The book I’m currently writing is about the Army. It’s also about my time at West Point—but it’s not about my father. It’s about three women I met while living there. So, when I flipped through a few catalogues lately, I was pleased to see page after page of old school, circa 2000, camouflage. Green, brown, and gray. Just like I remember smelling all those years ago.
I grew up around a lot of combat uniforms. Of course, this was back about ten years ago, when Army Battle Dress Uniforms (BDUs) were green, gray, and brown. These days, the Army Combat Uniform, or ACUs, for you non-military folks, aren’t green. After all, our armed forces aren’t fighting in the forest. The uniforms are tan, beige, and brown—fit for fighting in the desert.
BDUs smell like mud and Old Spice. I know, because I smelled it every night when my dad got home from work. At the time, I was unaware that the memory I made wasn’t gripping his core, but smelling his uniform: shoe polish, sweat, and aftershave.
In the past, camouflage has been relegated to hunters and those with a commission—but if you look around, you’ll see it’s popping up all over the place in the mainstream.
Now I’ll be the first to admit that it’s a stretch—and wearing it might just feel a little strange. But the strength of camouflage paired with soft accents is surprisingly beautiful. It’s where the fierce and the feminine meet. And in a way—it’s exactly what my book is about.
Top photo via J. Crew