Why so many countries ban camouflage print

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You might find it hard to believe, but there are countries that ban clothing with camouflage patterns. And as a tourist, you could unexpectedly be fined for wearing an item you had no idea was prohibited. In this article, I’ll tell you which countries these are, why they ban it, and how enforcement varies.

Why so many countries ban camouflage print
Photo:  billow926 / Unsplash

Countries with a ban

There are at least eighteen countries where wearing camouflage print clothing is not allowed. The list below shows which countries these are. There may be more countries with such a ban, but these are the ones I’ve been able to identify.

  • Antigua and Barbuda
  • Bahamas
  • Barbados
  • Dominica
  • Ghana
  • Grenada
  • Jamaica
  • Nigeria
  • Oman
  • Philippines
  • Saint Lucia
  • Saint Vincent and the Grenadines
  • Saudi Arabia
  • South Africa
  • Trinidad and Tobago
  • Uganda
  • Zambia
  • Zimbabwe

A closer look at this list reveals that the countries are located in certain regions. The rule is particularly common in Caribbean islands, but it also exists in various African countries.


Why so many countries ban camouflage print

The reason for the ban is quite simple. In countries that have implemented this rule, the military is responsible for maintaining street security, and soldiers wear a uniform with a camouflage pattern. If someone were to wear similar patterned clothing, they might be mistaken for a military member. Although there’s a significant difference between fashionable camouflage clothing and a military uniform, governments want to prevent misunderstandings, hence the outright ban.

This rule is similar to one in the Netherlands, where the police are responsible for security. That’s why it’s also forbidden to wear such clothing in your free time, even during carnival, especially if your outfit closely resembles the original uniform.

For this reason, in the Netherlands, a company called Frankenhuis is responsible for the confidential destruction of such uniforms. If a police uniform falls into the wrong hands, for example, robbers could more easily strike, as people are more likely to cooperate if they think someone works for the police.


Different legislations

Although the aforementioned countries ban camouflage print clothing for the same reason, each country handles it differently. For example, in Ghana, Antigua, and Barbuda, it’s not only illegal to wear camouflage print clothing, but also parts of a uniform or anything resembling it. You need to be very careful because even if the clothing resembles a uniform worn by the military in another country, you could be penalized.

Grenada, on the other hand, is more lenient. While citizens must adhere to the camouflage ban, customs officials turn a blind eye to tourists, much to the local population’s frustration with this lenient attitude.

In Saint Lucia, the rules are less strict. It’s illegal to wear such clothing, but trading in it is allowed. It can be sold, just not worn, meaning sales must target foreign customers.


Military checks

In most countries, the focus is on preventing civilians from wearing camouflage print. The Philippines takes a different approach. Not only is such clothing banned for civilians, but the military is also monitored by the Philippine National Police (PNP).

A special inspection team from the national headquarters ensures soldiers only purchase uniforms from government-approved suppliers.


From fines to prison sentences

What exactly happens if you break the rules? Just like the legislations, penalties vary by country.

In Grenada, you could face a fine of 10,000 East Caribbean dollars, which is over 3,400 euros, or you could spend a year in prison instead.

If you wear camouflage print clothing in the more northern islands of Antigua and Barbuda, they are slightly less harsh. You could still face a year in prison, but the fine is lower, at 2,000 East Caribbean dollars, roughly 680 euros.

However, if you break the rule in Saudi Arabia, the consequences are far from lenient. Although the exact fine is unknown, wearing camouflage print can lead to a five-year prison sentence.


Penalties in Nigeria

The penalty in Saudi Arabia might seem harsh, but there’s always one country that’s even stricter: Nigeria. Ayomide O. Tayo, a journalist in Nigeria, knows all too well how far the country goes with the camouflage print ban.

“In the 1990s, at the height of military rule in Nigeria, soldiers threatened people with army green cars to change their vehicles’ colors. A former neighbor of mine had to apply a black stripe to her army green Mercedes Benz after several warnings from soldiers. Although military dictatorship in Nigeria ended in 1999, the zero-tolerance policy for civilians wearing camouflage clothing still exists.

(…) A colleague of mine once went out after work wearing a camouflaged cap. Two soldiers on a motorcycle took it from him. Luckily for him, they were in a hurry, so they didn’t publicly punish him. I’ve heard horror stories about how civilians were punished. They were publicly beaten,” writes Tayo.



If you’re caught with a garment made of camouflage print in Nigeria, you don’t know what to expect. Because even the government doesn’t always adhere to the official laws, which are sometimes ambiguously defined. According to the law, there’s a penalty of ten naira, equivalent to 0.02 euros in Europe. Alternatively, you could face a one-month prison sentence.

If you wear the camouflaged clothing in a manner that conveys disdain towards the military, the punishment is harsher. Although conveying disdain through clothing is a subjective concept, your prison sentence could suddenly increase to three months. Or you might receive a fine of 40 naira, equivalent to 0.08 euros. This may seem insignificant, but the average Nigerian struggles to make ends meet on less than two euros per day.

The government’s inconsistency with its own rules is evident in a case from 2011. In this instance, a two-year prison sentence was handed out, with no option for a fine, for wearing camouflage print.


Or is it fashion?

Although the ban still applies in many countries, governments are finding it increasingly difficult to enforce. Camouflage print is no longer solely associated with the military; it has become a part of fashion.

Authorities in Ghana and Saudi Arabia have expressed concern about the growing number of people wearing the print in their leisure time. Enforcement at home is becoming more challenging, but celebrities seem to add fuel to the fire. Rihanna, Kim Kardashian, and Kanye West are often seen in camouflage print. And although they don’t live in countries with such bans, their fashion choices are followed worldwide on the internet.

So, it remains to be seen how long the ban will be upheld. But if you’re going on vacation, it’s probably best to leave your camouflage clothing at home, just to be safe. Before you know it, you could lose your money or your freedom…



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