Since World War II massive surpluses of military goods have been introduced into the civilian sector as a means to find alternative homes for excess items produced during wartime. The goods sold usually include clothing, small tools and accessories. Much of these items have been adopted by the fashion world and, over time, have become staple pieces in our everyday lives. Often, a part of what occurs when things are adapted and reappropriated is the loss of its original meaning and/or intention. Camouflage is frequently seen blazoning objects, which have no enemies to hide from. Words such as ‘mil spec’ are thrown around to simply reference military inspired gear and can’t actually function out in the field. Authenticity in this area can be hard to come by these days. Because of that we were psyched, earlier this year, to learn about Special Operations Technologies – Black (aka SOT-BLK, pronounced ‘sought-black’), a new category of military bags that combines the craftsmanship of Special Operations Technologies, veteran tactical gear extraordinaire, and the creative direction of DualForces, a multi-disciplinary creative agency led by Rob Abeyta Jr., who has worked with the likes of Nike, Undercover, Stussy, and Vans.
S.O.Tech is a company that was started by James Cragg back in 1997 after an “ah ha” moment having crushed his ankle during a parachute jump while serving in the military. At the time of accident, the field medic who was helping Cragg with his injury did not have access to his personal medic pack so he had no choice but to utilize someone else’s. This led the medic to have to fumble through an unfamiliar bag of first aid supplies where items were difficult to locate due to the lack of a standardized system that carried across the various divisions of the military. For us this was surprising to hear considering the regimented reputation we know of the military. Nevertheless, it presented Cragg an opportunity to build something that has become invaluable to military and law enforcement personnel. Over 1600 designs, from all different divisions, such as special operations forces, search and rescue, federal law, bomb squads, and intelligence agencies had to be evaluated in order to design medic packs that are interoperable. Today S.O.Tech manufactures over 25,000 bags per year to meet the demands of the men and women who serve our country.
SOT-BLK manifested out of a small, focused project, which brought Cragg and Abeyta together a few years back. Through it, the two realized that Cragg’s extensive time with the military and his ability to think outside the traditional military box combined with Abeyta’s background in deep military training and design formulates a synergy that few others can emulate in designing and producing military gear for civilian use. Through the modification of S.O.Tech’s existing iconic bag designs, SOT-BLK products are equal in strength when it comes to style choice and militia DNA.
With utility weighing in at the forefront of the design process, SOT-BLK bags are a true representation of the principle “form follows function”. Every decision made in making military gear is a deliberate one. Extra weight can compromise a mission running in the hills of Afghanistan, flexibility of packs themselves allow for adaptation under different conditions and proper placement of pockets can save lives when the clock is quickly ticking away. With genes like that, it is without a doubt that the utilitarian nature of SOT-BLK’s main three silhouettes can cross between military and civilian use with ease.
The S.O.Tech Go Bag Xtended was designed by an elite US Special Operations unit as a survival go bag with a tubular body so it could slide over the shoulder during aircraft or vehicular bail out. The unique sling configuration with internal zippers allowed the SOF operator to pull it under the arm to access ammo and supplies while on the run and then slide it back to the rear. The tubular design allows for storage and easy removal within small, narrow spaces such as armored vehicles and Special Operations aircrafts. The non-traditional shape also made it popular for work during surveillance operations for carry of cameras and carbines. In addition, an internal slot can house a100mL hydration reservoir.
The MULTIPLE ASSAULT COUNTER-TERRORISM ACTION CAPABILITY PACK was designed with elite elements of Los Angeles Police Department and Los Angeles Sheriff Department allowing carry of terrorism response assault gear in one kit. In response to the Mumbai Assault of 2008 where multiple civilian centers were targeted simultaneously, LAPD and LASD developed MACTAC-PACK to train and equip multiple teams around the City of Angels to engage attacking terrorists with rifles, plate carriers, and tactical systems deployed from the pack. The bag functions first as a backpack for transport purposes and then converts to a satchel for easy draw of ammunition and grenades during the assault phase with double straps that convert to a sling strap to carry out this transformation.
Issued to all Special Operations troops as the survival satchel bag of the US Special Operations Command BALCS pack set, the Mission Go Bag equipped SEALS, Special Forces, Rangers, Air Force Special Operations Command and Marine Special Operations Forces throughout the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The MGB was originally designed as a medic’s go bag for Special Operation Medics where it disconnected from the main pack heralding a game-changing design in SOF packs, as operators began leaving their main pack attached to gun trucks, running back to secure go bags after making contact. Its universal appeal as a go bag for breaching, explosives, snipers, communications experts and basic survival saw it selected SOCOM wide. MGB has 6 different carry configurations and is shaped to allow for expansion and contraction to accommodate items placed inside.
All SOT-BLK products are designed, cut and sewn in Los Angeles, California where staff includes veterans returning home from war. Cragg and Abeyta believe in the importance of providing vets with a familiar and safe work environment to aid in their transition back into civilian life. Not only that, they view their products as a symbol connecting those who serve and have served with civilian life. Influential designers such as Enzo Mari and Buckminster Fuller have always said that design has a social responsibility that should have an effect on collective thought. SOT-BLK focuses on a part of modern society they find to be meaningful in their lives and strives to achieve great social impact through what they do both out in the field and right here in our homeland. SOT-BLK is unquestionably striving to be more than just another brand.
*We recently paid the good people over at SOT-BLK a visit at their manufacturing plant. What seemed to be, from the outside, just an ordinary office within a business park, turned out to be a work space that doubles as a small military museum. Check out our visit below…