THREE TYPES OF MILITARY CAMOUFLAGE

There are essentially three types of military camouflage, all of which were utilized in World War I for the purpose of evading detection.

By Balthazar Malevolent

THREE TYPES OF MILITARY CAMOUFLAGE

There are essentially three types of military camouflage, all of which were utilized in World War I for the purpose of evading detection. The first type is a blending, or assimilating, camouflage that seeks to use color and pattern to melt into the background by mimicking other objects in the environment. A second type of camouflage is called disruptive camouflage, which obliterates a single recognizable shape into several smaller unrecognizable units by using a high-differential color scheme. A third type of camouflage is coincident camouflage, a method of using both blending and disruptive techniques to merge an object into the background whilst breaking it into several smaller irregular shapes. This last type of camouflage is the type we most associate with the pattern applied to uniforms – a pattern containing amorphous shapes in colors matching the natural environment.

WWI Dazzle Camouflage protected ship.

Many have suggested the place of Gestalt theory in the study of camouflage. The Gestalt psychologist Fritz Heider wrote, “one realizes immediately that Picasso’s new technique [of Cubism] consisted partly in destroying the natural units of familiar objects by opposing one unit-forming factor to another.” In Gestalt theory, the blending kind of camouflage is called “unit forming,” while the disruptive form is called “unit breaking.” Coincidental camouflage succeeds by breaking a form into units, and then causing these units to merge into other objects within the background through blending coloration. While this theory was not codified until the 1930s, it serves to explain why camouflage was an effective war tactic.

This principle of obliteration was also applied to ships, usually in a striped zebralike scheme called “Dazzle”. Of utmost importance during WWI was the need to make ships visually disappear on open water. In 1917, British Lieutenant Commander Norman Wilkinson laid out his idea for making boats disappear in a letter to the British Admiralty. “It should be pointed out, the idea is not to render the ship in any degree invisible, as this is virtually impossible, but to largely distort the external shape by means of violent color contrasts.” The goal was to force the enemy into an inaccurate reading of the ship’s distance, direction of travel and speed through visually breaking the ship into smaller pieces.

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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