For decades, the image of the SWAT and SRT operator has revolved around black BDU’s, black tactical vests, black body armour, black accessories and other black equipment. Today however, with closer consideration paid to the effectiveness of urban camouflage in response to advances in the understanding of how the human eye identifies colors and shapes in man-made environments, some apparel and equipment manufacturers are introducing new concepts in pattern and colour development. For one of the largest international producers of uniforms and tactical equipment, grey is the new black.
5.11 Tactical has taken a big step in furthering this trend of colour optimisation with their line of tactical gear and uniform apparel now available in Storm Grey.
Development of the new Storm Grey line of products was greatly influenced by the same science that was behind the decision to change the uniforms in an entirely different field: soccer – also known to much of the world as football (or soccer). Whether your colours of choice were blue and bright green or blue and orange for NFL Super Bowl XLVIII this past weekend, the uniforms and accessories that were worn by the players were selected to optimise the potential for the human brain to detect contrast and identify other players, this thanks to the initiative of a loyal soccer fan in the UK. In 1996, the head of the Orthoptics Department at the University of Liverpool, Gail Stephenson – an avid fan of the team Manchester United – attended a game and noticed that she had a difficult time following the players on her team as they ran around the field in their new grey uniforms. Gail was surprised that she was having a hard time keeping track of the players she knew so well. Based on previous research in human vision, she was ultimately able to test peripheral vision and identified that a bright red color was usually detectable within a 120 degree field of view, while a pale grey color was only detectable around a 40 degree field of view. The key, she eventually discovered, was that it was not just the color that contributed to the visibility of an object, but rather the contrast of that color to the surrounding environment. In an urban environment like a soccer stadium, the concrete, chairs, and wide variety of people’s clothing created a backdrop in front of which grey uniforms blended in instead of standing out. Fortunately, Manchester United’s short-sighted choice of grey for their uniforms was changed after just 5 games thanks to the initiative and involvement of this dedicated and professions fan, and they continued on as one of the most successful teams in the sport.
While those battling on the sporting field might benefit from high visibility, officers and operators in the street are inclined to take a more clandestine approach. The conclusions that led to the elimination of grey in one team’s gear, have eventually led to the inclusion of grey among members of the teams that work the streets in the neighborhoods and cities of London. The Storm Grey equipment and clothing that 5.11 Tactical has developed allow tactical officers to operate in an urban environment with a more subdued presence, instead of the visually loud and often overwhelming presence of blacked-out storm troopers milling around a neighborhood.
The new Storm Grey collection provides the Storm color option on many of your favorite products including pants, shorts, shirts, jackets, boots, shoes, hats, helmet covers, packs, plate carriers, chest rigs, and a variety of tactical pouches.
As trends in tactical equipment tend to shift, it is clear that urban camouflage is now a serious consideration in the development of equipment and uniforms. With 5.11 Tactical at the forefront of this development and now also shipping products directly to over 90 countries worldwide, this is trend that is here to stay and we’re excited to see how this approach will be applied to new patterns in tactical camo deployed by law enforcement agencies world-wide.