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Title: The cultural evolution of military camouflage
Author: Tálas, László
ISNI:       0000 0004 5918 0704
Awarding Body: University of Bristol
Current Institution: University of Bristol
Date of Award: 2015
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Camouflage of military uniforms exhibits a remarkable diversity; since 1929 most nations around the world had created their own 'lineages' of patterns. This variety cannot be reliably explained by concealment only, as camouflage of countries inhabiting the same environment often differs to a great extent. This thesis explores potential functions of deceptive uniform patterns beyond concealment. Somewhat paradoxically, camouflage can be used to signal national identity, which helps friendly troops to identify each other. By applying two graph network-based models, it was demonstrated that national patterns of a country are more alike than would be expected by chance. On the contrary, the evidence of convergence on an alliance-level was found to be weak, suggesting militaries conducting multinational operations do not match up their patterns, potentially resulting in an increased risk of friendly fire. The phenomenon of how signalling and concealment can function at the same time is demonstrated by nations with a colonial past. These countries often wear the same texture as their former rulers, but optimise their colours to match their local environment. Conflicts were also found to have an impact on camouflage design; the rate of innovation increases during wars, resulting in more novel looking patterns. Finally, nations can convey political messages by selecting for particular patterns. This is demonstrated by the case of post-Soviet Eastern European countries, which abandoned their national design after the fall of the Iron Curtain in favour to US and British patterns; potentially signalling to NATO that they are ready to join the alliance. It is concluded that camouflage patterns are subject to historical and political forces, demonstrating that concealment not only need to be effective, but also recognisable.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available