How Camouflage Evolved | Task & Purpose

Camouflage can be as useful to a soldier as a weapon. As prevalent and necessary as it is in today’s warfare, tought, it hasn’t always been seen as such. Relatively speaking, camouflage is considered a new development in military history standards, only becoming commonplace in the last century or so. Chris Cappy, of Task & Purpose, takes us through how camouflage has evolved in one of his recent videos.

Camo Evolution with Chris Cappy
Chris Cappy, from Task & Purpose, has some interesting insights about the evolution of camouflages. It is actually relatively new, only being adopted within the last century or so.

Camouflage, according to Cappy, is nothing more than a Jedi eye trick. The patterns are scientifically and artistically designed to deceive your eye and when the military designs are done correctly, it will make the least stealthy of individuals essentially disappear. A lot of us take this art form for granted.

Considering that the British soldiers wore bright red up until 1885, camouflage really is a relatively new ideal. It wasn’t fully adopted until around World War I. So, what were the earliest forms of camoflauge? How did the understanding and use of camouflage develop? How did camo evolve into what it is now? And, how is camo going to evolve in the future? Cappy covers all of this in the video.

Earliest Forms of Camouflage

Back in 1890, the book called The Color Of Animals, was deeply researched and helped develop the understanding of how camouflage was to be used. Originally, it wasn’t called camouflage, but it was referred to instead as protective coloration. While we take camo for granted, it was meant to protect animals and soldiers by mimicking colors and patterns found in their surroundings and was instrumental to survival.

Camouflage evolution Brits in red
There were a lot of pushbacks from militaries to adopt the use of camouflage. The thought from the British and French was that soldiers were too brave to want to hide from the battle. Besides, prior to WWI, most military battles were fought closer than 100 meters apart.

Military tactics being what they were in the 1800s, there was no need to blend in as most battles were fought hand to hand with less than 100 meters between sides resulting in different sides wearing bright colors to signify their units. What was found in nature was what was referred to as oppositism, or warning colors. Sir Edward Poulto said, “when an animal possesses an unpleasant attribute, it is often to its advantage to advertise the fact as publicly as possible…which serves as the signal of danger or inedibility are known as warning colours”.

Understanding and Use

But camouflage was discussed before that, in fact, in the early 1800s, Col. Hamilton Smith did an experiment with colored targets. He set up targets in red, grey, and green behind shrubs and trees and had his best marksmen shoot at them. What he found was that the red targets were shot at the most, followed by the green and they shot at the grey the least.

With that data from his test, he went to his commanders and implored them to change the color of the uniforms, which they scoffed at initially, but finally changed. They went to a solid Military Khaki color in 1848, with the word khaki meaning soil colored.

Evolution of Camouflage

Fast forward to early in World War I, when generals were still skeptical of camo saying that soldiers were too brave to want to hide from a fight. Henry Bereaux, the French Minister of War, championed camo in 1911, but the French wouldn’t go away from their red pants. But in 1914, they got a horrible wake-up call with the Battle of the Frontiers. After that, the French actually became big proponents of using camo. The word camouflage comes from the French word “camoufler”, which means to veil or disguise.

French adopt camo for structures
The French were some of the first to start using camo regularly, with camouflage coming from the French word “camoufler” which means to veil or disguise. The French employed artists during WWI to hide tanks, observation hides, and the like.

After that battle, the first documented use was by a French artist painting camo on tanks. From there, the French employed artists to disguise tanks, transports, and decoy observation spots, like trees.

The first use of camo with soldiers was by the Italians in 1929 but was only meant to be used on troop tents to hide them from observation overhead. Next, they started to use it on solider uniforms, which Cappy says was a huge step in the right direction.  The use of camo was widespread through WWII by the Italians and then the Germans and Russians.

With the use of camo in WWII, the Germans, Soviet forces, and the US military all developed their own patterns. The original Italian pattern of camo was finally retired in the early 1990s and is the longest-lasting camo pattern in military history. To some, it is a work of art.

The main use of camo is to conceal, but it also helps to identify people as friends or as foes. The British forces found this out when in the 1980s they sold desert camo to Iraqi forces, only to face them in the Persian Gulf in the 1990s. This forced the Brits to adopt a new pattern so they could be discerned from the Iraqi forces.

Jag Hide camouflage
The future of camo is very interesting. The next generation, Jag Hide, technologies works to hide the solider from more than just the eye. Seen here in action, the Jag Hide camo hides the soldier from military technologies.

The digital pattern, or UCP, was good to set people apart and because of its newness, it was hard to come by in second-hand or surplus stores, all thanks to the Canadians who developed it. When digital is done right, it is extremely effective. Due to the Clothe the Soldier Program in Canada, digital was adopted by the US Marines, and subsequently by the US Army and so on in various patterns.

The Future of Camouflage

Chris looks to the future of camo and the soldier. Jag Hide, also known as TVC, is made of metals, fiber optics, and polymer plastics that is lightweight and can be molded into shapes to further hide the solider. The future is looking towards multi-spectral concealment, helping make the individual concealable to things that go beyond the naked eye.

The future looks very interesting for camo and military applications, with Guy Cramer stating that the future will be like nature’s own chameleons. To see the future, we just need to look to nature for inspiration with the sky being the limit.

Patti Miller is one of the most awesome females in the tactical/firearm (or any) industry. Imagine a tall, hawt, dangerous Laura Ingalls Wilder type with cool hair and a suppressed blaster and you'll be getting the idea. What's interesting is that in addition to being a willing brawler and intrepid adventuress, she's also an Ent/Ogier level gardener and a truly badass baker.

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