Khaki comes from Hindi meaning dusty and dates back to Britain’s colonial occupation of India. The British army had traditionally worn red uniforms, giving soldiers the nickname “redcoats”, but this was not at all suitable for blending into the background. The first use of khaki is credited to British military officer Sir Harry Lumsden. Like many officers of the 19th century Lumsden spent most of his working life in India, and in 1848 his local knowledge prompted the decision to have British Indian recruits wear local clothing with a colour suitable for camouflage.
The original colour was greyish, ideal for cover in the dusty terrain. Khaki was subsequently used as the uniform for the British military in the colonies and later by the American armed forces. As time went on, khaki became accepted as the general word for military dress, even though the colour had moved away from its original grey.
It would have been a great suprise for Lumsden that the garment could became popular well beyond military circles. Now all types of khaki or chinos are mainstream fashion items for both men and women. And indeed the word khaki can now refer simply to the brown-green colour that was first used in India.