Some thoughts on guerrilla fashion in airsoft.
I’ve noticed a new trend at my local site, and I’m not talking about HPA. No, what I’m talking about is a polarisation of approaches towards clothing and equipment.
There have always been two sartorial tribes in the safe zone. Namely, those of us who tend towards authentic kit, and the beginners who have sensibly decided not to invest in tactical clothing and load bearing equipment. At least, not until they’re worked out whether turning up to work / school on Monday morning with a bad case of facial BB acne really is for them.
But of late the gap between the two tribes seems to be increasing. For many, an old set of surplus DPMs is no longer enough. They have to turn up dressed like they’re about to infiltrate Pakistani airspace to bring justice to a global terrorist mastermind.
To call their load-out ‘Gucci’ is an understatement. It’s what Elton John would wear if he did camo. Standard military issue isn’t good enough. It has to ‘operator’ grade or nothing. Hell, their underwear is probably 5.11. Not that it pays to dwell on that thought.
At the other end of the sartorial spectrum, it’s not just the beginners who seem to be sporting what you might call ‘aggressive civvies’ these days. More players are rocking up in jeans, working boots and civilian tops. This could be the influence of speedsoft. Or it could be a tribute to the scruffy look favoured by certain groups of US special forces.
It set me thinking. One thing that stops me hitting the field more frequently than I do is the faff of preparing. Living as I do in the centre of a large city, I can’t just hop into the car wearing cammies on a Sunday morning, ready for mock combat. I have to wear civvy clothing, and then change at the site. Often in the cold or the pouring rain.
So why not just play in civvies? Or at least, civvies that would be halfway appropriate on a semi-respectable battlefield. The kind of clothing favoured by rebel fighters the world over. So, I looked out an old black woollen turtleneck sweater, a pair of past-it jeans and some builder’s boots that I happened to have lying around. Oh, and the ubiquitous freedom fighter’s black beret. Total cost? About £20.
I can happily wear all of this clobber (maybe minus the beret) on the streets of my city without looking like a terrorist or, worse still, a weirdo. Making the whole palaver of prepping for and making my way to a site just that little bit easier. Which at the crack of dawn on a Sunday morning makes all the difference in the world.
I teamed this outfit with a great new Helikon-Tex chest rig, that has plenty of room for rifle mags, water and Mk. I haven’t yet completed the look with an AK. But I have an answer for that.
One of my inspirations for this look has been characters like the gentleman on the left (who appears to be in the act of deploying an unapproved pyro). The photo is from Nicaragua in the 80s. And the chap is holding – you guessed it – a FAL.
I’ve touched on my affection for these timeless products of FN at least once before. And the practical nature of the folding-stock G&G FNC appealed to me for this load-out. Not only does it collapse easily into a small and inconspicuous hold-all, it’s also very rugged and, unlike other FAL variants, it takes STANAG magazines.
Another inspiration for this look was photos I’ve seen of sectarian combatants from the Lebanese city of Tripoli. These blokes happen to support separate sides in the conflict in neighbouring Syria. But I’m sure there’s more than an element of settling old family or business scores in their slightly half-hearted street battles.
The fighting seems quite civilised as these things go. During the week, these blokes are probably shopkeepers and accountants. But at the weekend, they pick up their illegally-procured AKs and AR15s (sometimes fitted with some rather tasty optics) and take to the neighbourhood streets to have a genial pop at each other. It’s seems a bit like airsoft, but with the occasional death.
This can’t be fun for the non-participants caught in the middle of it. But I can’t help thinking the participants get some sort of thrill out of it. Many of them certainly look like they’re enjoying themselves. A phenomenon that probably perpetuates more conflicts than we’re prepared to admit.
So far, my new ‘come as you are’ casual wardrobe option hasn’t got me out of the house any more often on a Sunday morning, but with new resolve in the coming year, here’s hoping it will do.