Vintage History

The Battle Dress Uniform, hereafter referred to it’s common name of BDU was the standard military uniform worn into combat. These uniforms were in contrast to the display dress uniforms worn in parades and to functions. Today, BDUs may be either plain in color or with a camouflage print (CAMO).

The first camo prints appeared in 1942, after a 1940 trial design when the reversible beach/jungle three and five color frog skin uniform was issued. However, the U.S. military found the print to be ineffective and in 1944 withdrew the design. In the 1950’s however, camo helmet covers and protective shelters were issued in wine leaf and brown cloud patterns.

The camo pattern BDU began with the four color “ERDL” PATTERN (which we are familiar with in woodland camo pants developed in the 1980’s) FROM 1948. During the Vietnam War, these prints saw limited use in the Army which preferred the solid olive green. However the Marines adopted its wide use after 1968. Other unofficial patterns used in Vietnam included black spray paint on olive drab and adopted the various Vietnamese Tigerstripe patterns (used by the French Army) as well as commercial duck hunter patterns available at that time.

The look of the modern BDU print appeared in 1981 when the woodland pattern began to be issued. A four color development of the ERDL pattern, it used two shades of green, one of brown and black on a cotton-nylon mix fabric. They were issued in four variations: general (for temperate climates), lowland (more green), highland (more brown) and transitional pattern (sometimes called delta) . They were designed to camouflage in both visual and near infrared.

In recent years, the Army has used a pixilated pattern like MARPAT (meaning MARine Disruptive PATtern), but uses less saturated colors, designed to be used in desert, woodland and urban combat situations. This pattern is also sometimes referred to as “digi cam”. The theory of this print is that it is a more effective camo pattern because of how the human eye reacts to digital or pixilated images. Currently, there are two patterns approved for use, namely woodland and desert. The urban was developed but not approved for use.