!

Ideally, civilians ought to have more ‘control’ when it comes to camouflage outfits. In some nations however, adorning military-camouflage by civilians is outlawed. Nevertheless, civilians have not relented in their quest to use them as inspirations to create styles that are rocking the fashion industry. It is no longer a French domain. It has been translated in every language world wide. Everyone knows it, everybody understands it.  Dressing in this ‘military outfit’ is associated with power.

To be on the safe side of the law, most designers have developed variations of the camouflage outfits. The outfits are designed with both the consumer and the ‘law’ in mind. Generally, adoption of the outfit is already a success attributed to creativity and courage to explore by designers. Within the camouflage family, creative design ideas can produce a distinctive mode of dressing that is unique and contagious. A plain dessert-storm casual shirt with camouflage collars, pocket flaps, shoulder yoke or sleeve cuffs will accentuate your ‘military’ look without necessarily putting you on the flipside of the law (depending on your national laws). Use of other colour schemes (apart from the characteristic jungle green) is also another option of going round the ‘barrier.’ Designers have creatively used red, yellow, purple, orange, and sea blue themes to achieve stunning designs. They do not resemble military colours, but they carry a similar illusion.  

Having served as a successful tool for concealing identity and distorting shapes, the military earned credit as having used a simple but crucial weapon to avoid easy spotting by the opponents. They therefore went ahead to develop camouflaged clothes to complement their already camouflaged trucks. This with time was adopted by other nations as  a winning formula in battle grounds.

The future of the ‘military identity’ seems to be riding on a bumpy road, with the emergence of digital camouflage; where patterns are devised by utilizing small micro-patterns (pixels), as opposed to larger macro-patterns for effective disruption. The military is able to produce and patent camouflage patterns with characteristics that cannot be counterfeited by other fabric manufacturers.

For the civilians, creativity has it all and fashion is no respecter of limits. The military might just be in for another round of challenging counter-reactions from the fashion industry.   


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