Safari Jacket: Who wore it well?

In light of the safari jacket enduring a mini-renaissance, we pick out a few characters that wore it with real distinction.
Yves Saint Laurent opening his shop 'Rive Gauche' in Bond Street, London with fashion models Loulou de la Falaise (left) and Betty Catroux (right). (Photo by John Minihan/Evening Standard/Getty Images)

Trampling through the hostile African bush, severely outnumbered and during the blistering mid-day heat, the British Army mobilization attempt in the Second Boer War couldn’t have been more different to their opposition. The Boers had 33,000 front line soldiers, were mainly farmers and hunters, understood the climate and topography, and because they were generally members of civilian militias, very few of them adopted uniform. For the British Army, many of whom were already stationed in South Africa, the War Office in Whitehall had sought to alleviate the temperature burden by commissioning a new Khaki Drill uniform. As it happens one of the very first cloth mills to weave Khaki Drill for the British Army was our valued partner Fox Brothers & Co. The uniforms generally featured four large bellows pockets on the chest and hips, a large shirt collar, shoulder epaulettes and a belted waist.

The term safari jacket wasn’t coined until the 1930s, when European colonial power in Africa was reaching its zenith. It gained further notoriety as a consequence of the influx of well-to-do men and women from the West who were completely enchanted by the prospect of gallivanting around the African savanna. They would spend lavishly on safaris, whilst sporting fashionable versions of the military’s Khaki Drill uniform as they went. Meanwhile, back in Hollywood, movie moguls recognized this scene was ripe for the next spate of romantic, action-packed motion pictures. Without delay the safari jacket played a major role in elevating actors into sex symbol status, thus heightening the appeal of the garment itself.


    Freddie Anderson


    April 2022


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