Going far beyond a fad, fashionably macho camouflage prints and patterns have become a new must-have in menswear that shows no signs of retreating.
Fashion designer Mark McNairy places camouflage prints in the same category of menswear as khaki twill and blue oxford shirting. “To me, it’s just become a given,” McNairy said. “It’s a staple.”
While other fashion designers aren’t so quick to embrace the military pattern quite as enthusiastically as McNairy, it seems that camouflage has become bulletproof as far as modern menswear is concerned. Camouflage has been seen up and down the runways, from the likes of noted designers such as Dries Van Noten, Valentino, Kenzo, and Comme des Garçons. The distinct print has become standard street fashion since the Americana heritage trend began a few years ago.
Camouflage seems to have settled quite comfortably in its role as a persistently recurring print. For example, while Valentino designers have moved onto creating other runway styles, camo sneakers, jackets, and suits can still be bought at Valentino stores.
Depending on how it’s styled, camouflage rarely — if ever — looks passé.
“Camo is the trick birthday candle of patterns,” said Jonathan Evans, fashion director of popular menswear e-commerce site East Dane. “Every time you think it’s gone out, it starts back up again.”
A quick search for “camo” on the East Dane site revealed a number of items including a Fox Umbrella ($90), a JanSport backpack ($35), chino pants from Baldwin Denim ($188) and a rubber-strap watch from Jack Spade ($98).
So, why are men cuckoo for camo?
“Guys can be suspicious of print and pattern, except for camo,” according to New York designer Michael Bastian, whose collections have consistently included the popular motif since the 2006 launch of his line. “It’s the one pattern that pretty much every guy is down with. What other pattern has a macho angle to it?”
Camouflage’s success in menswear can be attributed to its classic neutral-toned palette, which can easily be paired with a variety of looks. Not only can it be worn as a main piece, it can be worn as an accent or accessory, such as a scarf.
Camouflage’s versatility allows it to appeal to a wide range of fashion tastes. Designers have to rely on the pattern as something that is both safe yet fashion-forward with an undeniable appeal.
“A guy really enjoys seeing a woman with a necklace with the Browning logo on it, or even a purse or wallet with the hunting camo patterns,” said Judy Babiasz, marketing coordinator for Just Camo. “For women, it’s just more unique to be wearing these patterns, even if men wear them more, the women who wear it seem to get much more attention.”