Sure, khaki is a color—but have you ever wondered how this sandy shade also came to describe an entire category of pants? Check out our history of the khaki to see how it evolved from military uniform to your fave smart-casual pant.
The word “khaki” has its roots in the Urdu and Persian words for “soil” or “dusty”. It was adopted by British soldiers in India in the mid 1800s when they replaced their traditional red uniforms with cotton pajamas that worked better in the heat. They stained them with tea or soil to help them blend into the landscape, and by 1867, khakis were official British army uniform. The U.S. followed suit in 1898 during the Spanish-American war.
At the beginning of the 20th century, adventurers including Charles Lindbergh, Theodore Roosevelt and Ernest Hemingway adopted the style. Lightweight, durable, and designed to cope with hot climates, khakis were a part of every rugged explorer’s kit, whether they were headed for the jungle or going on safari.
Khaki uniforms proved a godsend for American soldiers in the Pacific during World War II. On returning home, soldiers going back to college wore these same khaki pants to class, inspiring a wider trend. Civilians enjoyed feeling patriotic, and they got to do so in comfort (while still looking great in a blazer).
Levi’s© launched the Levi’s© Casual Line of utilitarian khaki pants in 1955, and just over 30 years later, it introduced a whole new brand, Dockers®. Launched in 1986, Dockers® was perfectly positioned to chime with the preppy aesthetic of the 80s, as well as spearheading the business-casual revolution of the era.
How do you like your khakis? Whether you prefer pleated pants, straight fit chinos or even joggers, today’s khakis have come a long way from the traditional army uniforms. But they haven’t lost their pioneering spirit. Thanks to innovations like Smart 360 Tech™ with 4-way stretch, these high performance pants are here for every adventure, in the boardroom and beyond.
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