Colors / Army Green

Elvis-600Alexander Keefe at Cabinet Magazine:

Late Motörhead front man and Nazi-memorabilia collector Lemmy Kilmister once said of his preference for the German side’s kit that he would have collected and worn British uniforms from the same period had their khaki color not made whoever put them on look “like a fucking swamp frog.” Much the same could have been said of the US Army’s World War II uniforms, characterized by an ochreous, greenish, khaki-like color known as olive drab. And Lemmy was not alone in his disdain for the dusty greens and taupes favored by the Allies; indeed, he was late to the game. Almost as soon as the war was over, mutters of dissatisfaction with olive drab in the United States turned into explicit concern. Army brass began to feel a pressing need for an appealing, ennobling color that could distinguish the army from its rivals—the other (generally blue-toned) branches of the US armed services. Committees were formed, reports drawn up, and after much debate it was decided that olive drab had to go, no matter the cost; the all-too-familiar sight of plumbers, garbagemen, and service station attendants working in battered, shit-brown Ike jackets across small-town America had finally put an end to whatever glimmer of romantic, colonial swagger had once attached to khaki and its confreres. And anyway, the colonial age was over, at least for the Brits—the war had put paid to that set of fantasies—and something new was beginning: call it the Cold War, call it the space age, call it the age of advertising. Call it Pax Americana or the beginning of America’s long half-century.

Whatever it was, it cried out for a new color, something plastic, identifying, unifying, and good. Reluctantly, the army also concluded that it would have to be some shade of green, an unfortunate color that, as historian Michel Pastoureau has pointed out, carries a profound ambivalence in the Western tradition—“a symbol of life, luck, and hope on the one hand, an attribute of disorder, poison, the devil and all his creatures on the other.”

more here.