As lovers of classic menswear, we feel there is a need to address what this very general term encompasses. Although the first image that comes to mind is most likely a gentleman wearing a lounge suit and this is certainly not incorrect, there are other options beyond the ubiquitous formal garment that has now become the de facto icon of the menswear revolution. Rightfully a foundational piece with its versatility and propriety, the suit has enjoyed much-deserved growing popularity due to the proliferation from bloggers and specialty menswear stores, as well as exposure in popular culture from franchises such as James Bond and Kingsman. That being said, classic menswear extends beyond dressing men for the work week and formal affairs. One primary consideration of menswear is the occasion or context for dressing, which defines a dress code and boundaries that one is allowed to experiment within in order to express themselves appropriately.
This brings us to casual contexts, and one of the standout pieces of outerwear for me is absolutely the safari jacket. With a colourful history outfitting African safari-goers with four oversized patch pockets, a belt across the waist (optional) and epaulettes (optional), this utilitarian garment carries a spirit of adventure that creates an interesting contrast with our largely urbane surroundings. Traditionally reserved for adventurers and free spirits rather than the fashionable, interest in the safari jacket has also followed suit with the resurgence of interest in classic menswear with a growing number of advocates among menswear aficionados.
Versatile and convenient, safari jackets pair beautifully with a casual shirt, denim and loafers. This combination has almost become a sort of uniform for Chris, Jerry and I with the frequency we wear our own variations of this basic outfit for the safari jacket’s louche comfort, practicality, and easygoingness. Save for the patch pockets and general shape, the safari jacket offers quite a few options, the first of which is naturally fabric choice. Save for worsted wools, safari jackets can be made up in almost any fabric including heavy linen, wool/silk/linen blends, flannel, tweed, cotton or even suede for the more adventurous which can completely change the “personality” of the jacket. Without the interior construction (haircloth, canvas, etc.) and well-defined shape typically found in tailored coats (as safari jackets are a type of “shirt jacket”), the material choice for a safari jacket takes centre stage when it comes to its “personality”, please allow us to explain.
With the use of linen for its natural porosity, crispness, ability to dry quickly and not adhere to the skin, the safari jacket makes a fresh and cool impression of its wearer. Coupled with its rumply nature, such a jacket may suggest he is rather charming, easygoing and carefree, fantastic character traits in the summer! On the other side of the spectrum, a flannel safari jacket with its heft and napped texture, particularly in earth tones may suggest warmth which works wonderfully in the winter.
Aside from fabric choice, the devil is in the details when it comes to safari jackets. For example, the addition of a box pleat and horn button closures on the patch pockets of a safari jacket could make the wearer appear stiff and proper. While removing the buttons entirely and adding an elastic waistband would do the opposite, informalising the jacket to perfectly pair with a white t-shirt and denims.
Besides visible details, certain features could also further personalize safari jackets to address the individual needs of wearers. Such features could include hidden side-entry pockets behind the hip patch pockets for concealed storage space, or the addition of a pen holder on the upper edge of a chest patch pocket flap for a favourite pen. This makes safari jackets very pragmatic with ample pocket space to organise one’s daily carry, making a briefcase or portfolio somewhat redundant.
Classics become “classic” often because they serve an enduring, fundamental human need that is not disregardable. Clothing, whether formal or informal is one such avenue created and worn to solve real problems faced by real people on a daily basis. If we had to describe what makes a safari jacket a classic, it is because this garment is versatile, convenient, handsome and individualistic. With such traits, its permanent place in the hallowed realm of classic menswear should come as no surprise.
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