Khaki – The History Behind the Everyday Fabric

British Lead Corp of Guides Wearing Khaki in the 1800's

Despite being one of the most neutral and unassuming fabrics, the history of khaki is an interesting and complex tale.  Historically, English soldier’s uniforms were made in a recognizable red hue that gave the British their notorious “red coat” nickname.  This unmistakable color gave the soldiers an intimidating edge and boosted their reputation, but it also prevented them from blending into their surroundings.  While this was not a problem for the British during most of their campaigns, it became an issue in the mid-1800’s as the English began their expansion into India.  Against the muted background of the Indian sand dunes, the red coats were easily discernable which ultimately posed a serious threat for soldiers during skirmishes.

Sir Harry Lumsden

Sir Harry Lumsden, a British lieutenant in command of a regiment in Northern India invented khaki as an alternative to the traditional British uniform in 1846.  The Punjab region, within which the unit was stationed, was quite hot so Lumsden and his troops began wearing lighter-weight pajama bottoms to combat the tropical climate.  Lumsden then recognized that the uniforms were too detectable to the opposing forces, so he took the cotton and linen pajamas and colored them using mud and plant based dyes.  The word “khaki” actually comes from the Hindi-Urdu word meaning “dusty” or “earth-colored.” Tops were then fabricated out of the same dust colored fabric, and the khaki uniform was born. 

U.S. Army Poster During the Spanish American War Showing Soldiers Wearing Khaki

Shortly thereafter the British military recognized the benefits of khaki and they began producing more uniforms in the color.  Khaki uniforms helped to give the British an advantage during their Indian and African campaigns.  Subsequently the U.S. Army began using Khaki uniforms in 1898 during the Spanish American War, and the fabric has been a staple within most militaries throughout the world for over a century.  Today, nearly every conceivable garment is produced in khaki and it is an essential fabric for anyone on any given day.

Band of Outsiders Contrast Button Cotton Twill Blazer

Beams Plus Double Breasted Blazer

Woolrich Woolen Mills Cincinnati Jacket

Mackintosh Gowrie Jacket

Woolrich Woolen Mills Safari Parka

Engineered Garments Trail Vest

Sid Mashburn Cashmere V-Neck Cardigan

Ralph Lauren Purple Label Military Cotton Blend Shirt

8.15 August Fifteenth Original Button Down

Incotex Slim Fit Chinos

Epaulet Rivet Chino Khaki Canvas

Pantherella Ribbed Cotton-Blend Socks

Belstaff Cotton-Canvas Messenger Bag

Borsalino Fedora

About these ads
  1. Matt said:

    Need to throw in the Epaulet Cramertons, as well, given the history of the Cramerton cloth. JMO

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 11,717 other followers

%d bloggers like this: