An Ode To Camouflage

September 5, 2013


To celebrate our first ever print publication, every Thursday on our blog we’ll share a new Fall inspired feature from the The Journal. This week, take a closer look at camouflage – its origins, evolution and modern day incarnation…



Sweeping the streets once again, Camouflage is looking fresher than ever. For the Fall 13 collection, Herschel Supply have partnered with Real Tree, hunting industry experts in the art of disappearing since 1986.

A proper introduction to the Real Tree Collection calls for a deeper look into this form of visual trickery. After all Camouflage wasn’t invented for savvy folks to look sharp – it began with nature, evolved through battle, translated to hunting and re-emerged in fashion. Read on for the colourful and intriguing story of Camouflage.

As old as the hills, Camouflage is based on the natural phenomenon of how colour, light and depth cause flora and fauna to appear to blend together, becoming difficult to distinguish. Plants and animals had been quietly going about this business for eons without a human soul noticing. Fast-forward to the late 1800’s and American artist Abbot Thayer, also known as ‘the father of camouflage’, brightly observed this occurrence and proceeded to write on it.

In 1917, with a need for stealthier attire, the French military formed the first Camouflage division. It’s name was aptly borrowed from the Parisian slang term meaning, ‘to blow smoke in someone’s face’. To do this with effect, a team of Post-Impressionist and Fauve artists we’re commissioned as ‘Camoufleurs’. They developed tricky designs based on Thayer’s findings, Cubist techniques and Renaissance ‘fool the eye’ art.

Originally derived from art, modern Camouflage naturally assumed its place in the creative industry. In 1919 The Chelsea Art Club held the ‘Dazzle Ball’, which saw guests dressed in the black and white ‘Dazzle’ camouflage pattern of navy ships. While the hip and young were experimenting with Camouflage as art and style, scientists commissioned by the military experimented with algorithms to ‘fool the eye’ even further. In both worlds, it was a relevant and evolving trend.

During the 1960s artists and designers exploited the symbolism of Camouflage either using it for political protest or for its strong graphical elements. A decade later hunting enthusiasts realised its benefits of for their interests, hand drawing trees onto their tie-dye clothing. In 1986, Bill Jordan of Real Tree arrived on the scene as an outdoorsmen on a mission to design his own pattern. With a deep knowledge of the history and evolution of Camouflage to date, Jordan started by sketching the bark from a giant Oak in his parent’s yard. He understood that by layering images of twigs and leaves over a vertical backdrop, the image would take on a three-dimensional appearance. Jordan’s craftsmanship was quickly recognised by industry leaders, who encouraged him to bring his great product to market immediately.

Now over 100 years old, Camouflage is still evolving – emerging refreshed in high fashion lines whilst increasing the luck of every soldier, hunter and birdwatcher. To Bill Jordan at Real Tree, crafting the perfect print is an art form as much as a science and we at Herschel tend to agree.

This Fall 13, Herschel Supply are proud to offer the Real Tree Collection – an ode to the classic print that is Camouflage and yet another stepping stone in its ongoing evolution. Shop the Real Tree collection here.

Check back next Thursday for another instalment from The Journal – ‘Stephen Wilde’

To find your own complimentary copy of The Journal, visit Herschel Supply stockists around the world or contact