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Style Salute: Khaki

by Caitlin Kelch

A day didn’t go by in the early 80’s where I didn’t stare into the third drawer of my dresser and revel in the crisp neutral-ness of my khaki collection. I felt undeniably chic, neat and way smarter than I was. To me, khaki meant there was a little old money and boarding school somewhere in my past, present and future. Along with my graduated gold bead necklace and my grosgrain ribbon watch, I was ready accept the gift of genuine pearl earrings from anyone with a checkbook. But I lived in the crappy part of town and that wasn’t happening.

Even for posers like me, khaki exudes classic style and whether they’re wrinkled, ragged or otherwise mussed up, if you’re wearing khakis — you’re cool.

Khaki, as a color, is a muted shade of yellow brown. Khaki is a loanword* incorporated from the Hindustani language (ख़ाकी/خاکی ) meaning “soil-colored”.

The word khaki originally derived from the Persian word خاک or khâk, which literally means soil.

Off the high-style stage, khaki has taken over the last day of the work week in America, as throngs of office workers throw off their more formal attire and don them for casual Friday. It’s nice to know that the fabric’s military history has a place as a modern day work uniform. Whether you’re on team khaki or not, there no denying its enduring place in fashion and fabric history. Khaki – we salute you! –Caitlin

*A loanword is a word adopted from one language (the donor language) and incorporated into another language without translation. Thanks Wikipedia!


captured the legendary allure of khakis in their 1993 “Who wore Khakis?” ad campaign. Pictured here are actress Carole Lombard and jazz musician Miles Davis. The diverse campaign also included images of Muhammed Ali, Salvador Dali, Norma Jean Baker (Marilyn Monroe), Andy Warhol and Gordon Parks. Hard to argue against khakis after that stellar line-up.


Models Poppy Okotcha & Lauren Hutton make casual khaki glamorous. Images via & respectively

The silhouette of the shown above from Need Supply Co. (on sale!) adds a certain modesty to an otherwise skin-showing style.

is the new white and brings a utilitarian feel to the minimalist bedroom.


Cult-favorite director, Wes Anderson, used wilderness & khaki themes to bring to life Camp Ivanhoe in his film . From tents, to uniforms, to the supporting color cast, this movie is all about coming of age in khaki.


 with khakis may be overkill, but these comfy kicks would pair well with some madras shorts.

This made its way down the runway in Gucci’s 2015 fashion show.

A simple keeps hair in place on a breezy beach.

Photographer  keeps comfortable working in .

also wore khakis professionally when working in Tanzania with her beloved chimpanzees. Photograph by Michael Nichols, National Geographic Magazine Staff




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    This is an interesting little piece that generated lots of memories, e.g. the khaki fashion that followed Out of Africa. I enjoyed your opening paragraph and hope sat some point you found those pearls. Till now I had forgotten my watch with grosgrain ribbon strap! By the way, in British and ex- Brit countries we used to understand khaki as an olive green colour – the colour of military uniforms, but now I think, form film and tv, the American colour prevails.

  • I feel like Khaki is this new color that so many brands are using now. It’s great because it goes with so many other colors and also feels neutral enough to decorate with in any room. I started thinking about a revamp of my powder room and khaki has been a huge inspiration for the color scheme. I have a few things so far but this article really gave me some ideas. I have a few khaki candles set up so far but would love some other recommendations on a wallpaper that might be interesting.

    Thanks all!

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