It may not be number one on your list of casual staples, but that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t be investing in at least one piece of khaki for your wardrobe.

The sandy tone looks great against a range of skin tones and oozes an effortless ‘relaxed’ style.

So let’s take a quick look at how a pair of khaki slacks or a sandy-toned shirt will enhance your smart-casual wardrobe without leaving you disappointed.

What is Khaki, anyway?!

Khaki is the Indian word for ‘dust’; it usually refers to any type of clothing with that iconic sandy-toned colour, constructed of coarse home-spun cotton. Khaki is versatile enough to be spun into whole range of garments; everything from shirts to socks can be made with this tone and fabric.

Khaki Cargo Pants Trousers

The garment most commonly associated with khaki is chinos; these were formally appropriated by the US Navy in the 1940s for off-duty officers to wear; thus, the reign of smart-casual khaki began.

What are the rules for khaki?

Firstly, you should limit the number of khaki items you’re wearing to one. If you start dressing from head to toe in this desert-toned pigment then you’ll look as if you’re on safari!

Khaki goes safari if you're not careful!

Secondly, avoid ironing in any creases into your khaki garments unless you want to look unnaturally formal and twenty years older than you actually are! Don’t fold up your cuffs and hem-lines either – if you want cooler clothing go short-sleeved instead.

What should I be looking for?

Khaki clothing, by nature of its origins and weave, invokes a slouchier fit than finer fabrics. Don’t be alarmed if you can’t easily find skinny-chinos and slim fit khaki shirts – there’s nothing wrong with a looser style: it’s just one of the advantages of the crumpled cotton.

Larger men should take particular care not to get too carried away with khaki; you may find that the lighter shade gives you a ‘bloated’ look. If you find this to be the case, grab a slightly darker dye for your cargo pants instead.

Finally, remember that due to its tone, khaki readily matches up with a brown ‘belt and shoes’ combo; just ensure that you’re getting an even contrast in tone – otherwise you’ll be a walking billboard of bland!

About The Author

Johnathan Bell is the founder, owner and main author of Guy Style Guide, a website dedicated to everyday male fashion, style and grooming. The primary mission? To guide clueless men through the tricky mindfield that is the growing world of male couture. Find him on , Twitter and Tumblr.

4 Responses

  1. Mark

    It’s definitely a popular choice of colour this year. Cargo shorts and chinos especially are what I am seeing people buying

  2. Aydika

    Excellent article! I answer the “What exactly is khaki” question often for my clients (I’m a men’s personal style expert); and agree your full breakdown. Thanks for sharing all the details in one spot — looking forward to sharing!

  3. James

    I would suggest to re-phrase the following- “Khaki is the Hindu word for ‘dust’” to “Khaki is the Indian word for ‘dust’. Hindu is a religion, Hindi is the language. But, Khaki has been widely used in almost all Indian Language. Please note, there are more than 300 language spoken in India.