Last Updated on September 28, 2023
The khaki color has long been associated with military uniforms and safari explorers. The pigment is incredibly effective at helping the wearer blend into their surroundings. It’s been extremely beneficial for people in the fields of military and exploration.
It’s no wonder the hue eventually found itself into mainstream fashion. The term is now used in the fashion industry to denote a style of clothing that’s not necessarily of the original khaki shade. Khaki pants and jackets, in particular, have been in style for several decades in various countries worldwide.
But what is it about the khaki color that makes it so popular? Read on to find out.
What Color Is Khaki?
Khaki is a shade of brown with yellow and white hues. Note that khaki has traditionally been described as a shade of tan. But this description isn’t exactly accurate, much as tan is a light brown color.
Khaki has a hex code of #F0E68C. It’s one of the many common pigments that aren’t represented on the color wheel.
What Colors Make Up Khaki?
Based on the above definition, it’s clear that khaki is made up of three main colors – brown, yellow, and white. It’s also to be noted that the pigment contains more of brown and less of white and yellow.
It would also be accurate to say that khaki contains blue, yellow, and red. That’s because these are the colors that make up brown. Note that to create brown pigments, you’ll need to mix blue with yellow to obtain green. You then add red to the green to produce brown.
You could also make brown by mixing nearly equal portions of red and orange color and then adding a hint of black. Therefore, orange and black are also fairly represented in khaki.
Is There a Standard Definition Of Khaki?
Khaki is one of the many colors whose description pretty much depends on who’s defining it. True khaki should be a brown color featuring hints of white and yellow.
But thanks to modifications over time, you can now find shades of khaki with green undertones. This variation is known as khaki drab or olive drab. It’s only considered khaki to the extent that the green undertones in it aren’t saturated enough to qualify it as a shade of green.
The green-toned khaki shade is so popular that it’s considered authentic khaki in many Commonwealth countries. That’s because it was the shade worn by many colonizing military forces.
In addition to the green-toned khaki, we also have khaki shades ranging from dark-blue to beige. And in the fashion industry, all rules regarding the standard khaki color have been thrown out the window as garment workers experiment with all manner of shades.
But despite these numerous variations, the widely accepted definition of khaki remains a brown color with white and yellow undertones.
Is Khaki a Neutral Color?
Neutral colors refer to muted shades that appear colorless at first glance but which have noticeable underlying hues when observed up-close. These hues may also change depending on light intensity.
Khaki is a neutral color. Other neutrals include black, white, gray, cream, beige, brown, and taupe. As with all other neutral pigments, it has no place on the color wheel.
Where Did The Word “Khaki” Come From?
The word “khaki” has its roots in Hindi, where it loosely translates to ‘dust-colored.’ According to other sources, the word also has an Urdu origin, where it equally means ‘dust.’
Regardless of the origin, the translations accurately depict one of the primary benefits of khaki garment – dust masking.
What Is The History and Origin Of Khaki?
In 1848, the British colonial army in India chose khaki as the primary color for their uniforms. This decision was inspired by the color’s excellent camouflage, especially in desert regions.
The original khaki shade was brown with tints of yellow and white. This would later be accepted as the standard definition of the khaki color.
During the Second Boer War, the British forces were christened Khakis due to their khaki-colored uniforms. The pigment proved so efficient on the battlefield that it gained the attention of other warring countries.
Several other nations soon adopted khaki as the main color for their military uniforms. The United States Army officially adopted khaki during the Spanish-American War of 1898. The United States Navy and the United States Marine Corps soon followed suit.
As khaki uniforms gained traction throughout several armies, there was a need to come up with other shades. The darker olive-green shade emerged during World War I. It proved remarkably effective at providing camouflage against foliage and bare ground.
After its association with the military for decades, khaki eventually entered the mainstream fashion industry in 1905 after Levi Strauss & Co. introduced khakis to its line of clothing. The color experienced a tremendous surge in popularity even as more shades were released over the years.
What Is The Meaning and Symbolism Of Khaki?
Khaki is a neutral color that represents nature. But unlike shades of green that often conjure up the imagery of lush greenery, khaki resonates more with deserts and rocky ground. No wonder it was once the go-to pigment for forces fighting in similar landscapes.
Due to its neutral hues and excellent camouflage, khaki can help you achieve perfect harmony with Mother Nature. It’s one of the best pigments for outdoor lovers. Whether planning a month-long romantic getaway or a day picnic, donning khaki clothing would make you blend seamlessly and be one with nature.
Khaki also represents peace and calm. That’s because it’s a shade of brown, which is one of the pigments associated with serenity and tranquility.
The fact that khaki is a shade of brown further speaks to its reliability. The pigment can add a touch of confidence regardless of the design project or occasion it’s used.
Wholesomeness is another quality conveyed by the khaki color. Invite this pigment into your setting if you wish to communicate a sense of completeness. For instance, you could use khaki to design wholesome food products or as the background color for mindfulness meditation cards.
Khaki is also the color of youth and innocence. Again, this has a lot to do with its neutral pigmentation. If you’re considering treating your teens and tweens to a weekend of retail therapy, you’ll do well to spare a thought for khaki-colored garments.
Khaki’s neutral shades may also resonate with balance. The color would suit events that have no specific gender, class, or cultural inclinations. Last but not least, khaki connotes stealth and seriousness. The color’s origin pretty much explains its synonymity with stealth.
On the cons side, khaki could symbolize boredom. This is especially true for the browner shades of the color.
How Would One Use Khaki?
1. Fashion Design
Khaki has been a popular color in the fashion industry for over a century now. Although it has a deep history with the military, the color has since found its way into civilian wear too.
2. Product Design
The khaki color can also help bring out the best in a product. That’s especially when used as the background label color. Since it’s the color of completeness, khaki would especially suit wholesome food products like grains.
3. Interior Design
You could also introduce khaki into your living space. As a neutral nature-themed color, khaki can bring warmth and serenity to your home. The pigment would look even more stunning if used in rooms that receive ample natural light. That’s due to its ability to create the illusion of more space.
How to Make Khaki Color
There are multiple ways to create khaki from scratch. Here are a few of those methods;
Method – 1: Using Brown, Yellow, and White
i. Add brown paint to a color mixing bowl.
ii. Introduce small amounts of yellow and white to the brown color.
The conventional wisdom is to begin with 80% brown and 20% equal combination of yellow and white. It’s also best to add yellow first and then follow with white. It’s easier to create your desired shade of khaki this way.
Method – 2: Using Blue, Yellow, Red, and White
This method might take a bit longer than the first method. However, the results can be more reliable.
i. Mix equal parts of blue and yellow to obtain green.
ii. Add small amounts of red to the green color to produce brown.
iii. Add white and a little more yellow to the brown to make khaki.
The shade of brown created will depend on the amount of yellow and white in it. You may not need to add yellow if the brown color created in the second step already contains a decent amount of it.
Method – 3: Using Red, Orange, Yellow, Black, and White
Like method 2 above, this method lets you create brown first and then make khaki out of it. The procedure is a bit shorter despite requiring more colors.
i. Mix equal portions of red and orange to make brown.
ii. Add a hint of black to tweak the brown color.
iii. Gently mix in small amounts of yellow and then white.
Method – 4: Using Sage and Buff
Khaki is a quinary color. In other words, the pigment can be created by combining equal amounts of buff and sage, all of which are quaternary tones.
i. Add equal amounts of sage and buff to a color mixing bowl.
ii. Add more yellow and white as desired.
NOTE: The above methods are the standard procedures for making true khaki, which is brown tinted with yellow and white. The process may differ slightly depending on the specific shade of khaki you wish to make.
Shades of Khaki
Khaki is available in numerous shades. However, only a few of these variations have been officially identified and described. They include;
a) Light Khaki
Light khaki is, as the name implies, a lighter shade of khaki. It’s also known as khaki tan or simply tan.
b) Dark Khaki
Dark khaki is the direct opposite of light khaki. This shade results from adding more darker pigments when preparing the color, such as blue.
c) Khaki Green
Khaki green is the second-most popular shade of khaki after the brown hue. It’s also known as olive drab or olive green.
As already indicated, green-toned khaki became popular in Commonwealth countries when soldiers showed up donning it. That explains why it’s simply called ‘khaki’ in many Commonwealth countries.
d) Vintage Khaki
It would be intuitive to imagine that Indian khaki is the standard khaki color. That’s considering that the pigment was birthed in the country. But that’s not the case. The Indian khaki is essentially a warm, desaturated orange color.
Khaki is a quaint, elegant color with a rich history of military use. This neutral color is perfectly suited for the outdoors. But you can also pair it with other pigments like yellow and gold to create stunning interior designs.