The RAF has long maintained overseas bases in hot climates, these are either temporary airstrips such as those used in conflict zones, or more permanent airfields such as RAF Akrotiri. For more formal wear at these tropical bases, traditional khaki shirts and shorts were often worn with simple khaki shorts being used through to the present day. Traditionally these were made from cotton but from the 1970s onwards these fabrics were replaced by polyester or poly-cotton blends and traditional fastenings such as buttons were replaced with Velcro. Both these changes made the garments easier to wash as manmade fibres do not stain as easily and there is no risk of buttons being damaged from frequent laundering if they have been replaced with Velcro. Tonight we are looking at a pair of RAF tropical shorts that I believe date from the 1980s:They are made of a khaki shade of poly-cotton known officially as ‘stone’ and are of a traditional design. The fly and waist belt both secure with Velcro:Whilst Velcro adjustment tabs to change the sizing are included on either side of the waist:One plastic button is used, to secure the rear pocket over the seat of the shorts:A wider look at the rear of the shorts is interesting in showing the sharply defined creases in the garment:Manmade fabrics can hold these creases far better than traditional cotton and even many years after these shorts were last used the creases remain. The label inside the shorts helps with dating:The metric sizing indicates that these shorts were made after the 1970s whilst the style of label and the washing instructions are typical of 1980s or 1990s labels. These shorts were made by Compton and Webb, one of the largest manufacturers of military uniforms up until the late 1990s when like so much procurement, manufacture moved to China.
Today the shorts are worn in warm weather as part of the No7b uniform of the RAF as a semi-formal working dress for officers and senior airmen.