A short while back, I posted information about Tiger Stripe Products new pattern, the All Terrain Tiger. Well, after that posting, I contacted Mr. Bauer, founder and owner of TSP and requested an interview about his new product. He was kind enough to agree.
So, without further a-do…
Q. How long has Tiger Stripe Products been in business?
A. 27 years this June.
Q. During that time, how has the camouflage industry changed?
A. There have been many changes within the industry. Many years ago you only had a few major patterns to choose from like my pattern, the government patterns and the beginning of the hunting camouflage explosion. Since then we’ve seen the hunter (fashion) market explode into numerous patterns containing leaves, tree branches, tree bark, cat tails, snake skin, sage brush, evergreen trees, etc., etc., etc. The rest of the commercial markets had a few more patterns showing up but most were merely poor substitutes for the real original patterns.
The government patterns had been an area where development had become complaisant which is traditionally what happens during peacetime. The First Gulf War began and everybody started scrambling around for desert camouflage options to get the job done. Coincidentally, six months before this war, I had the idea to apply a desert colorway to our pattern. As it turned out, it was just beginning to become a huge commercial hit when the war started and the entire remaining portion of our first production run was purchased and shipped to the U.S.M.C. Quantico Facility.
Since then, the government figured out they needed to step up their game in camouflage and so, the opportunity became ripe for explosive development of new camouflages for the commercial markets, with many hoping to gain favor in the government market.
Q. Did the “digital revolution” impact the industry and designs?
A. Absolutely. The traditional design houses didn’t know how to “do digital”. They had all lived in an analog world for as long as they could remember and were simply unequipped to make the pixels correctly and unfamiliar with how to design a real workable pattern using these pixels. There still remains only a couple of individual designers in the world today that really know what they are doing with pixels.
Q. Is digi camo really more effective than traditional versions?
A. The easy answer is yes and no. Digital camo is just another way to skin the proverbial cat. Depending on the quality of the pixilated design, it can be very effective. But just because a pattern is made from pixels it does not instantly make it inherently better. The secret to any pattern’s real effectiveness is how well its overall design works with its colorway.
Q. What are some of the things you take into consideration when designing a new camo pattern?
A. What kind of terrain, single terrain or combination terrain, or all terrain. Second, the colorway colors necessary to fit the terrain requirements. These two things work hand-in-hand for any pattern. The “best” colorway in the world will be ineffective without a corresponding pattern design that correctly utilizes that colorway, and vice-versa. Also, I take into consideration if the pattern is for government use or not. The reason behind this is that many government decision makers (world-wide) tend to be a bit more conservative in what they expect/like to see.
Q. How does your new All Terrain Tiger compare to some of the types currently on the market, such as Multicam, the MARPAT family and the Army’s Universal Pattern?
A. The new ATT is yet another way to get the camouflage done job done in transitional terrains as well as some arid and wooded terrains. For what my (biased) opinion’s worth, I believe my ATT is as good or better than these other patterns you mention taking into consideration similar environmental terrains.
The number one big difference between the ATT and Multicam pattern is in how the completely different artwork designs deliver their camouflage effect . The ATT’s strength is in utilizing both relatively highly contrasting shapes and their interaction with their color shading to produce a superior silhouette disguising effect. The Multicam relies much less on high contrast shapes and more on just color shading for its camouflage effect.
At the heart of the design, the ATT artwork is also, by far, a much more versatile pattern than Multicam just because terrain specific colorways can be substituted for the AT colorway giving you a very effective desert or woodland camouflage. This competes directly with the MARPAT camo selections but MARPAT does not have a transitional or all terrain colorway. The MARPAT design of today could never even support a transitional colorway because it does not have enough color positions for the many color tones necessary for a truly effective transitional type colorway.
After rushing to production, the Army found their “Universal” pattern to be not so universal. Unfortunately, many have incorrectly faulted the “digital” aspect but that’s just giving pixels an undeserved bad rap. The problem stems from too much testing in a single environment. The Army quickly wanted and needed a workable camo for the current theater of operations where it resulted in an “Ok” camo fitted mainly for just this area. While it sort of works for some specific environments, it’s far from a universal camo. To be truly capable of being effective in a variety of environments, your colorway needs to be far more than just three colors like the Army’s Universal. Plus, you need the corresponding digital or analog pattern design to make these many colors to blend and work together. So, it’s not the fault of the pixels but rather the failure of both the colorway and the design that only uses three colors. The Army was also very attracted to this Universal pattern because it costs considerably less to only print three colors.
Q. With the ATT pattern, what was your objective when starting this project?
A. Number one was to give my classic Tiger Stripe an alternative updated look. I’ve always been sensitive to the criticisms of some that the stripes of the classic Tiger Stripe pattern were too dominant which made the pattern “too” contrasting. While contrast can be a good thing for a camouflage, it needs to be tempered against the requirements of the targeted terrains. While the trend of camo for the past several years has been towards a good transitional area or all terrain camouflage, I felt the basic design was good but needed some redesign to meet these popular new requirements.
I think I’ve been very successful in this master pattern update. Depending on the colorway and how its applied will determine the overall stripe dominance as well as many other more subtle design changes and additions. This new basic pattern is just not a one colorway camouflage pattern.
Q. Have you received any requests for manufacture that would bring it to market?
A. Many things are in the works right now however, I can’t really comment on what’s happening.
Q. What can my readers do to help the process along?
A. Manufacturers tend to respond quickly and favorably to a large number of their Dealers and retail customers asking for a product. I would ask your readers to contact their local A/N supply stores, favorite catalog companies, favorite manufacturers and (repeatedly) ask for the ATT. A manufacturer loves to hear from their dealer and retail networks that a significant number of customers want a specific product.
Q. What benefits do you see in the ACU uniform vs. the traditional BDU?
A. Although this question in not specifically regarding camouflage, I do realize garment layout is an important part of the entire package so I’ll throw in my 2 cents. First is a better overall non-restrictive fit of the ACU over the BDU. ACU pockets and pocket placement are far superior to the BDU’s simple square four front pocket design. Once again, the straight square fitted BDU design was born from peacetime conditions. As history shows over and over, it always seems to take a war or two for the “decision makers” to take note of what the people on the front lines actually need to successfully accomplish their tasks and not what the bureaucratic “decision makers” think they should have.
Q. What improvements do you feel could be made to the ACU?
A. I hear many things from operators like they would prefer more pockets here or there for custom items but I feel the overall design seems fairly solid as well as overall very popular. Too bad the Air Force didn’t see it that way when I was working with them. Now it seems they are having to play catch-up once again.
Q. Do you believe it is possible to design one pattern that can deliver a high degree of performance in all environments?
A. In a word, no. What makes a truly hi-performance woodland/jungle camo makes it stand out in a desert environment and vice-versa. The best you can do is a so-called All Terrain pattern like my ATT, which works very well in transitional environment situations and works marginally well in pure Desert or Woodland/Jungle situations.
Q. What role does technology play in design and manufacture?
A. I would have to write a book on the subject to completely answer this question. In short, the computer is now an invaluable tool for both design and manufacture today. The computer simplifies and allows many tedious jobs to become quick and easy. One thing to remember however; I firmly believe that as far as design goes, the human eye is what’s needed to fool the human eye while technology is required to fool technology. You still need a human to blend a good camouflage pattern and colorway together to know what can fool the eye. To defeat technological things such as night vision equipment, you need to employ technology.
Q. How do you test new patterns? Do you “print it out” and test in the real world or is it a digital process?
A. It’s a combination of evaluating computer generated environmental settings and taking paper and fabric samples to the field for evaluation. This can be a very long process of repeated adjustments to the pattern and colorway. Field evaluation also takes time because you need to check the camouflaging effect in as many different light and weather conditions as possible.
Q. From design to manufacture to garment delivery, what is the average production time?
A. With the decision already made to actually move to production; including pattern design, an average total time frame could be approximately four to six months. Now that’s for a product made within the private sector. If it involves the government, then it’s a very different thing. With the government involved decisions come very slowly. Also, one might think that a slow decision yields a good decision however that’s far from what actually happens. As the government is fond of saying, a “Fast Track” garment project from design to delivery will take approximately five to seven years. Enough said?
Q. What kind’s challenges did you face when working with the Air Force in developing their new pattern?
A. In two words, limitless bureaucracy. Please read the answer from the previous question. Also, The CSAF and other senior leaders were all evidently still thinking in state-side peacetime terms for a new pattern and uniform. To quote what I was told when starting the project, “we want a distinctive AF look”. This came directly from the CSAF at the time.
They started out fielding a total a fashion statement with absolutely no regard for my professional opinion. They were drawn to a marginally better colorway and digital style pattern when in-theater personnel, as well as the general AF population, hated this fashion uniform and it was found to be a negative to be standing out too much in a crowd. Once again following the Army’s lead, the AF had to then scramble to adjust the colorway on the new digital pattern to more resemble the Army’s colorway so personnel would NOT stand out in crowd. So much for the peacetime distinctive standout concept. I’ll limit myself to these comments on this subject and end with a simple… Wow!
Q. I think your ATT pattern is a winner, how has it been received in the private and government sectors?
A. Not to get into specific details for either sectors right now, I can say the overwhelming response from both sectors has been… when and where can I get it!!
Q. The Army recently announced that they are looking for a new camo, is there a chance we may see our Troops in your ATT?
A. Unfortunately, the ATT design was not completed in time to meet the Army’s solicitation deadline in March. The only way it could have a chance to be considered is if someone in the government camo decision process had the foresight to recognize the superior versatility and effectiveness of this pattern and somehow enter it for testing. From my previous experience with government though, I’m certainly not going to hold my breath for that to ever happen.
Q. When can we expect to see the All Terrain Tiger available for purchase?
A. Yet to be determined. I’m working on getting it out as quickly as possible and if I have anything to say about it, it won’t be a “Fast Track five to seven years”. Stay tuned for updates!
Mr. Bauer, thank you for this interview. I have found it to be quite educational! I will never look at camouflage the same way again!
Readers: The more we ask, the sooner it will be in stores! Contact your favorite supplier and ask for TSP’s All Terrain Tiger!