The famous safari jacket

The famous safari jacket

The safari jacket: Tailoring for the outdoors

The safari jacket is a classic piece of menswear that has been popular for over a century. Originally designed for use on safari expeditions in Africa, the jacket has since become a versatile and stylish item that can be worn in a variety of settings. The key to the safari jacket's enduring popularity lies in the durable textiles from which it is cut, from durable cotton to high-performing outdoor fabrics.  The fabrics must be carefully selected to ensure that the wearer is protected from the elements while staying true to his or her style. Timeless and constantly reinvented, the safari jacket offers a piece of fashion history and textile innovation, which we will uncover in this article. 

The Safari Jacket and Dormeuil’s luxury cloth fit for an adventure

The safari jacket, also known as “saharienne”, is a type of overshirt that was originally designed for use on outdoor expeditions in Africa during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The jacket's origins can be traced back to British military uniforms, which often featured lightweight and durable materials designed to withstand the harsh conditions of the outdoors.

In the early 1900s, as hunting and exploration became popular pastimes for the wealthy, many British and European adventurers began wearing safari jackets on their travels. The jackets were typically made of lightweight, breathable materials such as cotton or linen, and featured numerous pockets and other functional design elements to accommodate the needs of travellers in the wilderness.

The safari jacket explores new horizons

As the popularity of safari expeditions grew, so did the demand for safari jackets. Many fashion designers began incorporating elements of the safari jacket into their designs, making the jacket a popular fashion item among both men and women. In the 1930s, the British fashion designer Hardy Amies popularised the safari jacket as a stylish and practical garment for everyday wear.

During the mid-20th century, the safari jacket became a popular symbol of adventure and exploration. Many Hollywood films featuring safari expeditions and other exotic locales prominently featured actors wearing safari jackets, further fueling their popularity.

The Saharienne in the roaring Seventies 

In the 1970s, the safari jacket experienced a resurgence in popularity as part of the broader trend of "safari chic" fashion. This trend was characterised by a fusion of safari-inspired clothing and accessories with high-fashion design elements.

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Yves Saint Laurent is credited with revolutionising the safari jacket and elevating it to a high-fashion product. In 1968, he introduced a collection that featured a modernised version of the jacket, which he called "Saharienne".

The design of Saint Laurent's Saharienne jacket was inspired by his travels to Morocco and his fascination with the rugged and utilitarian clothing worn by the Berber people. The jacket was made of lightweight cotton or linen and featured a belted waist, epaulettes, and multiple pockets. Saint Laurent's version of the safari jacket was more fitted and streamlined than its predecessors, giving it a more elegant and refined look.

The Saharienne jacket quickly became a popular item among fashion-forward women and men, and it has remained a signature piece of the Yves Saint Laurent brand to this day. Saint Laurent continued to experiment with the design of the jacket over the years, creating variations in leather and suede as well as additional detailing. 

Yves Saint Laurent’s Saharienne as a marker of its time

Saint Laurent's version of the safari jacket was not only fashionable, but also reflected a changing cultural and political climate. In the late 1960s, the world was experiencing a wave of social and political upheaval, and the Saharienne jacket's utilitarian and unisex design reflected a desire for practicality and equality. The jacket was also a symbol of freedom and adventure, evoking images of travellers exploring new and exotic places.

Yves Saint Laurent's Saharienne jacket remains an enduring symbol of his innovative approach to fashion and his ability to blend practicality and luxury. Its influence endures to this day and can be spotted on the catwalk and in many more common  safari-inspired designs.  Evidently, it continues to inspire designers and fashion lovers around the world.

What are the key qualities of a safari jacket?

Today, the safari jacket remains a popular fashion item, with many designers and retailers offering their own takes on the classic design. However, the jacket's origins as a functional and utilitarian garment for adventurers and explorers still remain an important part of its history and appeal.

While the Saharienne rapidly became a style statement over time, functionality remained a key factor in the garment’s design. A safari jacket typically requires several key qualities to make it practical for the outdoors. Here are some of the most important qualities:

  1. Durability: durable and sturdy materials have qualities like water-repellency and crease resistance to withstand the challenges of outdoor activities.
  2. Comfort through lightness and breathability: a safari jacket must allow for air circulation and keep the wearer cool in hot and humid environments, cities included. 
  3. Multiple pockets: preferably of different sizes at chest and hip level, the safari jacket’s pockets often display flaps to protect its contents. 
  4. Protection from the elements: a collar and a hidden hood provide shelter from the sun, wind, and rain for the neck and face.
  5. Comfortable fit: The jacket should fit comfortably and allow for freedom of movement. Adjustable cuffs and a waist belt can help the garment fit better, much like a customised fit.
  6. Neutral colours: a true safari jacket should not stand out, but blend in with natural surroundings. Similarly, today, an elegant yet classic style will not attract unwanted attention.

Overall, a good safari jacket should be functional, comfortable, and stylish, while also providing practical features and protection from the elements for outdoor activities.

Dormeuil’s Millennial® suit fabric collection updates the safari jackets

A safari jacket is typically made from durable fabric that presents all the properties to withstand the outdoors, remain warm in cool weather, cool in warm weather, and remain presentable at all times. This can be a light gabardine or another type of fabric that is designed to suit elegant outerwear. Dormeuil’s Millennial® suit fabric collection perfectly fits the bill of a stylish yet comfortable safari jacket cut for both city and country adventures. 

The Millennial® suit fabric collection was born out of an endeavour to produce innovative and refined fabrics in keeping with Dormeuil’s  historic savoir-faire. Our textile development team drew from the latest advanced technology to create top-performing materials. 

Designed for days spent on-the-go, Millennial® offers a classic selection of plain fabrics woven for all types of garments, including vests, jerkins, trousers, jackets, and coats. The Millennial® suit fabric collection effortlessly blends formal elegance with casual cool.

For those seeking a high-performance option, the 'Millennial® Tech' line offers piece-dyed fabrics with technical and practical properties, including water-repellency, breathability, and almost crease-resistant quality.

dormeuil millennial

At Dormeuil, we are committed to producing high-quality wool under conditions that are respectful of both humans and animal welfare. This is why our Millennial® fabrics are woven from RWS certified wool in keeping with our ethical approach to textile production.