Buff (colour)

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Gtk-dialog-info.svg    Colour coordinates
Hex triplet #DAA06D
sRGB B  (r,  g,  b)(218, 160, 109)
CMYK H  (c, m, y, k)(0, 27, 50, 15)
HSV     (h, s, v)(28°, 50%, 85%)
SourceMaerz and Paul
ISCC–NBS descriptor Moderate orange yellow
B: Normalized to [0–255] (byte)
H: Normalized to [0–100] (hundred)
Buff as an RYB quaternary colour
  buff [1]

Buff (latin bubalinus) [2] [3] is a light brownish yellow, ochreous colour, typical of buff leather. [4] [5] Buff is a mixture of yellow ocher and white: [6] two parts of white lead and one part of yellow ocher produces a good buff, or white lead may be tinted with French ochre alone. [7]


As an RYB quaternary colour, it is the colour produced by an equal mix of the tertiary colours citron and russet. [8]


Buff after A. Maerz Standard Buff.jpg
Buff after A. Maerz
Standard buff after A. S. Jennings. Standard buff.jpg
Standard buff after A. S. Jennings.
Buff after R. Ridgway. Buff after R. Ridgway.jpg
Buff after R. Ridgway.

The first recorded use of the word buff to describe a colour was in The London Gazette of 1686, describing a uniform to be "...a Red Coat with a Buff-colour'd lining". [12] It referred to the colour of undyed buffalo leather, such as soldiers wore as some protection: [13] an eyewitness to the death in the Battle of Edgehill (1642) of Sir Edmund Verney noted "he would neither put on arms [armour] or buff coat the day of the battle". [14] [15] Such buff leather was suitable for buffing or serving as a buffer between polished objects. It is not clear which bovine "buffalo" referred to, but it may not have been any of the animals called "buffalo" today. [16]

Derived terms

The word buff meaning "enthusiast" or "expert" (US English) derives from the colour "buff", specifically from the buff-coloured uniform facings of 19th-century New York City volunteer firemen, who inspired partisan followers among particularly keen fire watchers. [17]

"In the buff", today meaning naked, originally applied to English soldiers wearing the buff leather tunic that was their uniform until the 17th century. The "naked" signification is due to the perception that (English) skin is buff-coloured. [18]

In nature


Sand, rock, and loess tend to be buff in many areas.

Natural selection

Because buff is effective in camouflage, it is often naturally selected.

Many species are named for their buff markings, including the buff arches moth, the buff-bellied climbing mouse, and at least sixty birds, including the buff-fronted quail-dove, the buff-vented bulbul, and the buff-spotted flufftail.

In culture


In areas where buff raw materials are available, buff walls and buildings may be found. Cotswold stone is an example of such a material.

Stationery and art

Unless bleached or dyed, paper products, such as Manila paper, tend to be buff. Buff envelopes are used extensively in commercial mailings.

Buff paper is sometimes favoured by artists seeking a neutral background colour for drawings, especially those featuring the colour white.

Artificial selection

Buff domesticated animals and plants have been created, including dogs, cats, and poultry. The word buff is used in written standards of several breeds, and some, such as the Buff turkey, are specifically named "buff".


In 16th- and 17th-century European cultures, buff waistcoats ("vests" in American English), were considered proper casual wear. In the 17th century, the traditional colour of formal dress boot uppers was often described as "buff".

John Bull

Clothing depicted on John Bull, a national personification of Britain in general and England in particular, [19] in political cartoons and similar graphic works, has often been buff coloured. [20] Bull's buff waistcoats, topcoats, [21] trousers [22] and boot uppers [23] were typical of 16th- and 17th-century Englishmen. [21]

17th-century military uniforms

Buff is a traditional European military uniform colour. Buff has good camouflage qualities as sand, soil, and dry vegetation are buff in many areas. The term buff coat refers to a part of 17th-century European military uniforms. Such coats were intended to protect the wearer, and the strongest and finest leathers tend to be buff, so the term "buff coats" came to refer to all such coats, even if the colour varied.

The British army

The Royal East Kent Regiment was nicknamed "The Buffs" from the colour of their waistcoats. The phrase "Steady the Buffs!", popularised by Rudyard Kipling in his 1888 work Soldiers Three , has its origins during 2nd Battalion's garrison duties in Malta. Adjutant Cotter, not wanting to be shown up in front of his former regiment, the 21st Royal (North British) Fusiliers, spurred his men on with the words: "Steady, the Buffs! The Fusiliers are watching you." [24]

U.S. Army

The uniform of the American Continental Army was buff and blue. [13]

Buff is the traditional colour of the U.S. Army Quartermaster Corps.

The U.S. Army Institute of Heraldry specifies a "buff" tincture for certain coats of arms, often treating it as a metal for purposes of the rule of tincture.

U.S. universities, fraternities and schools

The colours of George Washington University and Hamilton College are buff and blue, modelled on the military uniform of General George Washington and the Continental Army. Both General Washington and Alexander Hamilton, as chief of staff, had a role in the design of the uniforms.

Other school colours described as "buff and blue" include Gallaudet University in Washington, D.C., and Punahou School in Honolulu, Hawaii.

Buff is one of three colours of the Alpha Gamma Delta fraternity, and one of two colours of the Delta Chi fraternity.

U.S. state flags

The flags of Delaware and New Jersey, and the former flags of New York and Maine, officially feature buff.

Political usage

The colours of the Whig Party, a British political faction, and later political party, as well as the American Whig Party, were buff and blue. [13]

White Star buff

The funnels of the RMS Titanic and all other ships of the White Star Line were designated to be "buff with a black top" in order to indicate their ownership. There is some uncertainty among experts, however, as to the exact shade of what is now called "White Star buff". There is no surviving paint or formula, and although there are many painted postcards and at least seven colour photographs of White Star liners, the shades of the funnels in these varies due to many factors including the conditions under which they were originally made and the ageing of the pigments in which they were printed. Speaking mostly to scale modellers, the Titanic Research and Modelling Association currently recommend a colour "in the range of the Marschall color", meaning the colour in illustrations in a particular book. [25] [26]

As a relatively inexpensive and readily available paint colour, and one which went well alongside the near-universal black hull and white superstructure used on steamships at the time, White Star was far from the only shipping line to use a shade of buff as a funnel colour. The Orient Line and Norddeutscher Lloyd used an entirely buff funnel without the black top, while Canadian Pacific and the Swedish American Line employed a buff funnel with a representation of the company's house flag on them. The Bibby Line and the Fyffes Line are two of several firms to use the same "buff with a black top" scheme as White Star, but with a similar lack of certainty as to the exact shade used and how this differed from the famous White Star scheme.

In Canadian heraldry

As well as being a colour used by the United States Army Institute of Heraldry, buff is also recognised as a tincture by the Canadian Heraldic Authority. It appears on the heraldic badge and flag of the Correctional Service of Canada. [27]

See also

Related Research Articles

Blue Primary colour between purple and green in the spectrum

Blue is one of the three primary colours of pigments in painting and traditional colour theory, as well as in the RGB colour model. It lies between violet and green on the spectrum of visible light. The eye perceives blue when observing light with a dominant wavelength between approximately 450 and 495 nanometres. Most blues contain a slight mixture of other colours; azure contains some green, while ultramarine contains some violet. The clear daytime sky and the deep sea appear blue because of an optical effect known as Rayleigh scattering. An optical effect called Tyndall scattering explains blue eyes. Distant objects appear more blue because of another optical effect called aerial perspective.

Black tie Semi-formal western dress code; dinner suit, tuxedo

Black tie is a semi-formal Western dress code for evening events, originating in British and American conventions for attire in the 19th century. In British English, the dress code is often referred to synecdochically by its principal element for men, the dinner suit or dinner jacket. In American English tuxedo is common. The dinner suit is a black, midnight blue or white two- or three-piece suit, distinguished by satin or grosgrain jacket lapels and similar stripes along the outseam of the trousers. It is worn with a white dress shirt with standing or turndown collar and link cuffs, a black bow tie, typically an evening waistcoat or a cummerbund, and black patent leather dress shoes or court pumps. Accessories may include a semi-formal homburg, bowler, or boater hat. For women, an evening gown or other fashionable evening attire may be worn.

In heraldry, tenné is a "stain", or non-standard tincture, of orange, light brown or orange-tawny colour.

Waistcoat Garment for the upper body, usually sleeveless, extending to near the waist

A waistcoat in BrE, or vest in AmE, is a sleeveless upper-body garment. It is usually worn over a dress shirt and necktie and below a coat as a part of most men's formal wear. It is also sported as the third piece in the traditional three-piece male lounge suit. Any given vest can be simple or ornate, or for leisure or luxury. Historically, the vest can be worn either in the place of or underneath a larger coat dependent upon the weather, wearer, and setting.

Tincture (heraldry) A metal, colour, or fur used in heraldic design

Tincture is the limited palette of colours and patterns used in heraldry. The need to define, depict, and correctly blazon the various tinctures is one of the most important aspects of heraldic art and design.

Cummerbund Broad waist sash, usually pleated, which is often worn with single-breasted dinner jackets or tuxedos

A cummerbund is a broad waist sash in various designs including pleats, that was worn with double-breasted tail coats, it is now often worn with single-breasted dinner jackets. The cummerbund originated in Persia and was adopted by British military officers in colonial India, where they saw it worn by sepoys of the British Indian Army. It was adopted as an alternative to the waistcoat, and later spread to civilian use. The modern use of the cummerbund to Europeans is as a component of traditional black tie events.

Military uniform

A military uniform is a standardised dress worn by members of the armed forces and paramilitaries of various nations.


A gorget, from the French gorge meaning throat, was a band of linen wrapped around a woman's neck and head in the medieval period or the lower part of a simple chaperon hood. The term later described a steel or leather collar to protect the throat, a set of pieces of plate armour, or a single piece of plate armour hanging from the neck and covering the throat and chest. Later, particularly from the 18th century, the gorget became primarily ornamental, serving as a symbolic accessory on military uniforms, a use which has survived in some armies.

Mess dress uniform Formal evening dress worn by military officers in the mess or at other formal occasions

Mess dress uniform is the most-formal or semi-formal type of uniforms used by military personnel, police personnel, firefighters and other public uniformed services members for certain ceremonies, receptions, and celebrations, in messes or on private occasions. It frequently consists of a mess jacket, trousers, white dress shirt, often with standing collar and bow tie, along with orders and medals insignia. Design may depend on regiment or service branch, e.g. army, navy, air force, marines, etc. In Western dress codes, mess dress uniform is a permitted supplementary alternative equivalent to the civilian black tie for evening wear or black lounge suit for day wear - sometimes collectively called half dress - although military uniforms are the same for day and evening wear. As such, mess dress uniform is considered less formal than full dress uniform, but more formal than service dress uniform.

Morning dress Jacket worn with mens morning dress

Morning dress, also known as formal day dress, is the formal Western dress code for day attire, consisting chiefly of, for men, a morning coat, waistcoat, and formal trousers, and an appropriate gown for women. Men may also wear a popular variant where all parts are the same colour and material, often grey and usually called "morning suit" or "morning grey" to distinguish it; considered properly appropriate only to festive functions such as summer weddings and horse races, which consequently makes it slightly less formal. The correct hat would be a formal top hat, or if on less spacious audience settings optionally a collapsible equivalent opera hat.

Funnel (ship)

A funnel is the smokestack or chimney on a ship used to expel boiler steam and smoke or engine exhaust. They are also commonly referred to as stacks.

Peaked cap Form of uniform headgear with a short visor, crown, band, and insignia

The peaked cap, service cap, forage cap, barracks cover or combination cap is a form of headgear worn by the armed forces of many nations, as well as many uniformed civilian organisations such as law enforcement agencies and fire departments. It derives its name from its short visor, or peak, which was historically made of polished leather but increasingly is made of a cheaper synthetic substitute.

Full dress uniform Uniform for wear on formal occasions

Full dress uniform or parade dress uniform is the most formal type of uniforms used by military, police, fire and other public uniformed services for official parades, ceremonies, and receptions, including private ones such as marriages and funerals. Full dress uniforms typically include full-size orders and medals insignia. Styles tend to trace back to uniforms used during the 19th century, although the 20th century saw the adoption of mess-dress styled full-dress uniforms. Designs may depend on regiment or service branch. In Western dress codes, full dress uniform is a permitted supplementary alternative equivalent to the civilian white tie for evening wear or morning dress for day wear – sometimes collectively called full dress – although military uniforms are the same for day and evening wear. As such, full dress uniform is the most formal uniform, followed by the mess dress uniform.

Rule of tincture Rule of color composition in heraldic design

The most basic rule of heraldic design is the rule of tincture: metal should not be put on metal, nor colour on colour. This means that or and argent may not be placed on each other; nor may any of the colours be placed on another colour. Heraldic furs as well as "proper" are exempt from the rule of tincture. The rule seems to have operated from the inception of the age of heraldry, i.e. about 1200–1215, but seemingly was never written down. It was rather deduced by later commentators as a rule which must have existed, based on the evidence it produced. Although the vast majority of coats of arms ever used across the whole of Europe follow the rule, a very few coats which contravened the rule were borne in the mediaeval era by certain families or corporate bodies for many centuries without effective censure by the heraldic authorities. The reason for the original contraventions and for the toleration of them is unknown, although in the case of the arms of the Kingdom of Jerusalem clearly extreme high status was involved.

In classical heraldry, vert is the tincture equivalent to the colour "green". It is one of the five dark tinctures (colours). The word vert is simply the French for "green". It is used in English in the sense of a heraldic tincture since the early 16th century. In Modern French, vert is not used as a heraldic term. Instead, the French heraldic term for green tincture is sinople. This has been the case since c. the 16th century. In medieval French heraldry, vert also meant "green" while sinople was a shade of red. Vert is portrayed by the conventions of heraldic "hatching" by lines at a 45-degree angle from upper left to lower right, or indicated by the abbreviation vt. when a coat of arms is tricked.

Court uniform and dress in the United Kingdom

Court uniform and dress were required to be worn by those in attendance at the royal court in the 19th and early 20th centuries.

Facing colour

A facing colour is a common tailoring technique for European military uniforms where the visible inside lining of a standard military jacket, coat or tunic is of a different colour to that of the garment itself. The jacket lining evolved to be of different coloured material, then of specific hues. Accordingly when the material was turned back on itself: the cuffs, lapels and tails of the jacket exposed the contrasting colours of the lining or facings, enabling ready visual distinction of different units: regiments, divisions or battalions each with their own specific and prominent colours. The use of distinctive facings for individual regiments was at its most popular in 18th century armies, but standardisation within infantry branches became more common during and after the Napoleonic Wars.

Red coat (military uniform) British Army uniform from the 17th to the 20th centuries

Red coat or scarlet tunic is a military garment used widely, though not exclusively worn, by most regiments of the British Army, Royal Marines, and some colonial units within the British Empire, from the 17th to the 20th centuries. The scarlet tunic continues to be used into the 21st century, with several armed forces of the Commonwealth of Nations adopting them as their full dress and mess dress uniforms. The term "redcoat" may have originated in the 16th century Tudor Ireland as a derogatory term for the English, as soldiers in Lord Lieutenant of Ireland's army wore red coats, the first time English soldiers collectively had a red uniform.

Uniforms of La Grande Armée

The uniforms of La Grande Armée, the army of Napoleon I, are described in this article.

Uniforms of the British Army

The uniforms of the British Army currently exist in twelve categories ranging from ceremonial uniforms to combat dress. Uniforms in the British Army are specific to the regiment to which a soldier belongs. Full dress presents the most differentiation between units, and there are fewer regimental distinctions between ceremonial dress, service dress, barrack dress and combat dress, though a level of regimental distinction runs throughout.


  1. "Convertor from RYB to RGB". PaintAssistant. Archived from the original on 28 June 2013. Retrieved 29 December 2012. RGB approximations of RYB tertiary colours, using cubic interpolation. The colours displayed here are substantially paler than the true colours a mixture of paints would produce.
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  17. Robert W. Masters "What is a Fire Buff?", Pictorial History of Firefighting, revised edition, 1967; Steve Hanson, "Fire buffs: who are they?".
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  19. Taylor, Miles (2006) [2004]. "Bull, John (supp. fl. 1712–)" . Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/68195.(Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
  20. "John Bull Running". Sterling Times. Retrieved 7 August 2012.
  21. 1 2 "AngloMania: Tradition and Transgression in British Fashion," Metropolitan Museum of Art (2006), exhibition brochure, p. 2.
  22. Matthews, Stella (February 2000). "The Search for John Bull". "Best of British" Magazine. Archived from the original on 28 June 2012. Retrieved 7 September 2012. while the figure with which we're most familiar, the portly one resplendent in top hat, top boots, buff-coloured trousers, swallow-tailed coat, and sporting the British flag on his waistcoat, was the work of Sir Carruthers Gould as depicted in the Westminster Gazette in the late 1800s and early 1900s.
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  27. General, The Office of the Secretary to the Governor. "Correctional Service of Canada [Civil Institution]". reg.gg.ca.