I've always found it rather ridiculous when people wear camouflage clothing in non-military settings. Kids sporting trendy "camo" gear don't seem to realize the irony of their apparel. Military camouflage clothing was created to allow soldiers to blend into their surroundings, thereby making them more difficult to see and harder to kill. In an urban setting, military clothes only serve to make the wearer more obvious, hence the irony. However, this incongruity has not stopped the modern fashion industry from using these camouflage patterns on pants, tops, hats, and just about every item of clothing worn by teenagers today.
The popularity of military patterns in civilian clothing may have begun with the advent of military surplus stores. These outlets, as the name implies, sell excess military goods to the public, and these goods include clothing. Military-issue clothing became increasingly popular in the 1960s, when many civilians wore such garments in protest of the Vietnam War. Some protestors obtained their uniforms through official channels (i.e., it was issued to them upon recruitment), but others purchased theirs at military surplus stores. Even after the war and the protests were over, military clothing remained popular with many people, and this popularity gradually became focused on these disguising patterns.
Since the 1960s, it has become a legitimate fashion trend. Army-wear has been recreated in an astonishing array of patterns and colors, ranging from the traditional olive tones to shocking hues of blue and pink. Couture designers such as Christian Dior, Louis Vuitton, Dolce & Gabbana, Chanel and Yves Saint-Laurent have incorporated the pattern into their clothing. These type of garments are often bold and trendy, designed to draw attention, and they are worn both in the streets and on the runways.
Of course, not all civilian use of these type of clothes is so far from the original clothing's original application. Hunters have a long tradition of using clothing that hides them. It is useful to them for the same reason it is useful to soldiers-it makes them difficult to see, and a hunter who is difficult to discern is more likely to be successful.
However, there is still a bit of irony attached to the use of these clothes. Because the clothing makes hunters so difficult to see, it also increases their chances of being mistaken for an animal and being shot by a fellow hunter. As a result, many hunters have taken to wearing bright orange hunting vests over their jaskets in order to avoid such a fatal mistake. In looking at a hunter wearing such a getup, it is impossible not to note the paradox created by his clothing.
The most recent civilian application of this clothing is its use in paintball. This game was first created in the 1970s, but it did not become popular until the late 1990s. Since then, numerous paint ball stores and commercial parks have sprung up. Some parks offer a fairly surreal experience, using bright colors and themed surroundings. Others, however, permit players to utilize real environments such as woods and deserts. In such situations, clothing with gray and green leaf patterns is very popular. A paintball player wearing this pattern is much more difficult to target. It is interesting to note that in the popularity of these type of clothes in paintball, the use of such clothing has essentially come full circle.
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