The Original Camouflage: Khaki Part IV – Colonial Italy’s Khaki Uniforms


Newly arrived Italian soldiers in North Africa circa 1940

The Italians, like the Germans, were late to the colonial empire rush but established colonies in Africa in the 1880s and later began a lengthy war in Libya in 1911 that continued into the 1930s. The Italian empire grew with the conquest of Ethiopia in 1936 – payback for the attempted conquest 40 years earlier.

Throughout its colonial era the Italians adopted khaki, beginning in 1887 with a new tropical uniform made of linen. The Italians deemed this pale shade of khaki to be “light bronze.” This pattern as updated in 1892 and 1893 and it was primarily variations of this that were used in the Adowa Campaign in Ethiopia in 1896, and in the 1911 Libyan Campaign against the Ottoman Empire.


The popular pre-1940 pattern “Sahariana” jacket

Khaki was used by both the Italians and Ethiopians in the 1935-36 war, and these updated tropical uniforms remained in use throughout Italy’s disastrous campaigns in North Africa.


An Italian officer in Ethiopia circa 1940


Italian troops in Naples preparing to depart for North Africa. It is a sea of khaki and sun helmets.


A romanticized poster depicting Italian troops in tropical uniforms

Peter Suciu

One thought on “The Original Camouflage: Khaki Part IV – Colonial Italy’s Khaki Uniforms

  1. Enzo Faraone

    I wanted to report in reference to this tropical Italian complete some of my considerations:
    The typical “sahariana jacket” for officers with his Sam Browne belt is accompanied by a troop Pith helmet mod.1928 of 8Th Bersaglieri Rgt.
    The trims and the straps are for “Royal carabbiners” (military police)… as a Whole therefore the uniform is not consistent.
    All this for the sake of accuracy.


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