The M1929 Telo mimetico (It. camouflage cloth) was a pattern for military camouflage used by the Italian Army for shelter-halves (telo tenda) and later for uniforms for much of the 20th century. Being first issued in 1929 and only fully discontinued in the early 1990s, it has the distinction of being not only the first printed camouflage pattern for general issue, but also for being the camouflage pattern in longest continuous use in the world.
Evolution of the pattern
Originally only printed on shelter halves, the pattern was not not intended to be worn by soldiers, though the shelter halves could be used as rain-ponchoes. From 1937 the printed fabric was also used for smocks for the Italian paratroopers. At some point before the outbreak of the Second World War pattern was changed, possibly for accommodating printing with smaller rolls. It was scaled down, and compressed slightly lengthwise, but otherwise remained the shapes and colours of the first production.
The colours were influenced by the German Buntfarbenmuster, with a greyish green, brown and yellow or ochre. The pattern was however made in relatively large fields with wavy lines between them, rather than the angular splint type German pattern. The ochre fields were also smaller. Being in production for so long, the colour selection changed somewhat with time, the post-war print having a somewhat richer hue with brown fields more red or rust brown, and the green being less grey.
In 1941, the telo mimetico was adopted by the Germans and distributed to Waffen-SS units operating in Italy and Normandy France during the spring and summer of 1944. Most frequently published photos show members of the the 1st and 12th SS Panzer Divisions wearing the Italian attire along with a mix match of Standard issue Waffen-SS uniforms and gear. After the Italian surrender, stocks of the Italian pattern was captured and used on other fronts Some of it also appear to have ended up in the hands of Czechoslovakian and Soviet units as well. It is possible the whole production machinery was moved by the Germans to Czechoslovakia, laying the foundation for the country’s post-war production. With its very large distribution, the pattern has been the inspiration for later camouflage patterns like the Czechoslovakian Vz 60 mlok pattern and Norwegian M75.
Telo Mimetico in art
The pattern also has the honor of being deemed a work of art in itself. In 1966 and -67, the Italian artist Alighiero Boetti stretched sections of the fabric on frames under the title "Mimetico" (camouflage) as art of an exhibition on the Arte Povera art movement. It was a challenge to the abstract tachist tradition of painting large, flat sections of colour.
- Turner, B. "Italian three-colour camouflage (2nd pattern)". Kamouflage.net. Retrieved 3 October 2012.
- Borsarello, J.F. (1999). Camouflage uniforms of European and NATO armies : 1945 to the present (1.udg. ed.). Atglen, PA: Schiffer Pub. ISBN 0764310186.
- Andrew, Gordon Williamson ; illustrated by Stephen (2005). The Waffen-SS. (2. opl. ed.). Oxford: Osprey. ISBN 978-1841765891.
- "Czechoslovakia". Camopedia.net. Retrieved 9 October 2012.
- Brayley, Martin J. (2009). Camouflage uniforms : international combat dress 1940-2010. Ramsbury: Crowood. ISBN 1847971377.
- "Alighiero Boetti, "Mimetico", 1967". Museo Madre homepage. Retrieved 9 October 2012.[dead link]
- "Alighiero Boetti: Game Plan. 6th Floor, Special Exhibitions, North. July 01, 2012-October 01, 2012" (PDF). Museum of Modern Art. p. 2. Retrieved 4 June 2015.
- Italian camouflages on Kamouflage.net, showing at least three distinct generations of the pattern, as well as some derivates.
- Italian camouflages on Camopedia, showing several generations of the pattern.
- The 1966 artwork "Mimetico" among other of Alighiero Boetti's works, also showing the repeats of the fabric.