Khaki (UK: /ˈkɑːki/, Canada and US: /ˈkæki/) is a color, a light shade of brown with a yellowish tinge. Khaki is an equal mix of sage and buff so it is considered a quinary color.[1]

Khaki has been used by many armies around the world for uniforms, including camouflage. It has been used as a color name in English since 1848 when it was first introduced as a military uniform.[2] A khaki uniform is often referred to as khakis.

In Western fashion, it is a standard color for smart casual dress trousers for civilians, which are also often called khakis.


Khaki is a loanword from Hindustani (Urdu or Hindi) ख़ाकी/خاکی 'soil-colored', which in turn comes from Persian خاک [xɒːk] khâk 'soil' + ی- (adjectival ending); it came into English via the British Indian Army.[3][4]


Khaki was first worn in the Corps of Guides that was raised in December 1846 by Henry Lawrence (1806–1857),[4] resident at Lahore, and Agent to the Governor-General for the North-West Frontier. Initially the border troops were dressed in their native costume, which consisted of a smock and white pajama trousers made of a coarse home-spun cotton, and a cotton turban, supplemented by a leather or padded cotton jacket for cold weather. In 1848, a khaki uniform was introduced.[5] Subsequently, all regiments, whether British or Indian, serving in the region had adopted khaki uniforms for active service and summer dress. The original khaki fabric was a closely twilled cloth of linen or cotton.

Military use

The impracticality of traditional bright colors such as the red coat, especially for skirmishing, was recognised early in the 19th century.[6][7] A response to improved technologies such as aerial surveillance and smokeless powder, khaki could camouflage soldiers in the field of battle.[8][4]

Khaki-colored uniforms were used officially by British troops for the first time during the 1868 Expedition to Abyssinia, when Indian troops traveled to Ethiopia.[9] Subsequently, the British Army adopted khaki for colonial campaign dress and it was used in the Mahdist War (1884–89) and Second Boer War (1899–1902). These uniforms became known as khaki drill, versions of which are still part of the uniforms of the British Army.

During the Second Boer War, the British forces became known as Khakis because of their uniforms. After victory in the war, the government called an election, which became known as the khaki election, a term used subsequently for elections called to exploit public approval of governments immediately after military victories.

The United States Army adopted khaki during the Spanish–American War (1898), replacing their traditional blue field uniforms. The United States Navy and United States Marine Corps followed suit, authorizing khaki field and work uniforms.

When khaki was adopted for the continental British Service Dress in 1902, the shade chosen had a clearly darker and more green hue. This color was adopted with minor variations by all the British Empire Armies and the US expeditionary force of World War I, in the latter under the name olive drab. This shade of brown-green remained in use by many countries throughout the two World Wars.

Use in civilian clothing

The trousers known as "khakis", which became popular following World War II, were initially military-issue khaki-colored chino cloth twill, used in uniforms and invariably khaki in color. Today, the term is sometimes used to refer to the style of trousers based on these trousers, properly called chinos, regardless of their color.

Tones of khaki

Light khaki

Khaki (X11)
    Color coordinates
Hex triplet#F0E68C
sRGBB  (r, g, b)(240, 230, 140)
HSV       (h, s, v)(54°, 41%, 94%)
B: Normalized to [0–255] (byte)

At right is displayed the color light khaki (also called khaki tan or just tan).

It corresponds to Khaki in the X11 color names.[11]


Khaki (HTML/CSS)
    Color coordinates
Hex triplet#C3B091
sRGBB  (r, g, b)(195, 176, 145)
HSV       (h, s, v)(37°, 26%, 76%)
B: Normalized to [0–255] (byte)

This is the web color called khaki in HTML/CSS.

The color shown at right matches the color designated as khaki in the 1930 book A Dictionary of Color, the standard for color nomenclature before the introduction of computers.

Dark khaki

Dark Khaki
    Color coordinates
Hex triplet#BDB76B
sRGBB  (r, g, b)(189, 183, 107)
HSV       (h, s, v)(56°, 43%, 74%)
B: Normalized to [0–255] (byte)

At right is displayed the web color dark khaki.[11]

It corresponds to Dark Khaki in the X11 color names.

See also


  2. Maerz and Paul A Dictionary of Color New York:1930 McGraw-Hill Page 197; Color Sample of Khaki: Page 49 Plate 13 Color Sample J7
  3. Dictionary Meaning: Khaki; TheFreeDictionary; Free Online Dictionary, Thesaurus, and Encyclopedia
  4. St. Clair, Kassia (2016). The Secret Lives of Colour. London: John Murray. p. 240-241. ISBN 9781473630819. OCLC 936144129.
  5. "Khaki Uniform 1848–49: First Introduction by Lumsden and Hodson", Journal of the Society for Army Historical Research, 82 (Winter 2004) pp 341–347
  6. Williams, Cynric R. (1827). Hamel, the Obeah man (1st ed.). London: Hunt and Clarke. p. 279. Retrieved 3 February 2016."...A red-coat on one of these rocks will only be a mark for these rebels."
  7. "The Army". Blackwood's Edinburgh Magazine. 60 (370): 144. "...scarlet is unmilitary, first, because it is tawdry ; and secondly, as rendering the soldier, when isolated, an easier mark than a less glaring colour." (1846)
  8. Tynan, Jane (2013). British Army Uniform and the First World War: Men in Khaki. London: Palgrave MacMillan.
  9. Byron Farwell, Armies of the Raj, 1989, page 75.
  10. Çelik, Tantek; Lilley, Chris; Baron, L. David; W3C; Baron, L. David (19 June 2018). "CSS Color Module Level 3". Retrieved 22 October 2018.
  11. CSS3 Color Module, retrieved 2010-09-12
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