Blue is the colour: cloth maker's proud history of supplying RAF for 100 years

Hainsworth have making and providing the RAF with the blue material for their uniforms for the past century.
Hainsworth have making and providing the RAF with the blue material for their uniforms for the past century.

The Royal Air Force has one particular British textiles manufacturer to thank for the distinctive blue colour of their uniforms.

It was in 1918 when the RAF was first formed - through the merging of the Royal Flying Corps and Royal Naval Air Service - that the new service approached cloth makers, Hainsworth.

Based in Leeds, the family-run business has been established for more than 235 years - making and providing the RAF with the blue material for their uniforms for the past century.

Julie Greenough, marketing manager at Hainsworth, said the RAF at the time of its creation wanted uniforms that were different to the other services.

The 38-year-old added: "We were lucky at the time because we actually had a warehouse full of blue-grey material that had been woven for the Tsar of Russia for his Cossack trousers.

"But we were unable to deliver it because war broke out in Russia and we had a warehouse full of this blue-grey material that we couldn't use and we didn't have a source for.

"Then the RAF came at exactly the same time and the salesman thought 'RAF and blue' - they have taken that fabric since and they still take it for their ceremonial uniforms now."

Made from 100% pure wool, the weight of and the process of achieving the blue colour of the material is a closely guarded secret.

Founded in 1783, Hainsworth also provided the scarlet material for the uniforms used during the Battle of Waterloo, and still makes the fabric used for all the British forces' ceremonial uniforms.

Hainsworth also invented the Khaki material used by British troops during the First and Second World War, and created the fabric worn by the Duke of Cambridge and Prince Harry in their ceremonial uniforms when William married Kate.

Tom Hainsworth is the seventh generation family member to run the company, which employs 180 people, with the eighth generation currently working at the firm too.

Mr Hainsworth said: "It is always hugely exciting to see our work displayed at such prominent events as the Trooping of the Colour and the coming centenary of the RAF.

"Only a select few companies can say that they have input into such iconic events and for me, knowing that it is something that is a family legacy, drives me to make sure that we continue to be successful and remain associated with the events.

"Ceremony is something that is a huge part of British national pride, events that truly represent the heart of the nation and the things that we as a country do well, to have become a key part of this is very exciting."

He said the connections that the company has with the military make him and the company "immensely proud".

"The teams in the mill work extremely hard to ensure that the cloth we manufacture meets the high standard expected by the company and our customers," he added.

"They often don't get to see the results of their work or to celebrate its influences, so the RAF centenary is a great opportunity for every employee to really understand and appreciate what it is that they are a part of."