So good you can’t see it

[Image: So good you can’t see it: a hunter wearing a Ghillie suit].

For some reason I found myself looking at Ghillie Suits last week, and I couldn’t resist writing a post about them.
Manufactured under the tagline “It’s what they don’t see that’s important!” Ghillie suits are made for paintball – but they are an amazing example of fashion design and landscape simulation together in one. Less a style of dress, they use garments to represent – and thus blend into – the earth’s surface.

[Images: Two more examples of Ghillie suits – the visual effect of the suits are somewhat undercut by the model’s posture].

You might say that these suits are mobile, replicant earths – minor terrains on the move – a statement seemingly backed up by the incredible “HUMUS® Cover Scent,” marketed by the same firm. HUMUS® is an “oil based product that gives off the smell of decaying leaves and allows you to smell like a part of the forest.”
I’m embarrassed to admit this, because it now seems obvious, but I had never actually thought of hunting as a local repertoire of earth-replication techniques, techniques through which you can become as much like the surface of the earth as possible. This then distracts and fools other organisms – and allows you to step in for the kill.
Looked at this way, hunting becomes a kind of planetary pas de deux – which is just a pretentious way of saying that if you act like the planet, you can kill that which lives upon it most efficiently.
Or, to put it one other way, well-camouflaged hunters are masterful practitioners of the landscape arts – but their contributions to any potential conversation about landscape design have been overlooked for ideological reasons (i.e. they’re hunters, not academics, and never the twain shall meet).

[Image: This suit apparently only weights 2.25 lbs. Photo courtesy of Ghillie Suits].

Whatever you might think of wildlife slaughter, though, how unbelievably interesting would it be to get Ghillie suit designers, deep wilderness hunters, and some landscape theorists together for a long afternoon of spatialized discussions. Throw in some anthropologists studying hunter-gatherer tribes and maybe some military camouflage field testers – and, at the very least, you’ve got yourself an interesting book proposal.
After all, what Deleuze has to say about landscape is meant to be interesting; but what about the guys who run Ghillie Suits? Or the editors of King’s Outdoor World or Predator Xtreme? Invite them to your next landscape architecture conference.
In any case, the instructions for how to build your own Ghillie suit are an amazing, if unintentional, act of sartorial landscape criticism, turning clothing into hyper-accurate representations of the local plantlife.
Finally, for a few more images don’t miss the Ghillie suit product slideshow.

(Related: Urban Camouflage).

35 thoughts on “So good you can’t see it”

  1. I’m sorry but that just looks like a drunk Wookie that needs a shower. The underlying concept is a good one and the appropriation of camo style in the wider world is well established but Swamp Thing needs to go home and shape up.

  2. Ghillie suits are mainly for army special forces sniper teams, not paintballers. The snipers and spotters will use leaves, sticks and other natural elements and incorporate them into the suits to blend in even more.

  3. “but their contributions to any potential conversation about landscape design have been overlooked for ideological reasons (i.e. they’re hunters, not academics, and never the twain shall meet).”

    Uhhhhh, why is that? Can academics never be hunters or the other way round?

  4. Thanks for posting this, Geoff. What a fantastic find!

    I think I’m gonna make one this summer so I can sneak up on wildlife in the local river valley to snap photos.

    The effectiveness of that camouflage is just unreal. Seriously awesome.

  5. These remind of an amazing set of photo called Urban Camouflage by a group of german photographers.

    They’ve constructed outfits like those above, only constructed instead out of cardboard boxes or “Sham-wows,” (in case you find yourself paintballing in a supermarket or a Walmart distribution warehouse). Consumer-flage!

  6. These things aren’t just made for individuals to where, they use them in the military hiding things as big as tanks and humvees, even entire camps to hid from recon above…

  7. I think it’s worth restating what Kevin Cannon pointed out: these suits have been around for decades (centuries?), developed by hunters in Scotland. The English military adopted them way back, and snipers have been using them for decades now. Paintballers are just catching on to an old idea. These pictures just show the base models, I’m sure – it’s up to the sniper, er, paintballer to add local flora to complete the illusion.

  8. Geoff, apologies for double-linking the Urban Camouflage project earlier tonight–I confess I didn’t read the article carefully enough.

  9. Why conferences? Why not a doom metal band? Pastoral stage in place of heavy fog machine. Give Sunn a run for their money.

  10. There are interesting parallels too with the mobile phone masts that are very thinly disguised as trees which can be found in the UK…

  11. I’m interested in anything ‘invisble’, but more in urban environments. Could suits be made in brick too?

    Surely these suits make using a gun pretty difficult though?

  12. Those mobile phone towers are here in the US too, but they are terrible examples when compared to these body suits. They only fool you at night

  13. Whose series of books on architecture has machines and weapons as one of the volumes? I’m always getting confused between those crazy Italians. Would really like to get to the bottom of that someday, like why does city creation and city destruction belong in the same book on architecture? Is it just the effectiveness of knowing how to build something up means knowing how to take it down (or vice versa)? Does this mean that actually ghillie suit makers have more to learn from landscape architects than vice versa? (I’m being slow, but what would landscape architects learn from ghillie suit makers? operative fields of simulated vegetation? the perceptual/temporal range of gullibility? (viz “they only fool you at night”)). Or is it that camo needs a bit of thoughtful diversification (like the internet)? I mean the urban camo guys seem to be on a mission for giggles rather than kill ratios, definitely salutary.

  14. It’s funny that the Ghillie suits website picks the obscured head as the icon for “camo” I mean really once you’re camouflaged one body part is as good as any other right? pinkie’s look like thighs, your belly button might as well be an asshole. What would Levinas say? Maybe in a roundabout way the concealed face is more about hiding the hunter from himself than it is for hiding it from his prey.

  15. Incredible, I’ve just this week been obsessed with these; couldn’t find one cheap enough to use/modify as stage costume so making my own junk version which will probably not end up very practical as actual camoflage to say the least.

  16. cemenTIMental, ghillie suits are the new zeitgeist…

    Also, I love this: “Maybe in a roundabout way the concealed face is more about hiding the hunter from himself than it is for hiding it from his prey.”

  17. Well I guess it’s quite a literal effacement isn’t it? and it does make you wonder how people who kill for a living (not paintball then) work it into the rest of their lives. Landscape architects slightly more off the hook in that respect.

  18. Ghillies were supposedly developed by Scottish game wardens to catch poachers. Currently sniper school students in the US have to build their own during their course of instruction. The whole point of the suit is to break up the human silhouette so it’s unrecognizable as such. Google “Ghillie” and a ton of info’s available, including “how to” guides.

  19. Drzza beat me to it.

    The last, then, might provide camouflage and concealment when infiltrating a quilting circle?

    The intentional/unintentional referent of all of these are african ceremonial costumes. It’s not hard imagine that these might have serves dual roles in both functional and artistic/ceremonial contexts.

  20. Even before your ‘Throw in some anthropologists studying hunter-gatherer tribes’ the Yukhagir hunters are what sprung to my mind. These guys are not bushes, shrubs (or Wookies…) when they go hunting elk – they are elk. Quite litterally – although only temporarily and with a bit of help from an old elk-skin, the local shaman and some magic remedies.
    So here’s my alternative suggestion – bring in a couple of Yukhagir sha-men (with remedies, of course) and let them turn your landscape theorists (temporarily, but literally…) into the kinds of landscape features they were discussing (yes, the animism of the Yukhagir also includes in-animate natural objects).
    Instead of the already past-hip ‘user-centered design’, they would be exploring the new-hip ‘object-centred design’.

  21. Yes, normally the realm of snipers far more than paintball. Call of Duty 4 also features ghillie suits prominently for the snipers in that game.

    And one usually grabs flora from your surroundings to fill it out, so it’s less obvious. An evergreen ghillie in a dry grass bushland really sticks out heh.

    Camouflage is as camouflage does, like my mother always used to say.

  22. Ghillie suits are featured in the novel DARWIN’S BLADE by the protean Dan Simmons. A cool novel; not his best, but interesting as a thriller.

  23. Everyone believes that there is no room for snipers in the sport of paintball. But I believe people who make comments like that have never done there research.

    Sniper Definition:(a marksman who shoots at people from a concealed place)

    Nothing is said about distance or type of weapons. Many people take the tactics of a sniper and implement them into paintball. Most competition woods teams have structure just like the military. Snipers are a huge advantage in the game.

  24. This conversation can so much deeper. Besides the ghilli suit the hunter and military special forces soldier's understanding of land and nature is nearly unmatched by anyone. It should also be noted that many hunters and Military Special forces are scolors and writers. check out Capstick.

    perhaps I will write some more about this on my blog when i get a chance.

    Yet again you show how diverse your blog can be in showing how everything is related. Love it.

  25. Buddy ghillies are for hunting and military snipers and spotters. Not paintballing although that is a possibility, they were first made in scottland for hunting. Then in WWII German snipers used them to blend into the grass and brush in Europe.

  26. Kevin Cannon the correct word would be "marksman" not "sniper" sniper is more of a gamer way to say it. Not to annoy you.

  27. Honestly, this is written without any true factual knowledge of information about Ghillie Suits.

    Brief history;
    Scottish Gameskeepers to stop poachers, then during WWI they were adapted by the British Scouts since then most militarys adapted ghillie suits for snipers use.

    Who uses them? Military, Hunters, Photographers, Airsoft Players and Paintball players and for other Recreational reasons.

    Materials; Generaly most ghillie suits are made from Overalls/Coveralls or BDU's. From there netting is applied to the clothing and Hessian/Burlap is attatched.

    How its used? For military purposes this is what a Sniper School would teach, of course just a Hessian/Burlap covered item of clothing isn't going to blend in with the environment surrounding you like the pictures above. Therefore the sniper would use natural foliage/vegitation and apply to the suit as the foliage/vegitation changes so does his attached to his suit and vice verse.

    Hope this helps viewers and my sources are from books by the US.Army and Ex-Snipers of the armed forces from around the globe.

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