Tigerstripe Swatches

Posted by Alex Valli on


An article dedicated to the study and preservation of the innumerable Tigerstripe camouflage patterns of the Vietnam War period and beyond. All photographs were taken in-house and display tiger patterns from our private archives as well as some previously sold examples.

Patterns are defined and categorized by the formation of shapes rather than the colourway as defined by Richard Johnson's 'Tiger Patterns' book.

A wide variety of Tigerstripe patterns were commissioned by US and South East Asian military organisations throughout the Vietnam War and contracts were awarded to numerous manufacturers across East Asia. Loose tolerances, various localised dying practices, and the expectation to meet demand explain the diversity of colourways seen on Tiger patterns. The swatches shown in this article display a range of colourways and fade patterns.

Please note that photographs are not to scale and were taken to show the largest available uninterrupted section of fabric on the garments I have available.

The patterns are not oriented in any particular direction, so you may notice that some patterns are at 180-degree angles to one another. This is a common trait seen on garments and I have maintained the original orientation of the pattern as seen on it's respective garment. All photographs were taken with the fabrics laid flat under even, consistent lighting. 

This is a working document, and will be updated when new articles become available.

Below is a timeline that shows the developmental history and evolution of wartime Tigerstripe patterns. A list of the abbreviated Johnson terms alongside other collector's terms may be found beneath.

Pattern nomenclature cross-reference:
Johnson's Terms Other Collector Terms
Vietnamese Marine Corps Experimental (VMX) N/A
Vietnamese Marine Corps Sparse (VMS) VNMC first pattern
Vietnamese Marine Corps Dense (VMD) Seawave / VNMC second pattern
John Wayne Sparse Variant (JSV) N/A
John Wayne Sparse (JWS) Early Classic / Fat stripes
John Wayne Compact (JWC) CIA
John Wayne Dense (JWD) Okinawa / Classic
Tadpole Sparse (TDS) Silver
Tadpole Dense (TDD) TO78 / TO79
Tadpole Dense Variant (TDV) TO78 / TO79
Advisor Sparse (ADS) Gold
Advisor Dense (ADD) ARVN Classics / Purple
Late War Lightweight Sparse (LLS) Lightweight
Late War Lightweight Dense (LLD) Late War
Late War Midweight Dense (LMD) N/A
Late War Heavyweight Dense (LHD) N/A
Late War Heavyweight Sparse Reversed (LSR) N/A
Late War Heavyweight Dense Reversed (LDR) N/A
Splotch (SPL) CIDG / Coarse
Saigon (SAI) N/A
Thai Tadpole Sparse (TTS) Thai
Thai Late War Large (THL) Thai Large
Zig-Zag (ZIG) Penis
Vietnamese Marine Corps Transitional (VMT) Viet Tailor Made

John Wayne Dense (JWD)


Tadpole Sparse (TDS)


Advisor Dense (ADD)


Late War Lightweight Sparse (LLS)

Splotch (SPL)

Late War Midweight Dense (LMD)


Late War Lightweight Dense


Late War Heavyweight Dense

Tadpole Dense (TDD)


Thai Tadpole Sparse (TTS)


Thai Late War Large (THL)

This article is dedicated to the work of Sgt. Richard Denis Johnson. His 'Tiger Patterns' book is an immense source of inspiration and continues to serve collectors as the bible of Tigerstripe patterns. A must-read.
With thanks to Show Linh for his continued research and enthusiasm to teach others about the nuances and variations of wartime tiger patterns.





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