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Military Clothing – Camouflage, an Early History
Camouflage has always been a key feature in the design of military clothing – it could be the difference between life and death.

Military clothing and camouflage
Military clothing has used camouflage ever since the end of the 19th century, when it became central to modern military tactics after the increase in accuracy of weapons.
But until the 20th century, many armies tended to wear military clothing and uniforms that were bright and bold. The idea was the boldness would intimidate the enemy and allow for easy identification of comrades in the battlefield. But there became a pressure to change the design of military clothing as it was realised the boldness could be counterproductive in making soldiers more susceptible to being targeted.

Military clothing and khaki
Camouflage in military clothing has varied depending on the country. In Japan in the 14th century, dark camouflage colours were used to blend into the environment. Whereas in Britain, it wasn’t until the 18th century that some units would wear military clothing in browns and greens. These soldiers tended to be scouts or rangers, but the majority of the army kept the bright military clothing. One exemption was in 1857 in India when the high casualty rate forced them to dye the red military clothing into khaki colours. But it wasn’t until the Boer War in 1902 that it became standard that duller tones were a feature of military clothing.

Camouflage Specialists
America, Germany, Russia and Italy all adopted khaki based colours for their military clothing in the early 1900s, although France held onto the red trousers until 1915. France however did have a Camouflage Department in the same year where artists and painters came on board to advise on the uniforms.

Advances in technology
Military clothing evolved thanks to advances in technology and fabric production. When the mass-produced clothing procedures became commonplace it became easier to create effective camouflaged uniforms. Until then, military clothing had to be hand painted and so was restricted to soldiers who were more in need of camouflage such as snipers.

‘Camouflage’ enters the English language
Despite the use of camouflage in military clothing, it wasn’t until 1917 the word entered the English language. The New York Camouflage Society was established in the same year, and a year earlier, the Camouflage Section was set up in the UK. The Germans first set a precedent for camouflaged helmets in 1916 with the Stahlhelm – steel helmets in green or brown.
John Bull Military Clothing is a supplier of quality merchandise to the Forces worldwide. John Bull Military Clothing is based at the Catterick Garrison, North Yorkshire. For all your military clothing, outdoor and survival equipment needs you can order from the online shop. For more details telephone 01748 833614 or email:

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