Friday, August 27, 2010

Black vs. Tan Boots - Boot Week

With most tactical boots being available in black or tan/desert (and with some models being available in as many as 4 different colours), you may be wondering whether you should buy the black or tan version of the boot of your choice.

One of Connor's posts from Camouflage Week, The Problem With Black, explains how black is a poor camouflage choice. In the post, Connor explains how "There is no black in nature" and "black is also very visible in shadowed areas, as the true black of the camouflage stands out amongst the soft black of the shadowed area". This is absolutely correct in the case of true black, and a clean, polished pair of black boots will stick out like a sore thumb in any woodsball setting, as sure as any black paintball mask.

However, play woodsball in those same black boots for a day in rough conditions, and what you end up with is nowhere near true black.

In fact, their colour is closer to grey or brown, like the ground itself. In this state they contrast very little with the ground with which they connect.

The lesson here? If you want tan or coyote brown boots to complete a certain look or match your BDU set, by all means go for that colour (but note that when they get wet, they'll turn a dark brown). But if you're concerned about camouflage, and the tactical footwear you want only comes in black, don't let that fact stop you from buying it.

While we're on the subject of camouflage and boots, let's take a look at the current state of the art in camouflage tactical footwear. Currently, most nations' militaries are going with tan or brown for desert/arid theatres of operation, and either black or brown for temperate/woodland areas. Some companies and armed forces are bucking this trend however, taking steps towards providing even the feet with some sort of camouflage.

As noted in my Rocky S2V Special Ops boot review, Rocky is making the S2V in 4 different colours. Rather than producing just the typical black or tan, they've also come out with an olive green boot, as well as a sage green version:

The United States Air Force particularly likes the sage green version to go with their Airman Battle Uniform (ABU), and has ordered special edition S2Vs with a steel toe and Thinsulate insulation for many of their personnel.

Further North, the Canadian Forces were field-testing a CADPAT TW-patterned boot earlier this year.

The jury's still out on these, however from what I've heard the troops didn't find them all that practical; there was no way to polish away scuffs on them, and the boots tended to fade to white as they became old and worn.

Lastly, with the U.S. Army having recently adopted Crye Precision's MultiCam pattern in the Afghan theatre of operations, some companies are jumping on the bandwagon to provide MultiCam footwear to complete the camouflage. The Belleville Shoe Manufacturing Company's Tactical Research line now features two MultiCam offerings, namely the low-cut Kiowa and the high-cut Khyber:

And Oakley, not to be outdone, will be releasing their MultiCam LSA Boot (Land, Sea, Air) later this summer:

However, it remains to be seen whether these little patches of MultiCam Cordura fabric on the boots here and there will actually afford any meaningful camouflage to the wearer. Generally for camouflage anything that breaks up a pattern helps, as the human brain picks up recognizable shapes (i.e. a boot) more easily. Even putting a single diagonal line of a different colour across an item changes its pattern, and can serve to confuse an observer. So the MultiCam variations would probably help, but most likely the same purpose could be served by mixing coyote brown fabric with tan leather, as many boots already do.

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