Since the middle of the 19th century, armies began using military khaki to reduce visibility from a distance. The British dyed their white uniforms with coffee, tea, and ink, resulting in the lighter brown shade known as khaki. However, brightly colored military uniforms still dominated going into World War I. With the development of long-range rifles, it quickly became apparent that the ability to hide during combat would be increasingly important.
Military camouflage uniforms date back to 1915 when the French enlisted the help of artists to develop new uniforms after a crushing defeat by the Germans during the First World War. The French army abandoned its uniforms consisting of white gloves and red pantaloons. The United States followed suit in 1917. At the time, camouflage became popular in the form of hand-painted uniforms, decoy tanks, paper-mache carcasses (snipers used as blinds), and even faux bridges.
By the second World War hand-painted uniforms were ditched for full-on woven or printed uniforms. Germany used such techniques to develop tunics, ponchos, helmet coverings, and reversible field jackets in camouflage patterns suitable for various terrains as well as winter vs. summer seasons.
Compared to the first World War, WWII utilized camouflage more heavily to conceal weapons, tanks, and other vehicles as aerial attacks became more prevalent. Visual deception, as opposed to concealment, was another important warfare tactic. Similar to the British “Dazzle” paintings, allied military officials relied on tricking their adversaries into making inaccurate judgments and decisions regarding an object’s importance or the position/strength of their units.