What Is Tactical Gear and How Has It Become a Trend?

What Is Tactical Gear and How Has It Become a Trend?

In the past, tactical gear existed solely to fulfill one purpose: outfit the armed forces. It was predominantly in use by members of the military and law enforcement officers. However, as time has gone on, the variety of people utilizing tactical gear has expanded. Nowadays, it’s no longer just for professional use. It has successfully cemented itself in the mainstream.

By mainstream, I am not talking about the clothes worn on runways during fashion week. (Although, oddly enough, the ‘style’ of tactical gear has indeed featured there many times.) Instead, I am referring to the predominant civilian use of tactical gear. Many civilians have woken up to the benefits of clothing that serves a specific purpose outside of simple aesthetics.

In this article, I’ll be walking you through everything you need to know about tactical gear. I’ll cover everything from its definition to its history, all the way through to your legal standing as a citizen in tactical gear. You don’t have to be a serving soldier to make use of the practical benefits of tactical clothing. You just have to know which elements could benefit you the most. There’s a lot to unpack, so let’s get right into it.

The Definition of Tactical Gear

Let’s start with the absolute basics: What is tactical gear, and how is it identifiable from regular clothing?

The primary difference is the purpose behind the clothing. While ordinary clothing might be a form of self-expression, tactical clothing serves a specific practical purpose.

These purposes vary enormously and depend on your intended uses for the tactical gear. For example, a law enforcement officer’s tactical gear would differ widely from the tactical gear a hunter would wear. Both people can wear equipment, but they need their clothing to serve very different functions. A hunter doesn’t require a bulletproof vest. Likewise, law enforcement doesn’t require extra pocket space for food and water reserves.

It’s also essential to remember that tactical gear isn’t just items of clothing. Gadgets from the standard binoculars up to night vision goggles fall into the category of tactical gear. You can also count extra-durable flashlights, water-resistant pouches, pocketknives, and even sunglasses as gear. What ties all these items together is their robust durability.

Hunters, campers, and hikers are some of the countless examples of civilians who make use of these reliable products. Many people invest in the latest gear as a vocation. There’s no hard and fast rule on who can make use of tactical gear. One of the main reasons that tactical gear is so in-demand is that you can apply it to countless circumstances. You don’t have to be an intrepid explorer or former military personnel to see the benefits of clothes with functionality.

How the Military Tactical Gear Has Become a Trend

From sophisticated backpacks to tech-enhanced body armor, tactical gear has seen a swell of innovations in the past century. The demand for new products hasn’t stopped yet. In actuality, it seems to be growing. This surge in interest is one of the reasons so many invest in tactical gear purely for vocational reasons. Watching the industry evolve is fascinating.

When Did the Tactical Gear Industry First Originate?: The History

Strictly speaking, the origins of tactical gear date back over a thousand years, in the sense that armor and utility clothing count as tactical gear due to their purposes in battle. Military equipment and tactical gear share an intertwined history. However, these days, when someone mentions tactical clothing, they probably aren’t talking about full chain-mail.

The true boom of popularity in tactical gear for civilians arrived in the late twentieth century and continues to grow to this day. Initially, people wore tactical clothing with a specific purpose in mind. However, in the past decade, it has become common to see clothing inspired by law enforcement and military personnel as a staple in high street fashion.

A fashion statement isn’t what the majority of tactical gear enthusiasts are trying to make. Indeed, I would go as far as to say that the high street might be guilty of hopping on a trend to make a bit of money through camo prints and multi-pocket vests. But, surprisingly enough, the origins of civilian-use tactical gear have roots in a similar scheme.

While the world has always been at war in some capacity, vast stockpiles of military equipment haven’t always been necessary. The phrase ‘tactical gear’ came about as a way to rebrand some of the unneeded military gear and sell it to the public. Similarly, manufacturers created and distributed variations on equipment utilized by law enforcement.

These days, this equipment is ubiquitous as ‘tactical gear,’ and most people don’t bother distinguishing the different items by its origin. Whether the military or law enforcement inspires it, it all falls under the same umbrella. The notion that civilians could now have military-grade equipment was understandably appealing, and a new market came into being.

Fully equipped tactical outfit

The Rise in Popularity

Demand continues to increase for tactical gear as more and more people wake up to its many uses. Even the most average of citizens can find worth in items such as rugged flashlights. With their technology and durability, tactical gear is no longer a market aimed at a specific demographic. Almost everyone can benefit from having the proper tools.

Marketers understand this, so they have capitalized on it for years. A vast array of brands exists that pride themselves on creating next-level gear for the many practical demands we face in daily life. A simple Google search of ‘tactical clothing’ will provide you with a seemingly endless supply of sites all vying for your business.

Of course, not all of them deserve that business. As is the case with any industry, there’s an abundance of companies out there just wanting to profit from something popular. If you are new to purchasing tactical gear, make sure you check out a brand’s history before buying from them. Check the section below titled ‘What Gear Should You Have?’ where I go into depth on what you need to look out for and what to avoid.

Tactical gear and clothing are so much more than just a trend or novelty, which is why it has achieved longevity. Each item of clothing or piece of equipment serves a specific purpose. The industry continues to evolve to match the ever-changing needs of its customers, so its popularity has never dwindled.

The Future of Tactical Gear

As I mentioned before, part of the fascination with tactical gear emerges from how it continues to grow and evolve over the years. Just as the tech world continues to expand and innovate in new and exciting ways, so does the world of tactical gear. They often go hand in hand. For this reason, imagining what is tactical gear going to look like in the future is exciting, especially as so many tools become more refined with advancements in technology.

I admit it’s impossible to know what will become available for civilian use. However, one way to project what may be hitting the tactical gear market is by keeping an eye on the military’s new equipment.

The world of tactical gear generally operates on a trickle-down basis. The military or law enforcement have first access (of course) to the newest editions of equipment. From there, the availability of the equipment proceeds down the chain until it’s ready for commercial sale. The amount of time it takes for an item to make it to the retail market depends on a variety of factors, perhaps most notably how appropriate the item in question is for civilian use.

If we look to the troops of today for an insight into what civilian gear may look like in the future, it’s a pretty exciting sight. The military is continually looking for new ways to give their troops the cutting edge in both technology and equipment. Thanks to their efforts, soldiers can look like they’re straight out of a science fiction movie.

From complex network communication systems to state-of-the-art navigation devices, today’s soldiers boast a robust array of tools at their disposal. Some of the cooler inventions most recently rolled out are the additions of helmets that possess real-time positioning data. I’ve also seen body armor pieces that not only protect the wearer but also function as efficient computers.

Of course, a lot of the innovations made for troops are for combat. For the average civilian, this equipment may not be as useful. You don’t need a visor to provide you with thermal readings of fellow shoppers when wandering through Walmart. What is exciting is how the average Joe can repurpose these devices to serve non-violent purposes. A long-distance thermal reading visor is a fantastic addition to a hunter’s arsenal, for instance.

In many ways, the future of tactical gear is much like its past. It will continue to grow and evolve to meet new requirements. Technological leaps are happening every day, and it isn’t just your smartphone or laptop that benefits from these advancements. The very clothes you wear can become revolutionized with new, practical tech.


The history of tactical gear is fascinating, and the future of tactical gear remains intriguing as innovations develop every day. Whatever your reason for investing in tactical gear, there’s sure to be a gadget or item of clothing that meets your needs.

From the military to law enforcement, to the general public, tactical gear is widely popular. It offers durability, affordability, and multipurpose efficiency. The demands of modern life sometimes require more than your average tools, and tactical gear exists solely to solve those problems.


- The US Marines (Nathan Thomas)

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