Except for the country's infrastructure and the fašade of most government office
buildings, Uncle Sam has proven to be a pretty fine designer. He first introduced khakis to our boys for the Spanish-American War in 1898. Khakis made their debut in the U.S. Navy in 1912 when they were worn
by aviators, and were adopted for submarines in 1931. In 1941 the Navy
approved khakis for senior officers and the men and women stationed on Pearl Harbor were authorized to wear khakis ashore on liberty. Shortly thereafter, it became the standard shade our boys and girls wore
while giving Hitler "das boot." When the GIs returned stateside following the end of the war, they brought their khakis with them, introducing them to the civilian population for the
very first time. They quickly became the all-purpose trouser and were usually worn with a tweed jacket or a
Shetland crewneck. On college campuses they were worn with button-down oxford shirts and paraded with navy blazers on the main streets of the newly created suburbs. Perhaps part of the reason they caught on
so quickly was they were instantly and readily available. In February of 1946 the
Surplus Property Administration had some $40,000,000 worth of clothing and materials, which had been declared surplus, dumped on the civilian market. The penchant for khakis continued well into
the 50's when the addition of the Eisenhower jacket popularized sporting khaki from head to toe. Everyone wanted to look like an ex-soldier; that, however, was about to change.
In the turbulent 1960's and early 70's, the unpopularity of the Viet Nam conflict and the
flower children's total eschewing of the war mongering generation before them made anything with even the remotest military associations go up in smoke along with draft cards and brassieres.
In the eighties, the fashion industry witnessed a renaissance of the classic khakis, often trading
on the fact that it had been the casual pant of choice of such prominent figures as James Dean, Albert Einstein, Jack Kerouac, John F. Kennedy, and Picasso. In the nineties, khakis
became the panacea for clueless executives attempting to navigate their way through "Casual Friday."
In the 2002's, the khaki is thriving. Personally, I would like to thank the Gap for making my
favorite trouser seem cool to generation X-ers who were still writing to Santa Clause while I was packing my first pair of college chinos. Yes, I still have that pair hanging amongst many in my closet, but they are not the most special ones. That honor belongs to
the only pair I have never worn and keep wrapped in plastic: the ones Uncle Sam gave my father when he was drafted for the Korean War. Even though I grew too tall for the legs of his pants, somehow I never
grew big enough to fill his shoes.