Sometimes I think we all forget that cammo is designed with a purpose, namely so soldiers and equipment could hide in the jungle, snow, desert or urban terrain and not get popped so easy. It’s become ubiquitous now, almost a permanent aspect of modern life. But camouflage and other military themes didn’t just become cool overnight. It was an underground movement for a really long time before it became a fashion thing.
It probably began as a fashion movement in the late '70s when punkers like The Clash and The Sex Pistols goaded the media by dressing as cartoon IRA/Sth American/revolutionary guerillas. In fact, it was so shocking it got them on the news and has since been copied over and over. You might also remember that in the '80s, rap groups like Public Enemy and their bodyguards (codenamed SW-1) had an image based on a militant look, mostly as a reference to the Black Panther movement. Unfortunately it ran so deep it is still with us today today (e.g 50-cent and his G-Unit rubbish).
Brands like Bape have also used their own versions of cammo on just about every product known to mankind, including shoe collabs with adidas and even pepsi cans. So, military themes have co-existed with music, fashion and sneakers as staples of street culture for over 20 years. One of the most famed cammo sneakers is the Stash Air Force 1. Stash has done a few commercial camouflage patterns in his career and is also obsessed with barb wire, weapons and urban warfare. This made him the perfect collaborator for Nike on the AF-1, considering that 20 years ago the L.A. SWAT team wore a specially modified AF-1 model. Stash chose to give his a wintry-white brushstroke camouflage panel and a reinforced toe. The ‘brushstroke’ style camo-patterns are the coolest patterns at the moment. There are also some nice ‘daub’ patterns that are a little rarer still which are made using paintbrushes and have heaps of nice detail around the edges when you look up close.
Futura has a similar reputation to Stash as a fan of military themes. He was in the Navy once, so it I guess he knows all about it first hand. I once saw him in a magazine showing off all the military stuff in his crib and it was a really nice collection. Anyway, Futura designed a Nike Blazer Mid in Suede with numbered boxes, and chose a green and beige colour-way as a camouflage reference. Sometimes the colours say it all. Have you ever noticed how shoes are sometimes promoted in colour-ways like with names like ‘cadet blue’, ‘steel grey’, ‘stealth grey’, ‘khaki’, ‘dirty brown’, ‘bomber green’, ‘petrol’ and even ‘blood red?’
I admire Futura’s choice to keep the design clean because not everyone wants extreme styling. I like basic canvas sneakers with brass eyelets. These are made using the same materials and methods used to make heavy-duty canvas military tents. To me that makes more sense than commercially-driven styling and ultra-performance gimmicks.
A few of the great simple sneaks are being re-issued in colour-ways that are outright militant. I’ve seen Vans done in Olive Drab No. 9, which is the same green that everyone in M*A*S*H wore. There's also the Asics running shoe done by the boys from Proper featuring ripstop canvas and so on.
Another staple area you'll find cammo in the sneaker world is found with renowned custom shoe artists like SBTG from Singapore and Methamphibian from San Diego. These two guys have made an art of using delicate camouflage brush strokes to decorate their shoes, most notably Dunks and AF-1. Try googling them for more examples of their work.
You may be surprised to know that several of the companies that make your sneakers also make new generation military boots, which are now quieter, lighter and more comfortable The Adidas GSG9 Tactical boots look mighty mean. They’re used by the crack teams like SWAT, the US Army and the German anti-terrorist group. They’re made in the home of hardcore, Germany, and are made in ‘tactical black’. Nike also has a shoe called the Air Assault (basketball) and Oakley has released an SI Assault Boot which is extremely tough.
Just remember, if trouble is brewing, the best way to use your shoes is to help you escape! One Love!