The Safari Jacket

By Ben Jones

Historically, safari jackets represented the central item of the traditional British military tropical uniform, worn by soldiers in the African bush. The jackets inherently contained four or more expandable pockets, an attached waist belt and epaulettes.

They were designed to be light-weight for easy mobility, but warm enough for when the African sun set. They were engineered for comfort and function and traditionally came in earthy tones, which enabled the wearer to blend into the African bush landscape.

The safari jacket grew in popularity following post-war periods when surplus vintage stock was sold to the general public. The safari jacket became further popularised during the 1940s and 1950s by the American author and journalist Ernest Hemingway, and received another revival during the 1970s when Yves Saint Laurent himself regularly wore a safari suit. Following this, Roger Moore epitomised the ‘cool’ of safari when, as James Bond in ‘The Man With The Golden Gun’ and ‘Octopussy’, his wardrobe contained an army green safari jacket. And if it’s good enough for 007…

Safari Jackets: On the Runways

The spring/summer 2012 fashion weeks in London, Paris, New York and Milan showed much support for activewear influences on outerwear for men – and you don’t get much more active or adventurous than safari.

Safari Jackets: In the Media

Similarly, advertising campaigns and lookbooks for high fashion brands such as Louis Vuitton and Tommy Hilfiger have featured on location safari-style shoots to advertise their safari-influenced collections. The Louis Vuitton campaign not only displays the safari-influences on the clothes fantastically – it also contains some fantastically shot and well-composed photographs.

The fashion press has also gone wild for safari jackets. ‘Esquire’ columnist, and all-round fashion connoisseur, Jeremy Langmead wrote in the February issue about his predicted popular trends for the coming season, and number one was the safari jacket. Langmead thinks that slim, tailored safari styles give good shape to the body and work better than the traditional bulky, expandable-pocketed jackets. He also favours neutral khakis and greens for colour choices.

In the same issue of ‘Esquire’, safari jackets were number two on the Esquire Spring Style Special List – again in simple, sleeks styles. ‘GQ’ writes that safari jackets have ‘infiltrated spring’s catwalks in diverse guises’, which shows that the style can be variable and chameleonic. Corneliani and John Varvatos have both designed a suede version, whilst Hugo Boss and Ian Velardi have created leather and denim versions respectively. Although earthy green, beige and khaki tones seem to be the preference for most of the designers and brands, Trussardi 1911 opposed this trend and featured safari-influenced jackets in bright blues and oranges.

Conclusion

It is clear for any avid follower of men’s fashion to see that the SS12 collections contained an underlying theme of function and style in the outerwear pieces – and no piece epitomises this more than the safari jacket. It is casual enough to be worn by day.

The safari jacket excellently compliments the 1970s trend which has been emerging recently and the penchant for earthy, neutral tones such as khaki, beige, ivory and olive represent the go-to colourings for tonal outfits this season.

The safari jacket represents a outerwear piece which should appeal to everybody.