Safari Jackets, like many sartorial staples, were born out of a military past, owing more than a passing debt to British Khaki drill uniforms that were first commissioned by Brevet Major William Hodson, in 1848, for the Corps of Guides operating in India.
Brevet Major William Hodson in khaki uniform
Many of the classic features of the traditional Safari Jacket, the four pleated pockets, the belt, epaulettes, and lightweight cotton drill fabric, all find their origin in these military uniforms. However, as is the way with tailoring, these garments soon took on a life and identity all of their own.
British Military Boer-War era uniform (c1900)
As going on safari itself became more popular, so the attire adapted to the task. Soon, the Safari Jacket changed from its more formal military origins and became a utilitarian garment for exploring and big game hunting in the African bush. Theodore Roosevelt was an early adopter of the jacket, wearing one on his hunting trips to Africa in the early 1900s, but it wasn’t until 1935 that the term Safari Suit entered the common vernacular.
Theodore Roosevelt in hunting gear
Shortly after this, adventurer and novelist Ernest Hemingway designed a “bush jacket” which he wore on many of his expeditions. This jacket - a more pragmatic proposition than those that had gone before - eschewed the traditional belt and epaulettes of the more military-inspired Safari Jackets, instead opting for a drawn waist and larger, practical pockets.
Ernest Hemingway preparing to hunt
In the late 1940s and 1950s, Hollywood became enamoured with the notion of the adventurer on safari, and soon stars such as Gregory Peck, Clark Gable, and Stewart Granger were sporting the Safari Jacket on the silver screen. With the jackets being worn by the stars, the style crept into fashion, and soon the Safari Jacket was being worn as casual attire, far from the African Savanna.
Clark Gable, well-equipped for adventure
As time marched on, the Safari Jacket lost its appeal and all but disappeared. However, its fortunes were radically reversed when in the late 1960s Yves Saint Laurent introduced it into the mainstream once again, creating a more fashion-driven garment, with a paired down, slimmer silhouette. Almost overnight the Safari Jacket was cool once more and became a staple of 1970s style.
Yves Saint Laurent safari chic
Of course, one of the Safari Jacket’s main proponents was Sir Roger Moore, who was first seen wearing what became a trademark look, in an episode of The Saint in the 1960s.
Sir Roger Moore as Simon Templar in The Saint
Moore, ever an arbiter of style and good taste, was seldom seen without his go-to garment during the 1970s, wearing various styles both in his private life and on screen - as Lord (Brett) Sinclair in The Persuaders and, most famously, as 007 in the James Bond films.
Sir Roger Moore as Brett Sinclair (1971)
As the decade drew to a close, so did the appeal of the Safari Jacket as a fashion item. Soon, Moore’s Bond was derided for his particular penchant for this sartorial item, and the design became something of a historical fashion curiosity.
Sir Roger Moore as James Bond (1974)
However, of recent times the Safari Jacket has made something of resurgence, and it’s easy to see why. With numerous pockets, the Safari Jacket is ideal for keeping everything the modern man might need to hand. Keys, phone, wallet, sunglasses - whatever you might need slips easily away without ruining the line of your outfit.
The Mason & Sons Safari Jacket
Lightweight, stylish, and versatile, the Mason & Sons Safari Jacket takes its cues from the practical considerations of Hemingway’s bush jacket, the directional styling of Yves Saint Laurent’s interpretation, and naturally, the most sincere reverence to a wonderful friend and customer, the late Sir Roger Moore. This tribute to him is a modern take on a traditional classic... and the perfect garment for today’s urban adventurer.