Not So Drab

Posted: Jul 20 2014

The olive chino pant is ubiquitous these days. But that wasn't always the case and the story of the evolution of the color olive proves much more interesting than one would imagine.

As so many great stories do, the beginnings of the olive chino are with war. Well, in truth, it actually begins with the British military and both took off and evolved as a result of war. In the early 1900s, after khaki was adopted by the British military for its uniform, the shade of khaki began to evolve, shifting to more of a greenish color. This new color was known as “olive drab,” and it was the standard adopted by both the British military and U.S. armed forces during World War I.

But the first recorded use of “olive drab” as a color name was actually in 1892. In fact, “drab” is a 16th century term used to describe a muted, light brown color.

But “olive drab” continued to evolve and by World War II, “olive drab”closely resembled what we today call olive green. This new “olive drab” remained the color of choice for the British military and U.S. armed forces during World War II. U.S. soldiers often referred to their uniforms as "OD's" due to the color.

Ultimately, the shade of olive drab used at the beginning of the war, Olive Drab #3, was replaced by the darker Olive Drab #7. And in 1952, it was replaced by Olive Green 107, which continued as the official uniform color for U.S. soldiers through Vietnam, until replaced by Engineer Research & Development Laboratories' camouflage uniforms. Why?

Because, as a solid color, it is not as effective for camouflage as multiple-color camo schemes. Though olive drab is still used by the U.S. military today to color webbing and accessories. Furthermore, there are very few countries still issuing solid olive drab uniforms. Among those that do are Israel, India, Cuba, Venezuela, and Austria.

And we can only hope that we never lose the color of today because it's become a beloved classic.

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