“We are living in the age of tacticool, and the AR-15 pattern rifle is the weapon of the age,” wrote Kelsey Atherton and Ian Boudreau in a March 2018 article for Waypoint, the VICE channel for gaming culture. Tacticool, they continued, “has become a widespread aesthetic expression associated with the kind of militant hypermasculinity that gave us a ‘tactical lip balm’ Kickstarter and ‘everyday carry’ versions of mundanities like wallets and charging cables (check out this utility moneyclip with a multitool from 5.11, who have a ‘product integration partnership’ with Ubisoft).”
“Swiss Army gun,” posted on International Military Forums, May 2006.
In a related Twitter thread posted on June 18, Boudreau noted that tacticool “has completely infected police departments,” which now dress their officers in uniforms “designed for combat.”
Civilian law-enforcement officers and armored vehicle in Ferguson, Missouri, August 2014. Source: MSNBC.
A portmanteau of tactical and cool, tacticool has been around since at least 2004, the date of the earliest Urban Dictionary definition (“Descriptive word for equipment or clothing that does not have any tactical purpose; but looks cool”). Subsequent UD entries included the qualification that the term was “derisive” or “generally used as an insult.” A 2014 article in The Prepper Journal, headlined “Are You Tactical or Tacticool?”, clarified:
By tacticool, I mean that instead of focusing first on what you need for your families’ [sic] safety you focus on looking cool. I think some of this is simply part of being a man in that we want on some level to live out our Navy Seal fantasies while we are living our Homer Simpson reality.
(For more on preppers, see my 2012 blog post.)
By 2015, tacticool had migrated into the online gaming universe, where it referred to virtual rather than real-life weaponry. And in the latest twist, tacticool appears to have been reclaimed as a positive term. See, for example, Tacticool.com, “a collective of firearms enthusiasts who celebrate the pro 2nd Amendment lifestyle.” Sample article: “Get Rid of That Sissy Silver Magazine.”
Tactical comes from Greek and Latin words whose roots signify “matters pertaining to arrangement”; it’s related to tactile, tact, and contact. Tactics originally had a strictly military sense (“the art or science of deploying military or naval forces in order of battle”), and first appeared in print in 1626; the adjective tactical precedes the noun tactics, dating back to 1570 (“the Feate Tacticall”). During World War I tactical began to be used in contradiction to strategic, as in “tactical bombing”; 1957 saw the first reference to “tactical” atomic weapons. (From the OED: “Nobody has managed ... to draw an effective distinction between ‘strategic’ and ‘tactical’ atomic weapons.”)
From the outside, the concealed carry market may be more closely associated with clothing and accessories that appear as inconspicuous as possible. But when it comes to tactical gear, the motive is to signify that there’s a decent chance they’re armed.
Me, I'd recommend strategic pants https://t.co/wUwmL1jupa— Doug Saunders (@DougSaunders) June 21, 2018