Trying to pinpoint the exact moment that camouflage and military-style, in general, became part of everyday fashion is a difficult task. The more you unpack, the digger you deep, the further you go, the more complicated it becomes.
Military gear has always had an appeal to civilians. It is rough, raw, and built to last. The iconic military jackets to the classic military rucksack provided innovative ideas and fashion products we see today. So what is it about camo that is so tirelessly popular in the fashion world? Let's explore its history!
Camo from War
When the Vietnam War dominated politics in America, media and mainstream culture of these events did as well. It inspired countless protest and anti-war initiatives and became a pivotal battlefront to the counterculture movement. Wars at home had been fought during Vietnam between traditional conservative values and progressive idealism of the free love and civil rights movement. The Vietnam War's bleak cocktail of rainforests, tiger green camo, cigarettes and opium solidified militarism as a core element in American Identity - it was becoming cool.
As a result, this military culture became woven into the fabric of American society like never before, powered by a strong media presence for all to see. By the 1980s, military-style and aesthetic was part of everyday life. The rise of hip-hop in the early 90's become a movement of fashion that was displayed as dressing sharp on a budget, and military surplus stores thrived because of it. Hip-hop's rise was coupled with the boom in streetwear, characterized by graphic tees, baggy pants, and various designs.
Overseas Influence of Camo
Meanwhile, in Asia, thanks to World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War and several others, American military culture had already been firmly present in the continent for over 50 years. So when designers over in Japan like Jun Takahashi of Undercover, Shinsuke Takizawa of Neighborhood and A Bathing Ape founder NIGO started their brands, each an exploration of 20th century American culture in its own way, camo necessarily appeared.
Most iconically, Bape’s rich rap influences led to the creation of the brand’s now iconic ABC camo, translating the paint-splodge pattern of Vietnamese duck-hunter camo into a bombastic, pop-art pattern that would be worn by virtually every iconic rapper of the past 30 years, including Clipse, Kanye West, Pharrell Williams and The Notorious B.I.G. Since than, camo has been seen in almost infinite forms in fashion.
The most fascinating aspect of the use of camouflage in fashion is the fact it is a means of standing out. Unlike what it was intended for, it is not easy to ignore when you see it on sneakers and hats (like our dad hats) in public today. By wearing camouflage, you can set yourself apart from the sea of pinstripe suits, black woolen overcoats and stonewashed denim that forms the backdrop of contemporary urban life.