Words by Mr Peter Henderson
In the days when going on safari was all about shooting the wildlife with a shotgun, rather than a camera, the safari jacket, worn with cotton drill trousers and a wide-brimmed hat, was the attire of choice. Derived from the khaki uniform that British troops stationed in India in the 19th century wore, the safari jacket offered camouflage against the African savanna, while it was sufficiently lightweight for the climate, and its numerous bellows pockets could hold binoculars, ammunition and a hip flask of rum. A famous photograph from 1953 depicts Mr Ernest Hemingway and his wife both clad in safari jackets, standing over a freshly shot wildebeest. The transition to the city wardrobe came in the 1960s, when Mr Yves Saint Laurent popularised the style in Paris. Later, Sir Roger Moore's Bond gave the safari jacket several airings on the silver screen.
At the same time in the 20th century, a similar style became part of military uniform, although it was known as a field jacket rather than a safari jacket in the army. The most famous model, the M65, was introduced by the US for soldiers to wear in Vietnam. Originally olive green, the M65 featured four capacious pockets on the front, a concealed hood and epaulettes. It was perfect for troops facing variable climates, since it was relatively roomy, meaning extra layers or a detachable insulated lining could be worn underneath if the temperature dropped.
French fashion designer Mr Yves Saint Laurent in front of his boutique in Bond Street, London, 1969
As we find ourselves in the transition between spring and summer, safari and field jackets are the ideal medium-weight outerwear, whether you wear one on a May day when the weather is unpredictable or on a cool August evening. Adding a rugged sense of adventure to your outfit, they look stylish, and they are undeniably practical thanks to their abundance of pockets and the numerous layering options that they present. They can be worn over a suit, or with jeans, chinos, polo shirts, knitwear, T-shirts, scarves or knitted ties - the options are almost endless. A word of warning, though: unless you want to look like a dictator from the 1970s, it's best not to wear a safari or field jacket as a "suit" with trousers (or, heaven forbid, shorts) in the same material or colour. Click through the gallery above to see the London-based artist, Mr Robert Pratt, demonstrating five of our favourites.