Before I read this book, I must confess my knowledge of camouflage or “Disruptive Pattern Material” (D.P.M.) was pretty limited. Nothing could have prepared me for the depth that this volume goes into. I say ‘volume’ as opposed to book, because this 944 page behemoth is exhaustive.

DPM has been split into two separate books – one covering the military clothing of the 107 nations that clothe their armies in camouflage and a book containing every other reference to the concept. The first book, written by Hardy Blechman, begins with several introductions to different concepts and mindsets regarding camouflage. The introductory sections raise some very interesting issues regarding colour theory – for example, the idea of how green is so easy on the eye due to its central position on the colour spectrum.

These sections also reveal a considerable amount about Hardy Blechman, the man behind this book. Blechman comes across as obsessed with all things military; and he seems to be on a mission to reclaim camouflage from the army and put it in the hands of civilians for general fashion wear. Well, it is simply a textile pattern after all. This first section also makes reference to the history of the word camouflage and contains a number of entries written by experts in the field of colour analysis regarding patterns and their ability to confuse the eye. There are also numerous references to Maharishi and Mhi, the two fashion labels that Hardy Blechman runs. Whilst this is fair to a point, as they are relevant in today’s commercial use of camouflage, it does sometimes feel like self-promotion.

Leafing through the book you come across many subjects that you might not immediately associate with D.P.M: photos of toys from various eras adorned with camouflage, and work by countless graphic artists who have used the patterns in their work. A large section of the book is dedicated to nature and to all the many creatures whose survival is reliant on their ability to blend into the background. The entire volume is packed with high quality colour photographic reproductions.

All the countries around the world that use D.P.M in the uniforms of their armed forces are given a page or two in this book. It’s fascinating seeing the difference between, say, Sweden and China, (the Swedish patterns are quite wonderful) and being able to appreciate the different approaches adopted by different nations at various times in their histories. The book comes with a view finder (a piece of card with a square hole cut in it) for viewing the pattern in its purest form, for blocking out the surrounding images. This is standard technique in textiles, and it’s nice to see it included here.

The internet is fast becoming a replacement for reference books, but it is in such specialist fields that they can maintain a foothold – so much of the information contained in these two books is simply not available elsewhere. As I have already stated, Blechman is obsessive about his subject and the resulting work is both impeccably researched and unbelievably comprehensive, encompassing everything from Andy Warhol to the work of 15th Century linguists. This book has been seven years in the making and it shows.

DPM: Disruptive Pattern Material – An Encyclopedia of Camouflage: Nature, Military and Culture (2004)
by Hardy Blechman (Editor), Alex Newman (Editor)

Publisher: DPM Ltd (BVI)
Format: Hardcover, 944pp
ISBN: 095434040X

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