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Thursday, July 9, 2015

The Original Man IN Black: Clothes and Color

Johnny Cash was known as the “the man in black” but the first real man in black was Daniel Boone. You betcha, Boone was known for his very black braintan buckskins. They were so black few could duplicate the color. He never shared how he got his “skins” so dark. He liked black because he felt he faded into the shadows of the great trackless forest while wearing them. I have read several biographies on this true master woodsman. The more you study about him the more in awe one becomes. He was asked many times about his black outfits and the answer was always the same. As an aside an organization for boys, called the Sons of Daniel Boone , founded by Dan Beard in 1905 was the precursor to the Boy Scouts of America.
We know the braintanned skins of various brown shades were also good in the forests. Most who hunted and or were hunted and those who fought in the many battles of early America had little choice of color, but they all knew what worked for them.
Nessmuk to Kephart to Whelen,and Rustrum, White, and Angier all suggest the same basic color for the outdoorsman and that is the color gray. A dark gray, they felt it also blends well and does not show the dirt much. Gray in fact does work well as an outdoor color.
After WW2 camo became popular because many returning GI's had camo. It was cheap and already paid for. So it became the thing to wear. As we moved into the Korean “war” and slid head first into ‘Nam camo was really coming into its own. Movies and TV shows made it kind of a daring thing and suggested a real man in the clothes. Camo worked in the forests and the deserts. Many hunters, hikers and outdoorsmen also wore work clothes, from gray to denims, blue , tan, brown and such.
As we continue to engage in brush wars and wars that are not called wars colors, and more sophisticated patterns emerge. Black and white, muted  and checks, etc. All of these are used by the avid outdoor crowd.
By the 60s the explosion of hiking was on us as well, camping became a bigger deal as the 60s ended. We were then overcome by commercial clothes industry, marketing boomed as an industry itself,  and colors went nuts exploding by the 90s and into the right now with a rainbow of choices.
Color and materiel has to do with function. At least it should. What are you dressing for? Most know about wool, the pros and cons of cotton, and what the synthetics have to offer or say they offer. If you are a hiker the color for the most part is really no big deal. Black in the heat of the desert might not be smart but purple seems to be okay, what?. White might be a better choice.
Depending on the function, the potential function and always present “cool” look factor we have lots of choices today. Some for whatever your function is are better choices than others.
Hunters have many options open to them. We are still on point about color and not what the garment is made of.
I know from observation at the many Dirttime events we see all kinds of choices being made. From hi-tech camo to desert tans, white, red, and black to coyote brown. We all have our colors we seem to be drawn by. I feel what we have to keep in mind is the function or end use of the color and how that will benefit us. Do you want to enhance or blend into the background.
What I find interesting is how the color suggestions have changed over the years for the general outdoorsman.
Blue jeans and a white T-shirt will work some of the time. I favor plaid shirts in all colors except yellows. The right blend of colors in a plaid shirt are very much like camo under the right conditions. Pants I favor range from black to gray to tans and browns. But that's me as I tend to like the “traditional” .
I have noticed the difference in how men dress for the bush from the time I was a young boy in the 40s and watched my Dad and his friends head out for a day or so of fishing. They wore mostly work clothes. In the 50s it was much the same way, but with more gear and color for the hunter and fishermen.
Oh yes the “High” end user clothes were always there, and the colors were sometimes a subtle difference from the run of the mill. Today many high end clothes have their label plastered all over the clothes.
In Wyoming at Dirrtime 10 we did a test with color for identity and how far a certain color could be seen. That was real eye opener. I would like to conduct a test, an eye test, in different terrains to see how a dark tan , a plaid shirt and black outfit in the shadows would show up or not. We know that movement is key in spotting anyone or any critter. Many birds have bright coloring but can't be seen until they move.
Color will be with us, is with us and will always be with us, those of the outdoor school seem to like and be drawn to the earthy colors, I think that's good. I like it.

By Dude McLean

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  1. most of us grew up reading about or seeing tv shows about Boone... most of it was bs... but the real deal is something that will leave you amazed... "Boone" by Robert Morgan and "Daniel Boone" by John Mack Faragher will help put you in touch with the real man of the woods


  2. Just curious as to the outcome of the color vs distance test at DT 11?

  3. Scott, the bright orange won hands down... far and above the most easy to see from any other color you can name from any distance like 400 yards and more. thanks for the question should have had the answer in the article..


  4. As far as every day living is concerned, I really am an advocate of avoiding camo/tactical anything. You said it best in an article entitled "Shoot Me First" over on a couple years ago... Look less than average. Good advice IMHO.

  5. thankyou Dave , yep somethings are best with your own brand of camo... blend