Safari Jackets – The Saharan Sportcoat

At the turn of the twentieth century, as the world’s fascination with Africa was rising, safari tours became incredibly popular among wealthy westerners.  Naturally, these western elites had to have an entirely different wardrobe to prepare themselves for their journey, yet these clothes also had to maintain the formal look that they were used to. So, while the British and American adventure tourists flocked to Sub-Saharan Africa to embark on excursions through the desert, a distinct safari style began to take shape.

British Wildlife Conservationist and Actor Bill Travers Wearing Safari Jackets

The most recognizable garment that came out of this era was the appropriately named, Safari jacket, a four pocket  sportcoat.  Aesthetically similarly to English countryside hunting jackets, the Safari Jacket had a familiar shape but the details and construction were intended for unfamiliar territory.   The overall goal of most safari tours was to observe the wildlife, so the four bellow pockets were designed to kept the traveller’s equipment, particularly cameras, close at hand to help document the trip.  Safari jackets were commonly produced in either cotton drill or poplin, two lightweight fabrics that offered protection from the intense desert heat.  Design details such as epaulets and belts harkened back to the military culture of colonial Africa.

Ernest Hemingway Wearing a Safari Jacket

Around the 1950’s the Safari jacket began to cross into the mainstream menswear world as the adventurer lifestyle became a common theme within pop culture.  Throughout the latter twenty-first century, figures such as Ernest Hemingway and James Bond adopted the Safari jacket, bringing it into daily life as a casual spring jacket.  Designers continue to riff on the original design today, modifying the many features of the jacket, but always maintaining the rugged edge that made Safari jackets so unique.

Ralph Lauren Black Label Jump Cotton Blend Jacket

Maison Kitsune Washed Cotton-Twill Safari Jacket

Slowear Montedoro Cotton and Linen Safari Jacket

Ian Velardi Denim Safari Jacket

Beretta Safari Jacket

Filson Bush Jacket

Balmain Safari Jacket

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6 comments
  1. the old man said:

    Go Tarzan….

  2. Steve Anderson said:

    What issue of Apparel Arts or Equire Magazine was the safari jacket taken from? Great Blog!!

    • I believe it is from Apparel Arts in 1930, but I’m not positive on that

  3. Mel said:

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  4. Keeley said:

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