Camo on the Catwalk: History, Must-Haves and More

Forget frilly floral's and spunky polka dots. Dust off your combat boots—we're getting militant about camo.

On the battlefield, this time-tested staple was never meant to be seen on the catwalk. But leave it to the fashion world to make an ironic, albeit chic, statement turning disguise-wear into a head-turning must-have. This rugged textile surpassed decades of fashion twists and turns, here's how it ended up in your closet.

Back to Basics

The inherently fashionable Parisians weren't thinking couture when they strayed from their vibrant red and blue infantry attire into more inconspicuous battle gear. As a tactic to blend with the battlegrounds, neutral colored camouflage replaced patriotically hued uniforms. Americans took note, with the help of top camouflage stylists, including soldiers Grant Wood and Bill Blass (who later became a fashion icon), American camo was born. The classic U.S. Woodland pattern, recognized by it's tan, beige, black and green motif became the go-to for soldiers. Now, this civilian favorite can be found in closets across America in even more varied patterns than ever before. Not sure of your options? Start with this camo pattern guide, then start pairing up the rugged neutral with pieces that bring out your style personality. For instance, the gray tones of winter textiles pair well with bold outerwear like a sleek leather jacket.

Wardrobe Staple

We can thank the 80s for bringing military style to the fashion forefront and the 90s for kicking it into high gear. Andy Warhol's bright-colored camouflage paintings, circa 1986, inspired neon-splashed army wear often seen as a pairing to equally glowing leggings and accessories. Though completely counterintuitive to camo's working purpose, it started a movement that snowballed into the 90s. Thankfully, the 90s toned it back down to the earth-toned camo we know and love, only with touch of grunge (think baggy JNCO Jeans). Call it a fashion-faux pas, but it's evident these decades are largely responsible for the now subtle camo pieces many of us consider wardrobe staples. Take a lightweight camouflage top that pairs beautifully with jeans, skirts and even floral designs; making it possible to be equal parts fierce and feminine.

Colorful Camo

Camo is such a runway staple that designers constantly seek new avenues to by which to keep it current. Today, top fashion icons, like Michael Kors and Missoni, are reinventing army couture with a colorful twist. We're not talking 80s neon. According to Refinery29, the wear-with-everything pattern also has the potential to go way beyond basic. Adding that style mavens are forgoing the typical light-tan-and-olive palette in favor of electric blue and fuschia mixes, making the rugged print more eye-catching than ever. Give the trend a try with bold and vibrant tones in royal blue, crimson and slate to mimic looks from the runway.

From tote bags and footwear to sunglasses and jackets, camo can be easily incorporated into any wardrobe. Our favorite take on this hot pattern? A fearless look that combines ultra-girly pastels paired with classic camo neutrals. We dare you to give it a try.