Summer is traditionally the time for lighter fabrics and brighter colors, though most men will wear the same style of clothing, such as a single breasted 3 button suit in seersucker or a navy blazer with lighter colored pants. While this is perfectly acceptable, there are a few alternative garments, such as the Safari Jacket, that were originally designed for tropical climates and will give your warm weather look a unique yet traditional spin. Hence I would like to write a little bit about these summer outfits using a fashion illustration from the 1930’s.
Safari Jacket / Safari Suit
First, let’s take a closer look at the classic Safari Jacket. It was probably invented at the end of the 19th century, but its exact roots remain unclear. In any case, it became popular with the British elite in Africa during the early 20th century.
The Safari jacket was designed for African hunts and was supposed to be comfortable in hot climate with ample pocket space for hunting essentials.
A bush jacket was usually made of lightweight, tan cotton twill with bellows, belt and pleated pockets for more storage space. Later it was also made out of poplin and the color shifted more towards khaki. With its 4 symmetrical, flapped front pockets, belt and epaulettes, it had a para-militaristic look. Hence, some date the origins back to tropical British military uniforms, while other see parallels to the Norfolk jacket. Both have a point in my opinion.
Unlike a regular jacket, it had an open shirt style collar and lapel that would create the look of a ghillie collar when closed all the way. However, it was rarely worn that way. Ernest Hemingway was one of the early, more prominent proponents of the safari jacket because it was washable, comfortable and most of all, functional. Clark Gable wore bush jackets in 1932’s Red Dust, as well as in Mogambo in 1953 (see picture below). Roger Moore wore a Safari Jacket as James Bond in The Man with the Golden Gun, Octopussy and Moonraker.
In the 1960’s and 1970’s it had some kind of a revival, especially when Yves Saint Laurent introduced his Saharienne collection in 1968. In fact, it was so influential that the Safari Jacket is still referred to as Saharienne at times.
Safari Suit & Shirt
Often, the Safari Jacket had matching pants, a very similarly styled safari shirt and a casual neckerchief.
Safari Jacket Today
Today, the Safari Jacket is certainly past its peak, yet there are still manufacturers like Berettathat produce their interpretation of this jacket today. As such, owning such a garment is a great way to add a bit of individuality to your outfit, without departing from classic silhouettes. The gentleman on the right in the fashion illustration clearly has neither a belted jacket, a shirt collar or epaulettes, but the outfit is distinctly inspired by the Safari Jacket. So, if you already have a number of single and double breasted jackets and you like to spend some time in warmer places, think about the Safari Jacket or certain elements of it, such as the big, flapped bellowed patch pockets.
Brown & Green For Summer
In case you are not quite comfortable with the look of the Bush Jacket, you might consider other garments in summer fabrics in more unusual colors. For example, the chap on the left pairs a lovat green – grey double breasted jacket with grey shirt or light blue shirt, a Madras bow tie, an olive green hat and brown chalk striped trousers with white buckskin shoes.
Navy White Look
For the really hot days, you can either wear jackets and shorts (like the folks at Pitti) and make a questionable impression, or you can simply wear pants with a polo shirt and light colored shoes. In my opinion, that wears cooler than a jacket with shorts, in addition to appearing more comfortable and relaxed without showing your (hairy) legs. Don’t get me wrong, shorts have a place in your closet – they are just better combined with more suitable partners than your suit jackets. The gentleman in the middle wears the aforementioned combination. and he appears classic and simply elegant. The fit of the slacks is very 1930’s – high waisted, without a belt and fully cut. Unless you are the skipper of an actual boat and don’t mind a bit of kitsch, then you should skip the pipe/captains hat combo.
What are your favorite alternative summer outfits?