Urgh! Khaki and Colours

For those new to re-enacting this may seem like a really odd subject matter and why does it deserve its own page?


Well..... firstly never say Khaki when refering to any US kit, the word is an old Indian word that they British picked up on when they were serving in India, which translates as dusty. The working uniform at the time was the same colour and hence Khaki became a term used. The British Khaki seems very different to the US Khaki. However, you still hear collectors and reenactors say statements like "thats not US WW2 its not even Khaki"... I want to bash people in the head when I hear things like that. Makes no sense what so ever! Many suppliers of reenacting kit are total fed up with this term being meaninglessly thrown about. Below is a how At The Front  feel, this was taken from their website. I love their no bullshit approach to explainng things. I can appreicate there similar appproach to such things.

WWII U.S. military uniforms and gear were NOT literally "khaki".

There was but one uniform used in WWII that was khaki- the summer service uniform. No other uniforms or field gear, not M41 field jackets, tanker jackets, cartridge belts, haversacks, wool shirts or trousers, musette bags- not even the mighty M1942 paratrooper jump uniforms were khaki. NONE OF THEM. They were "od", short for "olive drab". This is indisputable historical fact, documented and easily demonstrated. The quartermaster corps, the War Department, the Army, the Air Corps, and even the soldiers refer to this stuff as "od" in official correspondence, supply catalogs, manufacturing specifications as well as first person accounts of the War.

All of our products are historically correct WWII colors. We go to great lengths to obtain and copy authentic and original WWII samples in new or unused condition. Besides the fact that the sheer volume of items made during the War resulted in numerous variations in shade, please keep in mind that field use results in discoloration due to fading and soiling. Well-worn authentic examples are often lighter in color due to these factors.

Many customers want to compare our colors to those used in movies- that will not work. Many of the uniforms used in films are reproductions, and most are dirty and artificially aged. In addition, the film itself has had enormous amounts of editing done to suit the desires of the directors- therefore, the saturation and colors you see on screen are not entirely accurate. Lastly, the settings on your computer monitor and our own editing software make it difficult for the photos on the website to match the actual items perfectly. Regardless, we guarantee that our products are absolutely, positively, the historically accurate and correct colors. You may think we are wrong, but you are mistaken. Government documents shown further down the page will put an end to any doubt.

Why does everyone call it "khaki"?

Simplicity. There are numerous official shades of "od" (the government numbered the shades 1 thru at least 33), this covers every item made for the military from socks to tents to aircraft paint. Most items we deal with, uniforms or field gear, were od no. 3 or od no. 7. ("no"= number). The wool service uniform was od no. 33 but that rarely comes up.

For decades collectors used the terms "khaki" and "od green" to differentiate between olive drabs no. 3 and 7. Number 3 is a light olive tan and number 7 is a dark olive green. Side by side, calling one "khaki" and the other "green" makes sense. It's less cumbersome than "olive drab number..."

This is fine when dealing with original gear and guys who have some clue as to what they are talking about- they know that WWII "khaki" is not "Banana Republic" khaki. However, enter the neophyte enthusiasts and the general public, add the internet and we have a headache.

In other words, "khaki" should not be taken literally.

What color is the "right" color? There are many of them...

Despite rigid government specifications, "od" or "khaki" is not one single consistent color. All WWII uniforms and equipment exhibit a wide range of color and shade variations. When millions of items are produced, perfectly matching shades, even of the same color, are rare. With regard to od 3, originals range from olive, to pea green, mustard-brown to olive brown. There is no single correct shade. However, the light olive-brown, is generally regarded as the most desirable. That's the shade that we go to great lengths to duplicate.

Further complicating matters are the peculiarities of light effects- in fluorescent or indoor light, even the happiest of khakis often appears more clearly olive. The same item in sunlight will usually appear much more tan or brown.

The Number 1 argument:
The stuff I saw in Saving Private Ryan and Band of Brothers was khaki! You all are stupid!
No, you're simply a victim of the Zionist conspiracy that controls Hollywood. The colors you see at the movies, on your TV or this very monitor are lying to you. Films are edited- same way as they edit out the zits on porn stars backsides.

To end this one, check out this comparison. The jacket on the left is THE very jacket worn by "Reiben" in SPR. On the right, is one of our reproductions. Looked "khakier" in the movie? You've been hoodwinked. Once again, our stuff is correct, even for the movies.

atf khaki_spr_comp.jpg

You're not very nice!
Oh, it's about to get worse. Nice doesn't cut it. We learned some years ago that terse and crude hammers the point in and quells dissent far better than "how can we better serve you sir?" My goal is to create realistic reproductions that are as painfully close to the "real" thing as possible, and I'm not inclined to change my ways. Originals are olive drab, NOT KHAKI. If originals were matching beige, then we would do it. But they aren't and we won't so quit asking. We make the best stuff out there and that's that.

The proof. Government Documentation.

1. "Khaki" is not khaki . It is olive drab no. 3. The catalog from the US Army Quartermaster, Armed Service Forces Catalog QM 3-1, 1943, refers to items in this color as being simply "od". Later products that were the darker "od green" (in collector jargon) are referred to as "od no7".
This is FACT. Not fantasy or conjecture. Unbelievers, note the documentation below:


2. OD3 is indeed a green. Let me repeat that. OD3 is a shade of green. Not tan. It's brown + green = olive drab. Go buy some water based paints and play around. You'll see quickly.

Where's the Khaki?
Using real, live, authentic original uniforms (not movie props), let's see if we can find the khaki. Using a US Army khaki shirt, we'll see what else we can find that's the "right" color, as per the khakiweenies.


M42 Jump Jackets?
Damn those look olive...


M42 Jump Pants? Nope. More green crap.


M41 Field jackets? This can't be right. Where's the khaki?


The shirt label. Just in case you think I'm making this up...


Official specifications
for the Jump Uniform


The mighty M42 Jump Uniform was...od!
Go ahead, use my gun...

This is truly tragic. The greatest generation apparently fought the entire War without realizing that their uniforms were the wrong color. It seems we weren't the only ones who sent green uniforms to our "customers".
How can we make this right?
Let's sue the War Department, Sigmund Eisner Co., Goodall Mfg., and King Kard Overall Co.!

3. What about "khaki"? There a couple of "khaki" items in the QM catalog. They are the khaki cotton shirt, cotton trousers and cotton service coat, worn as a summer dress uniform. This uniform is truly khaki. That's it.

The table below shows the most popular items in their correct color, just for clarification.


Actual, unworn, unfaded, original WWII uniforms in the respective colors. Note that when compared to "real khaki" one can easily see that OD No. 3 is indeed greenish.


Cotton Shirt / Cotton Trouser / Summer Service Coat


Olive Drab no. 3

M41 Field Jacket / Tanker Jacket / M1942 Jump Uniform / *Field gear (Until '43)


Olive Drab no. 7

HBT Uniforms / M1943 Field Uniform / *Field gear ('43-45)

*US fieldgear was gradually changed from OD3 to OD 7 starting in late '42 or early '43. The colors were used concurrently and sometimes components of both colors were used on one item. Gear made using mixed colors is called "transitional" by collectors.​

4. Why does everyone call it "khaki" then? Used and faded OD no3 gear and uniforms often appear beige. The keyword is used. That's where the fantasy/ stupidity gets started. When new, they range from grass-stain green, to light brown, to gold, khaki-gray, to a brownish beige. To fuss about our products (or anyone else's) they must be compared to new condition (unissued) original samples. Not Grandpa's M41 that he wore at Kasserine Pass.

In practice, dying wasn't (and isn't) a perfect science. WWII uniforms and gear come in countless shades of OD no3. This was not due to some elfin impulse to torment collectors in the future, but rather as a result of dozens of different fabric mills finishing millions of yards of fabric in a hurry. Anyone who tells you that all US uniforms are the exact same color is a blithering idiot. Or colorblind. More likely the former.

Gold gear: To add a bit more to the muddle, some US gear is distinctly golden brown in color. Most of this is WWI era gear (most often Haversacks, Cartridge belts and BAR belts) that was reissued in WWII. British Made gear is sometimes this color as well as a rather ugly pea green.

6. Why don't we just make the "correct" color khaki and satisfy our customers? Simple. Beige is not correct, plus I'm a sadistic bastard who likes to torment special types. When od3 fades, it will eventually look beige. If we make beige, it will fade to white. Then you'll stand out like a cracker at the Million Man March and get shot by the SS snipers the moment you jump out of your Toyota Tundra..

7. Shade Tags: Think I'm making all of this up to explain away our substandard quality? Fine. What are "cutter's tags"? (They are actually known as "shade tags".) Dyed fabric always "shades". Meaning, as the roll of cloth is run through the dye vats, the concentration of the dye and the rate of absorption varies. This causes slight color changes in the cloth. The result is that the first 3 yards of the roll will be somewhat different in shade or tint from the last 3 yards. The same fabric, the same dye batch, same day. A 100 yard roll of cloth may have 2-3 noticeable tint variations.

The need for the tags arises when factories cut out garments or gear. The fabric is stacked up to 100 layers deep and cut with a power knife. (Jackets and trousers are rarely cut from the same roll. A 100 yard roll makes about 30 of each., and cotton twill can be cut up to 100 layers deep. Thus, 3-4 rolls per cut. In that cut, perhaps as many as 10 minor shade variations. Even for garments made by the same company, you must factor in them being made weeks or months apart, different fabric shipments, multiple fabric suppliers and the possibilities are nearly endless.)

Each and every piece of the garment (sleeves, chest, legs, pockets) is supposed to get a tag. The tags are sequentially numbered with the fabric layer, size, and cut number. (Some plants may have multiple cuts of the same size garment on the same day). This is necessary since the different components are sent to different sewing machine operators during pre-assembly and assembly. They are supposed to insure that the layer numbers on the tags match; this means that each piece on a single garment came from the same sheet (not roll, but continuous 2-3 yard piece) of fabric. If this is not done, there may be a noticeable difference in tint on the did not watermark these photos. We give blanket permission to copy and use these photos to anyone else having headaches with the legions of khakinazis. They are a public service of sorts.

8. Matching Gear to Uniforms: Uniforms do not match field gear. Uniforms rarely match other uniforms and gear rarely matches itself. People have really blown this out of all proportion and it's insane. Nobody's gear and uniforms are perfect matches. Not ours, not originals, and not other vendors. It's not an error, it's a fact. If this injures your sensibilities, and is too much for your little mind to handle, find a new hobby.


9. I don't see why you can't make all my gear match. You should listen to your customers. We care about facts, not fantasies. Even if I wanted to be more accommodating, it wouldn't be easy. Field gear is made from canvas and webbing. Specifically, 3 different weights of canvas, and at least a dozen different sizes of webbing. (Cartridge belts alone have 5 different widths of webbing involved.) The canvas and webbing are made in different factories at different times. It's nearly impossible to get perfect matches on every yard within the same run. Moreover, the texture of these materials varies (from fine to coarse) which will make even perfectly matching shades appear different.

10. Gotta have Beige to be happy? Several other companies have made beige gear which makes the ignorant minority's heart flutter. Most of it is made in India or Pakistan and the price is great. So long as you don't use it, it will hold up just fine. Try Sportsman's Guide or IMA.

11. United States Marine Corps? Everything on this page goes double for USMC gear and uniforms. Utilities often did not use shade tags (and they really needed them) and the gear, especially the Depot Made items, looked like patchwork quilts of green, gold and "khaki" components. In other words, many Jarheads in WWII looked like Appaloosas. Want us to re-write history and match you up? Dream the hell on...

Practical Demonstration- the Khakiquiz


Which of the jump uniforms are original (I assume that they cannot be incorrect) and which are reproduction?


The king-cat-daddy of all khaki panics. Imperfectly matching M42 uniforms.
This near mint (original) uniform was worn by an instructor at Ft. Benning in 1943.

For the 29,345th time, these things rarely match perfectly. It's historical fact.
Why? Read number 6 above. Again.

Note: I did not watermark these photos. We give blanket permission to copy and use these photos to anyone else having headaches with the legions of khakinazis. They are a public service of sorts. Thanks to ATF for stating this, I'm sure they didn't mean for me to use it word for word, but it was so good and so familiar in style to my usual no-bullshit approach that it just seem right.


Inconvenient Historical Facts for Khakinazis
All gear pictured below is original WWII 


Khaki dockers vs. original, unissued, WWII Jump Jacket.
Can you appreciate the difference?


Key to the M42 Khaki Quiz: (A) SM Wholesale (SPR), (B) Original, (C) Original, (D) ATF, (E) Original reinforced, (F) ATF, (G) Original (Sigmund Eisner), (H) Original, (I) Original, (J) ATF,
(K) Original (Rogol Mfg.) unissued.
See, our "green sh*t" (F) is the khakiest of them all. What do you want? White?