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Caught! In Camouflage

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   Not many clubs are worth getting into these days. But when I do go out, I choose my outfit expecting to meet Marc Benecke at the door. So imagine my horror when I reached the front of the line only to hear, “You can’t come in wearing that jacket.” “Excuse me?” I said. “You have to leave it outside,” retorted the bouncer, “No camouflage.”

   People were waiting for me. I had no choice. I pulled my best reverse Nan Kempner, who after being denied entry to La Côte Basque for wearing a YSL pantsuit, famously stepped out of her bottoms, leaving only her tunic as a dress. I emptied my pockets, stuffing their contents into my clutch, and ditched the jacket in a corner. I was sure it would be there at closing time. After all, it is made to blend in.

   This was last February-right after camouflage had become one of the biggest trends in fashion. Earlier that year, we saw it all over the Fall 2013 runway from Prada and Valentino to Michael Kors and Christopher Kane. “Camo” was no longer functional, but luxurious.

   My name is Gabriella Yosca. I would not call myself a fashion authority, but I did grow up in the industry. My parents are designers, and those sensibilities are ingrained in my being. I do not always follow trends; however, camouflage was a bandwagon I happily jumped on.

   But why would my jacket not be allowed into a club? What power did this print hold? Such a discrepancy got me thinking. What exactly are the connotations of wearing camouflage?

   What types of people wear camouflage? Soldiers, hunters, and troublemakers, to name a few. In the late 1960s, anti-war protesters started using camouflage clothing to make a statement against American involvement in the Vietnam War. These activists were wearing camo ironically. Was this appropriation disrespectful?

   In a similar vein, the women of Manhattan’s Upper East Side can now walk into Bergdorf Goodman in plain sight and walk out in full disguise. Is wearing the latest camo-printed Manolo Blahnik pumps demeaning to the men and women who serve our country? Should we be allowed to adopt a print designed to protect military personnel, purely for fashion’s sake? Is that the height of superficiality?

   I asked a friend in fashion why he wears camo. For him, there are aesthetic and psychological factors. He said, “It’s a traditional non-effete menswear print. They’re my favorite colors, but really it just makes me feel like Clint Eastwood: a real guy’s guy.”

   Hunters use camouflage for pragmatic reasons and as a cultural identifier. It indicates a certain lifestyle, one that many people have a problem with. Sadie, a trusted trendy friend, who moved out of New York City, says, “I don’t like what camouflage represents. Everyone that I see in my daily life wears camouflage to go hunting and kill animals. I know [camo’s] having a comeback, but I personally don’t like to represent it.” For people like her, camouflage is inherently tied to values that make the print not just unattractive, but offensive.

   Recently, I went back and spoke with the club’s manager. He told me that four out of five people wearing camouflage were there to cause trouble, so the owner decided to implement a no camo policy. This rule is about clientele rather than attire. He said that he would have let me in wearing my fashionable jacket, except his guys do not have the leeway to bend the policy.

   In an interview, a representative of security told me, “They said customers who wore [camo] weren’t what we were looking for, like gangsters or thugs.” Camouflage has been part of urban fashion for a while (think back to the color prints of the 1990s), but more recently, there has been a revival of natural color camo. With this permeation into “thug-life”, camouflage is no longer a badge of honor, but a badge of unrest.

   I should note that when I returned, I wore my camo jacket and was granted access. The employee said, “[The policy has] since been revised to reflect the trend of camouflage in fashion. So if it looks like a fashionable item, it can now come in.”

   According to him, this rule reversal took place about mid- September. That means that it took over a year and a half for Fashion Week to have an effect. I go to this club when I regularly visit a beach community located sixty miles from Manhattan. Trends take time to leave the city, let alone the tents of Lincoln Center. Perhaps I was just too fashionable that fateful night. That is easier to digest than being lumped into an unfavorable stereotype.

   But does any of this even matter? Trends are transient. Who knows if camouflage will even be popular by the time this goes live. Maybe the time has already come. Sadie’s first response to, “Do you wear camouflage?” was, “No way! Camo is so out.” But, at least now, I can get in.

 

by Gabriella Yosca