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The Art of Adaptive Urban Camouflage /// VINJABONDActual, casual and active urban camouflage is becoming a part of an interpersonal space, not hiding within a (crypsis) visual space.

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Urban camouflage isn’t about blending into the physical city around you but to appear as if you’re from and belong there.

Achieved by selective cultural assimilation and controlled method acting.

John V Cain
Founder of VINJABOND

Nature, despite its vast diversity is all made up of relatively specific patterns that can be easily duplicated as graphical prints. This is why wilderness and weather mimicking camouflage is just a matter of wearing their respective patterns; jungle, desert, snow etc.

Camouflage in urban environments isn’t nearly as passive, it can and only be active as well as adaptive.

There is a pattern called “urban camo” that even the military utilizes but it’s not intended nor is it effective as actual camouflage. When they use it, it serves more for a uniformity purpose and not to blend-in with the city.

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So in essence, there is no such thing as a universally applicable urban pattern as there are with nature.

Technically, urban camouflage should be called “adaptive urban camouflage” as it’s not merely a garment you wear but an entire act of decisive self reinvention.

To blend-in to a type / group of people or simulate a specific person or persona that fit the locale or venue. That is true urban camouflage. Becoming a part of an interpersonal space, not hide within a visual space.

- Adaptive Urban Camouflage in Tokyo, Japan -

– Adaptive Urban Camouflage in Tokyo, Japan –

Adaptive urban camouflage isn’t the concept of being the “gray man”. That term has been popularized by wannabe survivalists and tactical fanboys. The theory is to be invisible within a crowd, to the extent of being ignored by being “gray”. To be as unnoticeable and unremarkable as possible compared to everyone else.

This is a counterintuitive practice because the smallest fragment of gray in a world of color sticks out like a beacon. Being too different generates visibility.

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To actively be unnoticed; unsocialability, emotionless, monotonous etc. All taken to the extreme at all times around “regular” people raises suspicion.

Take for example a busy pub or bar. The “gray man” is supposed to be unnoticeable so he will be wearing all gray (or even dressed for the occasion) and sit alone in a corner keeping his head down so that no one will notice him. It’s one of those cases where the unnoticed is the most visible, even if know one is paying attention. The gray man will stand out in trying too hard to stand back.

Whereas the man “in” active urban camouflage will be wearing like-clothing and participate in the party, socialize and make himself known to the extent of the venue’s “normalcy” and expectancy. Get into the thick of the people, adapt to the obvious mannerisms.

Being liked by the people drops their guards and increases camouflage status and stability.

Urban camouflage is about blending in with the people and culture. Wilderness camouflage is about blending into the nature and physical surroundings.

John V Cain

The art of adaptive urban camouflage is part street smarts, social simulation and situational awareness.




It’s not hiding. It’s adapting, blending and becoming…

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[The featured photo was taken with a Hitcase in Tokyo, Japan.]

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5 COMMENTS ///

  1. Specialist Zero

    The “gray man” concept does have some good ideas but now a days it has become a bit ridiculous. It’s become a marketing term in a bad way, they now have like “gray man” clothes and colors when it’s just grey.

    Anyways, great post and more on this subject would be awesome.

  2. Koa Lee

    Excellent points my friend. Curious, where is that in Tokyo? I’m going next month and that building looks very cool.


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