The Implications of Hunting Camouflage

Hunting is an activity that sharply divides rural and urban populations, the latter often associating it with the uncouth country folk that roam the vast hinterlands beyond the suburbs. This prejudice extends to the implements of hunting itself, including firearms and the wide array of commercial camouflage that has become available in recent years. Despite its technical effectiveness (much more so than the Army’s UCP, which only works if you happen to be fighting in a granite quarry), hunting camouflage carries the stigma of rural backwardness, and is often wholeheartedly embraced by hunting enthusiasts as a form of defiance to the same stigmatization.

Urban disdain of rural sports is nothing new, but the truth is that hunting and the clothing associated with it are ingrained in American culture, owing to their unique role in the nation’s founding. In March 1775, the second Virginia Convention established a committee consisting of Thomas Jefferson, Patrick Henry, and George Washington to study the possibility of forming a militia to protect Virginia in the upcoming war with Great Britain. According to their plan, all infantry would be uniformed with a “hunting shirt,” essentially a homemade, loose-fitting frock that hanged to the thighs. From Kevin Hayes’ The Road to Monticelloan intellectual biography of Thomas Jefferson:

“This choice of weaponry and uniform was largely based on what was available locally. The preceding year the First Continental Congress had agreed to an association similar to the Virginia associations of earlier years. Like the others, this new association forbade colonists from importing most goods of British manufacture. Consequently, Virginia militiamen would be outfitted in a uniquely American fashion. The hunting shirt had long been an article of clothing identified with backwoodsmen, those unsavory and uncivilized characters who inhabited the fringes of colonial society, somewhere in that middle ground between the westernmost plantations and the wilderness. It now became the uniform of a patriot.”

Hunting shirt


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