Camouflage is the use of any combination of materials, colouration, or illumination for concealment, either by making objects hard to see (crypsis) or by disguising them as something else (mimesis). A third approach, motion dazzle, confuses the observer with a striking pattern, making the object visible but briefly harder to locate.
Military camouflage developed rapidly after the First World War and artists were commissioned to create designs. Technically known as disruptive pattern material (DPM), different national military forces have their own patterns and colours.
The close relationship between camouflage and the military has meant it has strong associations with masculinity. In western fashion, it has become one of the ways that men can wear striking colour and pattern without threatening traditional constructions of male identity.
HAND PAINTED CANVAS JACKET
The first examples of camouflage were devised and hand-painted by artists including painter Lucien-Victor Guirand de Scévola, who led the French army's camouflage unit in the First World War. This modern-day jacket was hand painted, and hand printed, creating a complex and multi-layered pattern to confuse and dazzle the eye.
Archive no. 2016.213
VELVET TASSELLED JACKET
One of Britain’s most successful retailers of the 1960s, Irvine Sellars took the Carnaby Street style of the period and sold it to a mass market. This tailored jacket is constructed in a heavy figured velvet furnishing fabric and was likely to make the wearer disappear in a similarly patterned domestic setting.
Mixed synthetic fibres
Archive no. 2018.168
LEOPARD PRINT JACKET, T-SHIRT AND JEANS
Junior Gaultier was one of the first and most successful designer diffusion collections of the 1980s making the work of Jean-Paul Gaultier accessible to a much wider global audience. This denim jacket features a leopard print design derived from the natural world camouflage pattern which enables big cat predators to merge with their habitat.
Archive no. 2016.281
BODY ARMOUR VEST
Known for his eclectic mix of inspirations, Wilhelm’s Autumn Winter 2004 collection featured references to American football players, riots and urban camouflage. This vest is a replica of a military armoured garment which has been printed with a subdued external brick pattern and a more vibrant and garish brick design inside.
Archive no. 2016.230
RASO GOMMATO CAMOUFLAGE JACKET
Disruptive colouration camouflage, as seen in this jacket, works by using strongly contrasting pattern and colours to conceal an object’s details or edges. The finished garment has been over-dyed to blend and enrich the colour. Since its early collections, Stone Island has consistently used camouflage within their designs.
Cotton, polyamide and polyurethane
Archive no. 2016.089
NWU TYPE 1 WORKING UNIFORM
Bethel Industries Inc
Introduced by the United States Navy in 2008, the NWU Type1 uniform was widely criticised by military personnel who argued it was only suitable for camouflaging a sailor who fell overboard. In 2016 the NWU Type 1 was eliminated in favour of the Type III at a net cost of around US$180 million.
Archive no. 2016.006
Adam Marc James
Based on a vintage 1980s K-Way Cagoule, this smock formed part of James’ graduation collection at the University of Westminster. It is constructed from reflective camouflage cotton that has a gold and bronze pattern hand-drawn onto it evoking early twentieth -century hand-painted military camouflage uniforms.
Archive no. 2016.320
Designed for hunting and fishing, this civilian camouflage suit from Russia features an oversized folkloric print of leaves and foliage, reminiscent of a furnishing fabric from Liberty. It can be seen as a mutant variation of the Russian Armed Forces Dubok, or little oak, camouflage pattern which was first used in 1991.
Archive no. 2016.124.1
SNOW CAMOUFLAGE GHILLIE SUIT
This winter ghillie suit consists of four parts allowing the wearer to cover their body, head and weapon. Constructed from a lightweight mesh fabric to allow for ventilation, it is covered with long white and grey fibres disrupting the silhouette of the wearer. Ghillie is a reference to the Ghillie Dhu in Scottish mythology, a male fairy who is clothed in leaves and moss.
Archive No. 2016.024.1
NEON CAMO PUFFA JACKET
Adidas ObyO X Jeremy Scott
While seemingly random, most camouflage patterns are copyright protected, and designers need to be careful about how they use them. This outfit uses a camouflage that is reminiscent, but knowingly different, to Andy Warhol’s 1987 camouflage paintings. The jogging bottoms have a strap to join the legs together in a similar manner to the bondage trousers first designed by Vivienne Westwood and Malcolm Mclaren in the 1970s.
Polyester, cotton, elastane, leather, synthetic
Archive no. 2016.174