En Vogue: The Fashion of Hunting Camouflage
Like ©LuluLemon for Yoga, ©Reebok for sneakers, and ©Adidas for sports, ©Realtree brand clothing is THE brand for camouflage clothing. Of course, Realtree is a hunting camouflage brand rather than a military camouflage brand. To learn about the evolution of military camouflage fashion, please see our blog post called En Vogue: The Fashion of Military Camouflage (coming soon!). In this blog post, we will look into the evolution of hunting camouflage, otherwise known as Realtree, Browning, or Mossy Oak.
First, a very brief history of fashion camouflage in general. Camouflage in fashion arose during the 1960s with anti-Vietnam War protesters, Vietnam veterans, and Civil Rights activists. Eventually, camouflage began to represent less of an ironic anti-war sentiment and more of a representation of social change. The 1960s and 1970s held on to the roots of societal change and hope, but camouflage didn’t fully become a fashion statement until the 1980s. From the 1960s until today, camouflage fashions have found their way into almost every article of clothing, department store, and runway line, but it wasn’t until quite recently that Hunting camouflage became en vogue.
Many people attribute the growth of camouflage clothing in mainstream fashion to the terror events of September 11, after which people felt an intrinsic need to feel nationalistic, supportive of the military, and take on more survivalist ideals. Survivalists, also called “Preppers,” found a resurgence after the 9/11 attacks and sought to prepare themselves for natural, nuclear, or environmental disasters. Many survivalists rely on the durableness of hunting and military clothes to help keep them hidden and safe in the wild. Sandi Keiser, chairperson of the fashion department at Mount Mary University in Milwaukee notes that the trend of camouflage has surged throughout the world, most likely due to country conflicts and the wars in the Middle East. Keiser observes, “Fashion is a reflection of what's happening in the world around us” (source).
Others believe the fashion of Hunting camouflage grew in response to celebrities, pop culture, and reality TV. Shows like Duck Dynasty, Dog the Bounty Hunter, Billy the Exterminator, Swamp People, American Pickers, American Restorations, and Moonshiners have popularized ©Realtree camouflage, normalizing it for people who already wore it to go along with their lifestyle, and has opened the design up to the masses. While ©Realtree has been popular in rural areas well before any of these shows hit the airwaves, the boom of camo-love really soared after these shows aired.
The growth of mainstream hunting camouflage in fashion also mirrors the growth of women in hunting. Women now make up about 19% of all U.S. hunters, compared to just 10% in 2001, and that number is expected to grow each year (source). Keen on targeting this growing market, companies began focusing their designs and styles on women hunters by including hunting clothing with pink, turquoise, and purple accents. While most women hunters will tell you exactly why these color accents are a bad idea (and it doesn’t take a seasoned hunter to figure out why!), many women love the colorful camo for non-hunting purposes: relaxing, exercising, and simply running errands. It’s a functional and comfortable style showing that women both love their hunting or country lifestyle and are proud of their roots.
©Cabela clothing manager Casey Zeilger noted, “Our women's camo is our biggest growing sub-department in our whole camo department. Women's and children's (camo) is just blowing up on us” (source). Even the century-old company L.L. Bean has noticed a 22% growth in women-specific camouflage clothing. This growth reflects its versatility both in and out of the bush.
I tend to see the growth of ©Realtree in fashion as Americans trying to hold on to nostalgia and that down-home, country feeling you can’t really describe. You can see the fondness of nostalgia in the surge of rustic weddings, the return of plaid (a decidedly “country” fabric since the 1850s), the rise of popular shows like The Pioneer Woman, American Pickers, and Pawn Stars (whose motto is Kind of like an outlet store that sells history), and even the popularity of “old-fashioned”/historic baby names. Americans love remembering back to the good-ole’-days with, albeit, rose-colored glasses. When life is changing rapidly around us, we tend to think about simplicity and what is more simplistic than nature, returning to our roots in the bush, and hunting just like our ancestors once did. Historian Jarret Ruminski (2013) sees nostalgia as “a deep-seated, romantic, heart-felt longing for the yesterday that is gone but not forgotten,” but that’s not exactly a bad thing. “Nostalgia is Americans’ preferred tool for recapturing the past not as it was, but as how they imagine it to be . . . the best way to relieve themselves from the anxiety associated with modernity is to embrace the past via nostalgia” (source).
Camouflage has been a mainstay of wardrobes since the 1960s and, as cultural and social upheavals motivate the fashion industry, the use of camouflage on clothes continues to grow. Both military and hunting camouflage will continue to be staples of wardrobes for a long time, giving more acceptance and support to both the military, hunting, and outdoor lifestyles. “The popularity of camouflage is far-reaching and now deeply ingrained within American society and culture, and as with many fashion trends, has grown to represent activism as well as an entire way of life” (source).
Fleming, D. (2016, Nov. 25). More women are hunting … for the right apparel, too. Retrieved August 21, 2017 from http://www.pressherald.com/2016/11/25/women-hunters-want-camo-that-fits-and-works-for-them/.
Just Camo: Living the Outdoors. (n.d). How Camouflage Clothing Left its Mark on American Culture. Retrieved August 21, 2017 from https://www.justcamo.com/blog/how-camouflage-clothing-left-its-mark-american-culture.
Major, J.S. (n.d.) Camouflage Cloth. Retrieved August 21, 2017 from http://fashion-history.lovetoknow.com/fabrics-fibers/camouflage-cloth
Ruminski, Jarret. (SEPTEMBER 20, 2013). “AMERICAN PICKERS” AND BUYING NOSTALGIA IN THE U.S.A. Retrieved August 21, 2017 from http://thatdevilhistory.com/index.php/2013/09/20/american-pickers-and-buying-nostalgia-in-the-u-s-a-2/.
Taschler, J. (2013, Nov. 3). Hunter chic: No hiding fashion world's love of camouflage. Retrieved August 21, 2017 from http://archive.jsonline.com/business/hunter-chic-no-hiding-fashion-worlds-love-of-camouflage-b99132991z1-230430261.html/.