Tuesday, July 21, 2009

The Nazis Had the Best Uniforms, Part I

There's a prevailing wisdom in art and design circles that the armies with the coolest uniforms generally lose. At the risk of appearing patriotic, I might point out that the Taliban do look pretty cool in their black turbans and eye makeup. Nuff said.

But back to another war, the Second World War, in close proximity to another "Great Recession."

First, the coolest uniforms and best design awards go to:

Germany and Austria

Don't get me wrong, they were evil, and not in a good way, but word is the Nazis had the best logo (with the most powerful color-combination, see pic above), the coolest uniforms and the most handsome equipment, large and small. No doubt. A certain elan, you might say (grey, black and beige go a long way). The Bauhaus had a lot to do with this.

The Soviet Union

I think the Red Army was a close second, thanks to the Russian avant-garde of the teens and twenties, lead by Kasimir Malevich, et al. The Cossack look really made it. And they did end up being the "bad guys" after the war, so it all fits.


The Italians were up there, too, due in large part to the Futurists. But plumed hats are silly (unless you're the Three Musketeers), and tanks the size of Fiats aren't quite as "sexy" as Panthers and Tigers. Clever Apple using those names for their Mac OS. Note: The German Leopard tank wasn't introduced until after the war, in 1965. But still, go Apple!


The Japanese had their own, Asian-influenced, thing going, though the puttees (strips of fabric wrapped around the ankles) were a bit dated. Then again, the swords did add a certain frisson to the whole hi-tech/low-tech dialectic.

Pictured is Odd, 1996, a word painting on wood, from a series of 11-inch square panels I worked on for about six years. Other paintings in the series included "Deluxe God" and "Dirty/Clean" (both diptychs), "Firearm," "Picasso II," "Humility" and "Placebo."

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