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A Journey Into the World of Camouflage

Statue of Boudica

You can step back in time and see legendary war heroes like Boudica depicted by artists as wearing brightly coloured, flowing gowns. Not exactly the kind of kit you’d expect a real soldier to wear – although there are also renditions of her wearing armour as she went into battle riding her horse-drawn chariot. The queen of the British Celtic Iceni tribe led an uprising against occupying Roman Empire forces in AD 60 or 61, and although reputedly something of a mean dame, she didn’t die in battle but – supposedly – from poisoning herself.

The notion of wearing camouflage as we now know it may have taken quite some time to catch on, but in fact, Boudica’s tribe, the Iceni people, like the Picts, were known to cover themselves in blue dye extracted from the woad plant, and – if it’s not too much information – urine, too, in order to make themselves look more intimidating.

You can count yourself lucky when you do your own facial camouflage that this practise is no longer a convention. Using a face paint dye made from urine would be taking your fashion considerations a little over the top for Airsoft!

This was no more helpful to the notion of camouflage than the convention for dressing armies around the world in bright colours in the mid-1800s – like Britain’s iconic ‘Red Coats’, for example.

World Wars Change Everything

A group of World War One soldiers gathered

By the time World War One broke out in July 1914, the benefits of concealment were beginning to be appreciated, although at this time camouflage was applied mostly for hiding vehicles, since aerial reconnaissance made it possible for tanks and vehicles to be spotted from above.

It was in 1915 that the French Army created the first dedicated camouflage unit, and, interestingly, the word itself comes from the French verb meaning ‘to put makeup on for the stage’.

The following year the British Army followed suit setting up the Special Works Park RE (Royal Engineers).

World War One saw what with hindsight we might consider some absurd scenarios, such as entire armies disguising themselves as trees and slowly creeping up on their foes – who were oblivious to the fact that a whole forest was on the move. In fairness, whoever would’ve suspected such an impossible thing?

By World War Two, tactics of the First World War were revived, but it wasn’t until after World War Two that the idea of camouflaging the fabric of soldier’s uniforms took off.

Camouflage patterns for snow, desert, jungle and forest began to emerge with each nation having its own individual take on the designs.

Camouflage Concepts

A camouflaged owl

Arguably, nature always had the edge on camouflage and its roots here were evolutionary; that is, physical adaptations occurred over time to protect certain species of animal from predators.

Blending into the background is something our animal buddies knew about long before we humans tumbled to it, but once we did, we became masters of disguise – and for much the same reason.

You’ll no doubt have noticed this when, with airsoft rifles poised, you THINK you can hear something in the bushes – but can’t see it. And that’ll be because your opponent is fully kitted out in camouflage kit and knows how to stay hidden – so you’re just not going to spot him!

Camouflage Today

A soldier wearing camouflage

While camouflage will always be about concealment and visual deception – and thus of immense importance to the military – it’s important innovations continue as mistakes have been made.

For example, in 2004, a mega-mistake was made by the U.S. Army when it brought in a new digital camouflage called the Universal Camouflage Pattern (UCP). This was a single pattern which was designed to work across all environments, but as the war in Iraq intensified, soldiers on the ground knew the reverse was true; that is, than in trying to create a design that would work in every situation, in actual fact the UCP worked in none of them.

some camouflage fabric

What’s interesting about camouflage design is that although it was originally conceived for practical, save your life purposes, it has also infiltrated the fashion catwalks.

Indeed, fashion guru Victoria Beckham was spotted just this summer wearing a camouflage T-Shirt and the press jumped on it, saying the star was making camo cool again. (Our DPM camo T-shirts are far better value than hers is!)

That said, Kim Kardashian was recently spotted wearing cut-off camouflage shorts…

With celebrity endorsement on this scale, it’d be churlish not to reconsider your own camouflage kit for your next airsoft battle.

And if you’d like a few more pointers about what to wear on the field, read about The Weird and Wonderful World of Airsoft Clothing.

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