Throughout the course of history there are always significant events that change the future. These events guide us to where we are today. In fact, we cannot even imagine what life would have been like if those particular events never occurred.
The outdoors is not immune to these life-altering events either. A lot of times though, the things that change our pursuits involve innovations. These innovations sometimes take years to gain acceptance, other times they ignite quickly and explode across the industry.
One such innovation was camouflage clothing. Most of us today don’t even think twice about the horribly expensive and ultra-techy camo that we don as we take to the woods and waters. The science behind camo is quite impressive, but the business side is just staggering.
It all started back in 1980. A Virginia deer hunter named Jim Crumley was not pleased with the hunting clothing he was currently using. Like most deer hunters of the time he was using old military camo. In fact, many deer hunters didn’t use any type of camo at all, especially if they were hunting deer at a distance with a firearm.
Mr. Crumley started tinkering around with different clothing. He took some old work clothes that were gray in color and added some splotchy brown areas. His goal was to blend into to the gray-barked trees in the woods around his house. He toyed around with different patterns and color combination.
He worked on this for several seasons. He noticed that he was starting to see some better hunting success. He then started using a marker to add a bark pattern. As fate would have it, other friends who hunted wanted some of his clothes as well. He officially called his pattern “Trebark.” It was at this point a new industry was born.
Most of us probably don’t really remember the name Jim Crumley, but most folks will recall the name Trebark. I used to have a pair of coveralls in that pattern I would wear skiing! Other young hunters took notice of this. Mr. Crumley inspired the likes of Bill Jordan and Toxey Haas. Names ring a bell? Bill Jordan is the founder of Realtree and Toxey Haas is the man behind Mossy Oak.
These two camouflage companies absolutely dominate the hunting industry. They are goliaths that have branded their respective patterns so well that there is hardly a product related to hunting that isn’t offered in either Realtree or Mossy Oak. Everything from gunstocks to alarm clocks can be purchased in the latest camouflage offering.
The basic niche that was filled by Jim Crumley has transformed into something of a fashion statement. Not the same catwalk antics that clothing industry designers would relate to. But the type of fashion statement that declares, “I hunt.”
The science behind camo patterns is also a far cry from doodling with markers on work clothes. The latest in digital technology is used to capture images of leaves, branches, and bark patterns. These patterns are then printed with the best equipment and then transferred to the products that we use. The entire process is amazing.
If you want to watch something really interesting, Google “camo dipping” and you will be directed to some Youtube videos that show how these camo patterns are transferred to irregular shaped products such as rifle scopes and compound bows.
As I researched for this article I ran across a lot of legwork on this topic that had been done by Keith Sutton. He has written similar articles about the history of camouflage in the hunting industry. Thank you Keith for compiling some interesting facts.
I’m sure that if you asked Jim Crumley today that he would have never guessed what his inspiration would have done to the industry. It changed the way we hunt forever. There are other numerous innovations that have had a tremendous impact on the outdoors. I’m sure that there will also be many more in the future. If only we could predict what that might be . . .