Buff (colour)

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About these coordinates     Colour coordinates
Hex triplet #F0DC82
sRGBB  (rgb) (240, 220, 130)
CMYKH   (c, m, y, k) (0, 8, 46, 6)
HSV       (h, s, v) (49°, 46%, 94%)
Source Maerz and Paul
B: Normalized to [0–255] (byte)
H: Normalized to [0–100] (hundred)
Buff as an RYB quaternary colour

Buff is the pale yellow-brown colour of the un-dyed leather of several animals.[2]

As an RYB quaternary colour, it is the darker colour produced by an equal mix of the tertiary colours citron and russet.[3]


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".[4] It referred to the colour of un-dyed buffalo leather, such as soldiers wore as some protection: an eye-witness to the death in the Battle of Edgehill (1642) of Sir Edmund Verney noted "he would neither put on armor or buff coat the day of the battle".[5] 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.[6]

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.[7]

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.

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,[8] in political cartoons and similar graphic works, has often been buff-coloured.[9] Bull's buff waistcoats, topcoats,[10] trousers[11] and boot uppers[12] were typical of sixteenth- and seventeenth-century Englishmen.[10]

Seventeenth-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.

"Buff coat"

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.'[13]

The U.S. Army

The uniform of American Continental Army was buff and blue.

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.

U.S. universities, fraternities and schools

The colours of The 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".

UK politics

The colours of the Whigs, an 18th-century British political party, were buff and blue.

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 aging of the pigments in which they were printed. Speaking mostly to scale modellers, the Titanic Research and Modeling Association currently recommend a colour "in the range of the Marschall color", meaning the colour in illustrations in a particular book.[14][15]

See also


  1. RGB approximations of RYB tertiary colours, using cubic interpolation.[1] The colours displayed here are substantially paler than the true colours a mixture of paints would produce.
  2. Lua error in Module:Citation/CS1/Identifiers at line 47: attempt to index field 'wikibase' (a nil value).
  3. William J. Miskella, 1928, Practical Color Simplified: A Handbook on Lacquering, Enameling, Coloring And Painting; John Lemos, 1920, "Color Charts for the School Room", in School Arts, vol. 19, pp 580–584
  4. "buff, adj.1". Oxford English Dictionary. OUP. Retrieved 21 April 2011.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. Miriam Slater, Family Life in the Seventeenth Century: the Verneys of Claydon House1984:11.
  6. Barnhart, Robert K. (1995). The Barnhart Concise Dictionary of Etymology: The Origins of American English Words. New York: Harper Collins. p. 90. ISBN 0-06-270084-7.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  7. Robert W. Masters "What is a Fire Buff?", Pictorial History of Firefighting', revised edition, 1967; Steve Hanson, "Fire buffs: who are they?".
  8. Lua error in Module:Citation/CS1/Identifiers at line 47: attempt to index field 'wikibase' (a nil value).
  9. "John Bull Running". Sterling Times. Retrieved 7 August 2012.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  10. 10.0 10.1 "AngloMania: Tradition and Transgression in British Fashion," Metropolitan Museum of Art (2006), exhibition brochure, p. 2.
  11. Matthews, Stella (February 2000). "The Search for John Bull". "Best of British" Magazine. 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.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  12. "John Bull and His Bulldog". Gold Posters. Retrieved 7 August 2012.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  13. National Army Museum website: Buffs (Royal East Kent Regiment)
  14. The TRMA recommend the colour on found on "pp. 54, 60-61, and 67 of the new book Art of Titanic", presumably Ken Marschall's Art of Titanic 978-0786864553.
  15. Braunschweiger, TRMA, Art. "White Star Buff: Weighing the Evidence". Titanic Research and Modeling Association (TRMA). Retrieved 28 July 2012. An earlier version of this article appeared on the TRMA website in October 2004 under the title "Photographic and Illustrative Evidence of White Star Buff." In December 2004, the article was rewritten under its present title to reflect new evidence and new debate on the subject since the writing of the original article.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>