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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". It referred to the colour of undyed buffalo leather, such as soldiers wore as some protection: 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". 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.
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.
"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.
Sand, rock, and loess tend to be buff in many areas.
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 areas where buff raw materials are available, buff walls and buildings may be found. Cotswold stone is an example of such a material.
Buff paper is sometimes favoured by artists seeking a neutral background colour for drawings, especially those featuring the colour white.
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".
A buff gun dog
In the 17th century, the traditional colour of formal dress boot uppers was often described as "buff".
Clothing depicted on John Bull, a national personification of Britain in general and England in particular, in political cartoons and similar graphic works, has often been buff coloured. Bull's buff waistcoats, topcoats, trousers and boot uppers were typical of 16th- and 17th-century Englishmen.
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 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."
The uniform of the American Continental Army was buff and blue.
Buff is the traditional colour of the U.S. Army Quartermaster Corps.
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.
The 1901 Maine Flag flown from 1901 to 1909
Depiction of the Whig Charles James Fox wearing buff and blue
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 Modeling Association currently recommend a colour "in the range of the Marschall color", meaning the colour in illustrations in a particular book.
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.
Ships of the White Star Line, such as the RMS Oceanic pictured here, and the Titanic, had buff funnels with black tops.
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.
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.