What Color is Khaki

What Color is Khaki? Shades of Khaki and a Little History

Khaki is in the range of colors we refer to as earth tones or neutral tones. It isn't overpowering, yet stands out and compliments many other colors. We have come to associate khaki color with military uniforms or safari explorers, and that is not accidental as their earthy tone blends in with nature. This article identifies the color khaki as we learn its history. 

What is khaki?

Khaki color is a shade of brown that has yellow and white undertones. We’ve traditionally described khaki as a shade of tan, which is a light brown color. 

Note that you won't find the color on the traditional color wheel. On Canva, the hex code for khaki is #F0E68C. The hexadecimal color has CMYK values of C: 0, M: 0.04, Y: 0.42, K: and RGB values of R: 94.1, G: 90.2, and B:54.9.

Because of modifications over time, there are now shades of khaki with green undertones, but it is not a shade of green. Neither is it a shade of gray, as some people believe. This green-toned color is called khaki drab or olive drab. In many Commonwealth countries, this shade is viewed as the authentic khaki because the colonizing military forces wore it.

What does the color khaki mean?

The meaning of the color khaki differs in areas of use. As a neutral room color, it can create a sense of calm, unity with mother earth, and soft relaxing warmth. Khaki pants, however, stand for activeness, stealth, or seriousness. The same color can mean very different things. Generally, the color also symbolizes authority and hierarchy. 

Related: You might also like to explore more color meanings, and for related tones, check out our lists of bright yellow quotes and eco-friendly green quotes.  

History of khaki

The word khaki is a Hindi word that means dust-colored; other sources claim it is an Urdu word meaning dust. In 1848, the British colonial army in India chose a material of that color for uniforms. The color was an excellent camouflage in desert regions and served them during the Second Boer war. They developed other khaki shades as the color spread throughout the British army.

Other nations, especially those with large desert areas, soon adopted it as a color for their military uniforms. The darker olive green shade of khaki was developed during World War I to provide camouflage against foliage and bare ground. Many countries that participated in the two World Wars favored this color for uniforms.

Color khaki in the fashion world

Khaki Pants
Photo by Maksim Goncharenok

The pants we call Chinos or khakis are one of the earliest adaptations of the color to civilian clothes, copying the style from military-issued trousers given to soldiers. The military uniform association of khaki helped it become a popular color for outdoor garments. In addition, it became a signature color people wore during extreme outdoor activities. 

Over the years, khaki has gone from a light brownish color to a green undertone. Now there are shades ranging from dark green khaki to almost beige. In addition, fashion designers use it to create styles that make people feel more confident and audacious. As a result, you can find all sorts of khaki-colored clothing today.

Khaki has also developed into a clothing style. You have probably seen clothing labeled as khaki pants, jackets, shorts, and so on. They might not even be the traditional khaki uniform shade but they share similar outdoorsy aesthetics and functionality.

Related: You'll find khaki commonly used by sustainable outdoor-wear brands and as a popular tone for eco-friendly backpacks.

Is khaki a color or a fabric?

The entry about khaki in the Encyclopaedia Britannica describes khaki as a fabric. They make them with wool, cotton, or synthetic fiber blends. But we also note that the description specifies it as a light brown fabric so that it is distinct from non-similar shade fabric of the same material. So khaki is not a fabric but a color.

Khaki in interior design 

The color, khaki, is one of the many neutrals inspired by nature that bring a warm, calming effect to any space. With the help of natural light, this color can open up a room, creating the illusion of more space. 

Stone blend, wicker, or wood decor are some accessories that work great with a khaki palette. Some color combinations to try with khaki are gold, blue, black, white, yellow, etc. Of course, the specific color you pick depends on your style and the exact shade of khaki.

Shades of khaki

Here are some different shades of khaki.

Khaki tan

Khaki tan

Also known as light khaki or simply tan.

Dark khaki

Dark khaki

A desaturated yellow tone.

Khaki green

Khaki green

Olive drab khaki that commonwealth nations regard as original khaki.

Vintage khaki

Vintage khaki

Has a brown, gray-orange tint.

Indian khaki

Indian khaki

Warm, desaturated orange color.

Conclusion 

Khaki is originally an earthy tan color with yellow undertones, but other shades can range from dark green shades to light brown hues. It is associated with calm, authority, and the natural world.

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Pin Image Portrait What Color is Khaki? Shades of Khaki and a Little History

Jen’s a passionate environmentalist and sustainability expert. With a science degree from Babcock University Jen loves applying her research skills to craft editorial that connects with our global changemaker and readership audiences centered around topics including zero waste, sustainability, climate change, and biodiversity.

Elsewhere Jen’s interests include the role that future technology and data have in helping us solve some of the planet’s biggest challenges.

Photo by EKATERINA BOLOVTSOVA
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