THE FLUID TRANSMISSION OF CAMOUFLAGE BETWEEN FASHION AND THE MILITARY

The work of the Italian Futurists clearly demonstrates the principles behind disruptive camouflage.

By Balthazar Malevolent

THE FLUID TRANSMISSION OF CAMOUFLAGE BETWEEN FASHION AND THE MILITARY

Artists brokered the fluid transmission of camouflage between fashion and the military during the early twentieth century. While the most popular camouflage pattern appropriated by fashion since World War II has been based on the coincidental type of camouflage theory (utilizing both blending and disruptive principles), prior to World War II it was solely the disruptive form of camouflage, informally called Dazzle, which was most exploited in clothing. While artists and fashion designers during the first part of the twentieth century did not call their work “camouflage,” the visual principles employed were the same as those for camouflage theory – the purposeful application of a high differential graphic pattern composed of mid-to-large scale blocks of color that were meant to shatter the singular body into pieces. These designs, which collectively are camouflage-like in theory, overwhelmingly had the same purpose – i.e. to enact upon the wearer the perception of dynamism, kinetic movement, even disintegration.

Giacomo Balla. Projects for Future Suits. Afternoon Suit.

The work of the Italian Futurists clearly demonstrates the principles behind disruptive camouflage. The prominent Futurist Giacomo Balla claimed that their “transformable clothes” were made using “mechanical trimmings, surprises, tricks, [and the] disappearance of [the] individual. Balla wrote in his declaration, “The Antineutral Dress” that Futurist clothing should, amongst other things, be “dynamic, with the dynamic colors and patterns of fabric triangles, cones, spirals, ellipses, circles able to inspire the love of danger, of speed and assault, the hatred of peace and immobility.” The Futurists used a strategic application of disruptive color patterns to clothing in a bellicose, aggressive, destructive and modular way. Giacomo Balla’s fashion designs during much of his artistic career, from 1914-1930, were shockingly colorful with sharply angular motifs jutting out with combative force, shattering the singular body. Another Futurist, Tullio Crali, created projects for men’s and women’s garments that distorted the body into asymmetrical pieces and components. These garments, while definitively Futurist, could just as well be classified as examples of camouflage theory due to the viewer’s disrupted visual perception when gazing at the wearer.

Today, designers often apply camouflage prints to their models. Within his last season, Alexander Wang presented several variations of camo sweatpants, camouflage back panel t-shirts, and camo canvas totes.

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