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The Colorful Past, Present, and Future of Camouflage Clothing

blue camouflage

Camouflage clothing for men and women is a lot different than it used to be. When camouflage clothes first made their way onto the civilian fashion scene during the late 1960s and early 1970s, going camo clad was more of a political statement rather than a fashionable choice. When returning Vietnam veterans sported their army camo clothing while joining activists in protesting the war, it created a powerful image.

During that time, camouflage had not yet become popular among civilians, meaning there was no blue camouflage, pink camouflage, or any other of the popular camouflage colors, patterns, and styles that are so common today.

Aside from the popularity of trendy camo colors such as blue camouflage, today's camouflage styles have grown to become reflective of an entire lifestyle which embraces outdoor activities such as hunting. This sentiment is perhaps most easily seen in the popularity of AandE's hit reality TV series Duck Dynasty, which drew a record 11.8 million viewers during its 2013 one-hour debut. In fact, AandE notes that the 2013 premiere “set a cable record for a nonfiction series telecast among adults 25-54 with 6.3 million viewers."

However, camouflage continues to evolve, and rapidly so. In a classic case of biomimicry, a team of UC Irvine researchers and scientists led by chemical engineering professor Alon Gorodetsky are attempting to create a kind of adaptive, dynamic, and responsive camouflage that may one day be used by the military. Their inspiration? Squid.

Using bacteria, the team was able to create a synthetic squid protein called Reflectin, which manipulates color in the same manner that squid do in order disappear into their surroundings. So far, Reflectin has been such a success that it has captured the interest of the Department of Defense, the Department of Energy, and even active and outdoor wear clothing manufacturer Under Armor.

In lab tests, Reflectin-coated material was able to take on the color of material it was placed on. For example, when placed on red paper, the shiny, metallic-blue strip took on a red color. Reflectic is also able to take on colors across the spectrum, and is even able to reflect infrared light. Far from being a tired style, camouflage clothing is continuing to evolve.

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