THE HISTORY OF THE CARGO PANT
The pattern of camouflage, a word that comes from the French 'camoufler' (meaning to disguise) — or “camo” as it is often called — has long been a symbol of both concealment and intention.
From the battlegrounds to its place as an American wardrobe staple, it’s surrounded in a rich history — of adaptation and significance, variety and iteration. “It’s something that pops up a lot in many of the topics we research at PHIPPS,” shares Spencer Phipps, our founder. “Camo is an essential part of American style.”
The idea of disguising your body to simulate your surroundings is as old as history itself, with hunters using natural materials to blend in and stalk their prey across cultures and geographies since long, long ago. Military camouflage has been recorded since ancient times as well, but became increasingly popular with the development of modern technology.
During the First World War, the French army created a dedicated 'camouflage corps' specialized in developing patterns for disguising artillery and creating structures like tree observation posts, and this creative approach soon spread to other armies.
Realistic camo on stylized orange background
As far as hunting goes, camouflage has always been a practical necessity. In 1986, the innovation in hunting apparel took a big leap when a hunter named Bill Jordan created clothing printed with realistic nature patterns, offering a more effective and specific form of disguise for hunters.
In the second half of the twentieth century, camouflage began to grow beyond its practical beginnings. During the late 1960s and early 1970s, anti-war protestors in the United States, in an ironic twist, put on military clothing as a symbol of their opposition to the Vietnam War.
This act of repurposing military garments for civil disobedience and activism marked an important shift: the evolution of camouflage from a tool of war to a symbol of political and personal expression.
In the contemporary world, camouflage has evolved into a statement of individuality and style. Designers have embraced its 'patterned disorder', transforming what was once a symbol of war into a canvas of personal expression that maintains its storied history nonetheless. The timeless appeal of camouflage lies in its duality – a blend of visibility and invisibility, statement and subtlety, tradition and innovation.
In the development of our PHIPPS identity and individual pieces, camo plays a large part as a recurring pattern across collections, reflecting our interest in engaging with the natural world and reinterpreting historical clothing in new and thoughtful contexts.
“We like to have camo pop up in unexpected places, like the collar of our Yosemite shirt, or style it into looks in new and fun ways,” shares Spencer. “It’s a great source of fun for us at PHIPPS — to test the limits of what camo can do.”
Through our original designs and repurposed 1:1 Gold Label pieces, camo strikes a perfect balance between action and tranquility, natural and manmade, past and future, its enduring role in the fashion of Americana mirroring our own identity as a brand.
The ongoing legacy of camo is a testament to its enduring appeal and its unique ability to adapt and resonate across the culture. In the ever-evolving narrative of fashion, it stands as an important reminder of the dynamic interplay between form, function, and symbolism.