Is there anyone who doesn't look good in khaki?

Photo: Getty Images

No, says Kerry Potter. It's the surprise hit of summer and here's why and how to wear it

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By Kerry Potter on

For us former teen indie kids and goths who spent our Saturday afternoons hanging around the army surplus store rather than Miss Selfridge, the colour khaki can hold negative connotations. What grown-up woman in her right mind would want Status Quo’s “You’re in the army now, woah-oh-oh, you’re in the army now” as the soundtrack to her outfit? Squaddie chic, anyone? When it comes to khaki, we approach with caution.

But that murky shade of green is currently fashion’s comeback kid, first spotted on the catwalk at Stella McCartney among others, now all over the high street. This time, however, it’s elegant, feminine, modern, surprisingly summery and doesn’t make you look like Goldie Hawn in Private Benjamin. Think of it as your new black or navy failsafe neutral, equally flattering but less draining than the former, and more imaginative than the latter. It’s also ideal for nervous summer dressers – those who look askance at all the hot pinks, oranges and yellows in the shops will find that a khaki piece in the outfit mix makes those scary shades far more palatable. Plus, it works both with denim – an unbuttoned army shirt + white T-shirt + blue jeans, say – and as an alternative to it. I’ve temporarily retired my trusty denim jacket, instead throwing an old army shirt over pale-coloured sundresses to de-prettify them (it looks especially good with pale pink). It also tones down colour-pop midi skirts and culottes rather nicely. This one at Warehouse would serve you well, although let’s draw a veil over the portmanteau for these shirt/jacket hybrids – I give you the “shacket”. First person I hear using that word gets conscripted, OK?

The last two pieces I’ve bought on the high street have both been khaki. This M&S summer parka is a trench-coat alternative – gorgeously silky and with dainty rose-gold metal detailing, it’s a fine example of khaki’s new elegance. I’m also feeling cargo pants again for the first time since about 1999, and these Topshop Petite ones pleasingly recall Jennifer Aniston’s Maharishi years, but with a modern paperbag waistline. Just add a white vest and Birkenstocks. There are a lot of them around right now and I’d suggest you approach buying them as you would jeans – try on loads of different ones until you find the most flattering fabric and fit.

That murky shade of green is currently fashion’s comeback kid. This time, however, it’s elegant, feminine, modern, surprisingly summery and doesn’t make you look like Goldie Hawn in Private Benjamin

With its inherently casual feel, khaki also lends itself well to informal jumpsuits and day dresses. Again, you’re spoilt for choice right now when it comes to these pieces. This Equipment boiler suit is a steal at £91, down from £260 on The Outnet, while at Whistles I found this T-shirt dress for £75, down from £125, and this slightly dressier tie-front one for £109. All would work well with box-fresh white trainers or metallic sandals and a liberal sprinkling of gold jewellery.

There are also a few unexpected pieces around. Khaki can be surprisingly sexy – a case in point is this Warehouse pleather pelmet skirt, a steal at £12 in the sale. On a similar note, I get a lot of party wear out of an old Topshop fitted pleather mini dress that would be a bit “mid-life crisis” in black, but is just sexy enough in khaki. And how about army green goes pretty? DVF makes it work with this unusual broderie anglaise top, £110 down from £224 on The Outnet. You might also like to consider the khaki summer sandal, an underrated alternative to black or tan – I like these sandals and these espadrille wedges, both currently on sale at Mint Velvet. (Don’t dismiss this brand as being merely cashmere cardigans in 50 shades of grey by the way – I really rate its sandals. They stand up to hardcore pavement-pounding, are flatteringly cut and often come in that hard-to-find but super-comfortable mini-wedge heel height.) While we’re talking accessories, I’m currently eyeing up this cross-body bag from Gvyn – sleek, minimal and a million miles from those scruffy army canvas bags on to which we used to sew indie-band name patches.

Finally, a beauty note: my all-time favourite eyeliner, MAC Powerpoint Pencil in Forever Green, is a shimmery, gold-flecked shade of khaki. For brown, green or hazel eyes, it’s a softer, prettier alternative to black. And there’s zero chance of anyone bellowing Status Quo lyrics at you from across the street when you wear it. Chic summer khaki, we salute you. Now, quick march down to the shops.

How to wear it

The army jacket (Or "shacket")

Over pink

With denim

Head to toe

Pictures: Getty Images

Click here for the best khaki pieces – and what to wear them with


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Photo: Getty Images
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