THE ORIGIN OF KHAKI
In 1844, missionaries stationed in India at Mangalore knew a little about weaving textiles and took the initiative to start a weaving industry. These looms of Basel Mission were pioneering and it was because of Master Weaver, John Haller, that Khaki got its global recognition. In 1851 he introduced the first handloom cottage industry in Mangalore and also invented new dyes and colours out of indigenous ingredients. Hence the invention of Khaki dye is attributed to him.
However, there is also an interesting reference to this birth of Khaki. Sir Henry Lumsden, stationed in India in 1846, dyed his cotton pajamas with a native plant extract named MAZARI to create a uniform more suitable to the climate than the traditional red felt issued at the time. Its tawny colour, similar to the region’s saffron dust, helped the clothing to blend in with sand. The term Khaki comes from the Hindi and Urdu word for Earth or dust coloured.
He began wearing pyjama bottoms, primarily to find a more comfortable alternative to the military trousers the tropical heat. These were of a lighter material and less tightly fitted. To disguise them somewhat, he decided to colour them with the MAZARI dye that would blend in with the local terrain. He realised that his new uniform had another advantage than just comfort as the trousers were more suitable in battle as a forerunner of a camouflage than the very conspicuous white pants and red tunic.
The British Army introduced Khaki uniforms to colonial troops in India in 1848, then gradually introduced Khaki uniforms for the wars in South Africa during 1851 and after the Sudan wars and Afghan campaign of 1878, the British Army adopted Khaki in 1884 as the official uniform.
Khaki-colour dye was patented in 1884 and became popular as American military wear during World War 11, replacing the coarse material used in fatigues in World War 1.
By this time Khaki had come to symbolize adventure, a concept wholly embraced by Hollywood. It was also a staple on U.S. college campuses and President John F Kennedy’s penchant for it in the 1960’s added to its allure.
The contribution of MAZARI and Mangalore by giving Khaki to the world is immense. It became the cradle to this colour and the material which influenced a wave of fashion brands which still today associate and signify its image in the global travel, adventure and safari industries.
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