Hardy Blechman, the sort of modern day father of camo and designer of DPM Studio and Maharisihi, did an interview with PORT magazine about the history of camo and it’s a great read. I really had no idea what the story was but it makes a lot of sense when you think about it.
For the military, camouflage became important when long-range weaponry was developed. Before that, there was no need for it, but in the South African Boer wars, at the end of the 19th century, English soldiers wearing red suddenly got shot at more and more. Out of survival instinct they developed khaki – basically by dipping their red coats in tea or staining with them with dirt, anything to subdue their uniform because they were getting picked out due to the bright red.