Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Khaki Confusion

Every magazine I've opened in the past few months has included an editorial screaming "Khaki is back! And it's sassy and stylish! Throw out all your denim! Wear full khaki outfits! GO BUY KHAKI."

When I worked at Starbucks I bought a pair of khaki shorts to augment my summer work wardrobe. The dress code there required black or khaki bottoms and I found a pair for 10 bucks at Nordstrom Rack and when I tried them on in the dressing room I shrugged and thought, "Well, they're not the worst shorts in the world."

Then I brought them home and realized I was wrong. They were the worst shorts in the world. They had a high waist and a bunchy crotch and the hem hit right above my knee and they made my ass look like a pancake battling severe depression.

Even my boyfriend, who is normally exceedingly supportive of every outfit, took one look at these shorts and said, "Really though?"

For awhile I wore them anyway because I always forgot to wash my work clothes. But eventually the weather got cooler and I quit Starbucks and I hung the Worst Shorts In The World in the back of my closet and forgot about them.

Cut to a few days ago. With visions of chic khaki editorial spreads dancing in my head, I took out the Worst Shorts In The World, hacked about 6 inches off the legs and cuffed 'em. Paired with a sparkly black tanktop and blue hoodie they were perfect for a long city walk with a friend and I felt like I had conquered the khaki trend on my own terms. I got a few compliments on my new look. I was pretty proud.

(Not me. But similar shorts.)

Later that night I went over to my brother's house to learn some new songs on his drum set. I was feeling really cool about mastering The Kink's "You Really Got Me" until I looked down and saw that my sassy khaki shorts had stretched out over the course of the day into saggy soccer mom culottes. Rockstar moment ruined.

This whole debacle got me thinking: Why must khaki always swing so violently from one end of the style spectrum to the other? Is there no middle ground between sassy chic and saggy soccer mom? How do you guys feel about the khaki trend, and khaki in general?

P.S. And how in god's name does one wear khaki in the summer and avoid mustard stains?

37 comments:

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Ali said...

I'm confused enough about what khaki actually is - is it green or beige? or some weird hybrid of the two? and how are you supposed to pronounce it? kakky? kah-kee?
all I know is I sure do like my (khaki?) green army coat

Annie Spandex said...

When I was a dorky little kid in elementary school my favorite color was khaki/beige. Not pink, not purple, not blue, not orange. I was crazy about khaki clothes. I'm not quite as bout it these days, but I still think straight-leg chinos (with //no pleats//) look amazing with red platforms and a black band t-shirt.

WendyB said...

I feel like khaki works best when you work against the grain and go for an elegant look rather than a casual look. I have a pair of wide Jil Sander khakis from a few years ago that strive for the Katherine Hepburn look, though I don't know if they achieve it. Still, better than the other khaki options I see.

Rosie Unknown said...

I have a personal dislike for khaki, since it reminds me of my snob of a cousin who I distinctly dislike, but a khaki shirt might work, if worn properly. I don't like the look of all khaki though.

Gingeroo said...

I love good fitting khaki pants and skirts and cute khaki jackets but never together. I think you can have too much. I have a great pair of khaki Bermuda shorts and wear them a lot but only because they look good and fit well, not because khaki is trendy.

isabeltheconquistador said...

I think it all depends on the cut of the fabric. I like the simplicity of khaki, but I only own a few khaki trousers as business clothing. I have a lot of khaki-coloured linen pieces though--my favourite's this pair of Banana Republic shorts that I wear everywhere.

Redhead Fae said...

I'm not for it.
Too much like military.. and it can be mispronounced as "cacky" for a good reason.

becky f. said...

I don't wear a whole lot of khaki -- when it's trendy or when it isn't -- because I think it's hard to find a color that doesn't make me look washed out or that doesn't make my legs look odd. Khaki and my coloring just doesn't seem to work.

Sal said...

I was JUST saying to HM last night that there seems to be a khaki plague upon us. And according to Harper's, it will continue through fall. And WHY, I ask? This color makes most people look like flu victims!

Hope said...

You avoid mustard stains by not eating. You think those models in khaki ever eat?

I too have never had any luck with khaki pants or shorts. I ALWAYS end up looking frumpy, even when I was in 8th or 9th grade. But I keep trying, for some reason.

The Flamingo Room said...

Khaki = Yuck. To paraphrase The Osmonds: Khaki is a little bit country; you're a little bit rock-n-roll. This is why it doesn't work and never will.

Henry said...

Sex and the City goes on safari.

Perfect if you want to look good while you slaughter endangered white rhinos.

Brittney said...

I used to have a wardrobe sprinkled with khaki. Like you, I bought them for work and also for the ever dreaded "semi-formal event". Until I realized that EVERY TIME I put said khakis on, my complexion turned to the colour my face is when I'm about to puke.

I don't have any khaki pants anymore.

EvaNadine said...

i have never in my life thought of khaki as a trend.
it is a neutral, and thus a classic staple that you either have or you dont.
an entire outfit made out of khaki screams safari!

Daiane said...

well, as long as i can remember i thought khaki was... inexpressive. &dull. &boring. why is every magazine so all over khaki all of a sudden? it definitely feels wrong for now but i do think my brain will soon be washed by all this "media campaign".

not buying anything khaki tho':))

soirée enterrement vie de jeune fille Paris said...

I didn't wait for the magazine to buy khaki.
My short is from banana republic, you can mix it light color.
I like khaki pant with bleu shirt or polo for summer.
Lilou

TheSundayBest said...

The pendulum swings that much because really, there aren't that many fabrics or styles in North America. So every few years something has to come "in", be it khaki or denim (which never leaves, but see above) or what have you. Otherwise people won't buy new things and we can't have that.

Fluffy Cow said...

Khaki looks best... on the hanger.

lisa said...

I agree with WendyB--khaki seems to work best in tailored looks instead of casual ones. I have a sneaking suspicion they can't be 100% cotton either since they'll relax too much as the day goes on, resulting in saggy soccer mom (let me pause for a minute and giggle at this phrase...ok, done). A blended fabric in a khaki colour might work.

halfaworld said...

I am REALLY not into the Khaki thing. (That could be partially due to the fact that it reminds me of the worst job I ever had where Khaki was a part of the dress code.)

Aside from that though, I still think the Khaki look is over-rated. Unless you're on safari in the jungle...

alice said...

khaki is for tourists. and no, don't rock the khaki. rock and khaki don't mix. unless you cover the khaki in rhinestone, dye it, and rip it up.

Mabel and Zora said...

We aren't very big fans of the khaki.

Elizabeth said...

I like khaki pants whether they're cuffed shorts or long, wide legged trousers. I agree with Eva that it is a non-committal fabric and can match with almost anything. Too much is too much. I bought a pair of shorts made of tweed. I've been wearing them almost every day.

Esti said...

I hate khaki. Even on guys, where it almost seems natural. Partly because it always looks Catholic school-y, partly because it is more of a stain magnet than a long white dress at a spaghetti festival. And stained khaki automatically makes anyone look like a naughty child who went and played in the mud after church.

Hmm, my feelings on this are stronger than I remembered.

Anonymous said...

So when this color was a fad in the 80's, I tried it and realized the color made me look like my liver was failing. I considered it this time around (maybe the tones are better?) until I discovered my ass is a *tad* wider than it was in that decade, and light on bottom 'aint that great on me. Honestly, khaki reminds me of nude - only no healthy human actually comes in that color. As a good neutral for a stick figure, it May work. As for me, I'm just staying with the flattering colors and leaving tasteless trends to the Twilight fans.

Kim said...

Khaki pants and shorts are a good "matches anything" alternative in the summer. I personally hate white bottoms... and black gets too hot... so tans and khakis work. And, as everyone else said, it's more about the fit than the color. Also, one piece at a time please. More than that, and you really do need to be on safari.

AmyLou said...

"they made my ass look like a pancake battling severe depression."

You totally made me choke and snort coffee into my sinuses with that one. Well done, and Thank you.

ronna said...

Khaki is just stupid and nasty. The color flatters no one and the fabric is always stiff and weird. Head-to-toe khaki as a trend screams desperation on someone's part. However, the color taupe as a neutral grounding element of an outfit can look very chic if it's a silky sweater or a wool skirt and paired with black. But then its not khaki, right?

Mary said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
rachel said...

Mary, I'm a little worried about you.

eileen said...

you know, when I first lived in CA, "khaki pants" = "default business casual". everyone wore them all the time with, say, target twinsets or drapey jersey shirts. when we moved to NYC, I noticed that no one at all wore khaki pants. ever. not for the entire time we lived in the style capital of the country.

the magazines may be putting this stuff out, but I'd like to see what those same fashion editors are actually wearing.

PS: did you know "khaki" comes from the urdu word for "dust"? the british india army uniforms were khaki, and they adopted the local word. fun times.

lorax said...

I went to a junior high where khaki was required in the uniform... haven't worn khaki since then. I cannot bare it. Too many embarrassing moments in the mustard stain vein plus too many years of the same color.

I do have a pair of khaki short shorts, but they definitely fall victim to the saggy culottes and I just don't know how to remedy it.

MizzJ said...

Ugh khaki. I got swayed by those peppy GAP commercials years ago and purchased a couple pairs but always ended up deep in saggy ass territory. Maybe a dress or skirt would work better?

Jeanne said...

I like khaki. It's boring and not particularly flattering, but it goes with everything and doesn't need to be dry cleaned. Eileen, I don't know when you lived in NYC, but I've been here for many years and during that entire time khakis have been the usual business casual look in Manhattan, particularly for men.

Poor Fish Girl said...

Khaki has never gone out of style. Every fashion magazine, every year (since I started reading them ... think B.C.) has done a spread about this style right around summer time. I've always love the look because it's so flexible. I think you got shafted with a crappy cut. Nothing looks good if it resembles mom attire. Sometimes it's worth it to take said shorts or pants to a tailor and have them fitted. Also, invest in starch that way you wont get the stretchy pancake ass thing.

zombie_z_great said...

5 Things I hate about Khakis

1. They are completely unflattering and highlight the worst parts of your body...
Have some thunder thighs? Some larger than life hips? Well khakis have revolutionary technology that works hard to show off your worst features.

2. They seem to only come in high waist or low rise...so you've either got some muffin top going on or a camel toe...both are bad news, especially if you're still single.

3. If you even look at sleet, an ink pen, anything black really...your khakis somehow detect this and immediately soak up the color.

4. They are always somehow either too long or too short...I'm not sure how this happens exactly, but have you ever seen someone with perfectly lengthened khakis? I don't think so.

5. They also seem to only come in carpenter, flare and that gross, not really boot cut but not really wide leg style that clings to your calves and balloons just below the waist...yuck.

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