November 06, 2023
The First Camouflage
Blending in with their surroundings is one of the standard operating procedures for hunters. If you want to get closer to the critters you pursue, you better learn how to blend in to the landscape. But the art of blending in goes back long before any of us modern day hunters were placed on the earth.
The need for camo came as a result of technology advancements for the military during World War I. Aerial photography now began to put troops and their weaponry at risk. Success would come only for those that learned to go undetected from the eye of their adversary. Dig deep, and you’ll find that artist, Lucien-Victor Guirand de Scevola is credited with the first development of camouflage in France in 1914. The meaning of the word camouflage came from the French verb meaning, “to make up for the stage.” Practitioners in those days, many of whom were artists, were known as camoufleurs.
The British followed the French in their camouflage military practice, and years later the Americans accepted the concept for themselves.
An American uniform improvement program led to the Army Green Uniform in 1954 and by the 1960’s the Tigerstripe pattern was becoming popular following use by Navy SEALs and Green Berets in Vietnam.
The Tigerstripe pattern was not only popular among military members, but it also began showing up among hunters in pursuit of game. The pattern, named for its resemblance to the stripes of a tiger, consisted of narrow strips of green and brown, as well as broader brush strokes in black painted over a lighter shade of olive or khaki. More and more hunters began to use leftover military camo to replace the red buffalo plaid Mackinaw coats made of wool that were popular among hunters in the early days.
The First Hunting Camouflage
Hunters were limited to military camo options, or plaid garments, until 1980 when Jim Crumley launched the Trebark brand. The process started in the 1970s when Crumley got serious about his desire to become less detectable in the woods while hunting.
“At first, I bought gray Dickies shirt and pants and tie-dyed them in brown dye,” says Crumley. “They looked really bad, until you got into the woods. I eventually decided that it would be easier for me to look like something that belongs in the woods instead of trying to completely disappear. What about a tree trunk?”
Crumley soon began to use odorless markers to create a tree bark pattern over the gray brown base he had developed from his efforts with tie-dye. Thus, a basis for the first camo pattern built specifically for hunters was born.
Crumley credits Pat Snyder, buyer for Cabela’s, for helping put Trebark camo on the map among the hunting community. “We met at the SHOT Show and he introduced Trebark in the Fall Catalog for Cabela’s in 1983. From that point on we simply could not catch up with the demand.”
The Beginning of Mossy Oak Camouflage
It was about that same time when Toxey Haas began to flesh out his own dream of finding a better way to stay concealed from the eyes of animals while hunting. Haas cut his teeth hunting turkeys with his father, Mr. Fox, in south Alabama and across legendary lands like Choctaw Bluff Hunting Camp. After a long career working with Bryan Foods in West Point, Mississippi, the Haas family began to pursue the dream of developing a new camo pattern for hunters.
“Ever since I was a little boy, I wanted to figure out a way to hide from critters,” Toxey said.
In the mid-80’s Haas began to work closely with an artist to share his vision for his own camo design. Dig back to the brand’s origins and you’ll find that Mossy Oak has long claimed to have started with a "fistful of dirt." It was that fistful of dirt from which Toxey gathered his inspiration for a camo pattern to blend with the dirt, leaves and twigs in the woods of Mississippi.
Hand-drawn artwork would lead to the development of the first camo patterns for the brand as Toxey began to tweak and re-tweak the concept with an artist. The first official camo patterns for the brand became known as Bottomland and Hill Country, with Bottomland establishing its place as one of the most popular camo patterns ever created. Mossy Oak, named after an actual tree that stood on the land where many of Toxey's first hunts took place, was officially incorporated in the spring of 1986.
“The Bottomland pattern was a big hit from the start,” says Bill Sugg, President of Mossy Oak. “Then we added Greenleaf at the ’88 SHOT Show. A few years later we launched the Treestand pattern, then came Full Foliage and Fall Foliage. However, the game really changed in the mid-90’s when the digital design process took off.”
The rise of Photoshop in the 90’s led to game-changing opportunities for the camo designers at Mossy Oak. Hand-drawn artwork was replaced with digitally designed camo patterns that led to one of Mossy Oak’s greatest creations — Mossy Oak Break-Up. The Break-Up series of camo patterns have been the standard camo pattern of Mossy Oak fans for decades with popular patterns like Break-Up Infinity and Break-Up Country.
Despite all the technological advancements in digital design over the last several decades, many of today’s hunters have returned to Mossy Oak’s roots. The Original Bottomland camo pattern that started it all is now more popular than ever, even after 37 years. The pattern is easily the hottest camo pattern for accessories and gear in 2023. You’ll find the pattern nearly everywhere you look, including bows, boots, backpacks, hats, hoodies, belts, bino harnesses, tree saddles, turkey vests, shotguns, and even the Turtlebox portable audio speaker.
“Bottomland has always had the ability to blend in just about anywhere you’re hunting,” says Sugg. “But these days, it’s about more than just blending in. It’s even more popular these days as a badge people are wearing to share and show what they’re all about as a hunter.”
The evolution of camo has brought about many things over the last 100 years. But for Mossy Oak, the evolution has brought a greater commitment to family, friends, conservation and the hunting lifestyle.