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The Five Kinds of Camo That Matter

There’s a lot of camo out there—and if recent events are any indication, we’re adding new patterns as fast as we can. It can be a little daunting, so we’ve stripped things down to the bare minimum: the five patterns that matter circa 2011—from digital to duck hunter. So before you buy that elegantly military pocket square, you may have a little research to do.

ERDL Leaf CamoWhen people say “camo,” this is usually what they mean. It was developed by the military in 1948, and 70 years later... it’s everywhere. On loafers, on jackets, on pants. All of which has led the savvier designers to look for a few other options...

Digital CamoUntil the partial switch to Multicam, most of the US military wore some variation on this pattern. So it’s only natural designers would follow suit. The pattern’s biggest champion has been Mark McNairy (check out the shorts and the shoes), but there have been plenty of others willing to follow in the Call-of-Duty swag. Fun fact: we basically stole it from Canada. Luckily, they’re cool about that sort of thing.

HBT “Duckhunter” CamoThen, there are the nostalgics. This splotchier pattern was one of the first military-issued camos, developed for the Pacific Theater of WWII. It was never as ubiquitous as ERDL, so it’s become a prize for historically minded gents like Michael Williams, and the tie-makers at The Hill-Side. (We also spotted a few HBT ties at the most recent Gant by Michael Bastian show.) As the ERDL pattern becomes more familiar, even streetwear brands like A Bathing Ape have started to shift into HBT-inspired camos.

British DPMOf course, while we Americans were pushing our own color scheme, the British were coming up their own version. It’s curvier—more jungle than forest—and just different enough from ERDL to cause a double take. Oliver Spencer makes a pretty great version, and you can always pick some of it up on surplus.

Fog CamoThis one has the strange distinction of never actually being used by the military. Moncler’s used it on a jacket or two, and it’s already gaining traction with the less street-oriented corners of the fashion world. It’s certainly camo-ish, but more impressionistic than anything you’d see on a soldier. Strangely enough, it might also be the pattern that blends in the best—which means it’ll play more nicely with the rest of your wardrobe.

Of course, there are plenty more patterns where that came from; they just haven’t started trending yet. For further reading, we’d direct you to Camopedia and Complex’s exhaustive research on the subject. Just be warned: there’s no bottom. Flecktarn camo can also be pretty fantastic—all speckles and clouds—but for that you’ll have to venture outside the fashion world and into the military surplus scene.

But that’s another blog post entirely.