The Safari Jacket

In 100 years the safari jacket has gone from tropical jungle to concrete jungle. Its look is relaxed yet elegant, as well as practical and comfortable – so it’s easy to understand why it made it out of Africa.

Safari inspiration at Acne Studio Spring 2015, Getty Images.

The safari jacket is believed to derive from the British military uniform in tropic areas, first seen in the mid to late 19th century. Being made of lightweight drill cotton or poplin, with at least two – but often four or more – pockets, shoulder straps and a belt, it became a necessity for colonialists, soldiers and game hunters in Africa at the turn of the century. 

The jacket was brought to the public eye when Theodore Roosevelt and Ernest Hemingway were seen wearing it. Although privileged and adventurous men wore it, it didn’t become mainstream until the late 1960s when legendary super model Veruschka von Lehndorff styled Yves Saint Laurent’s Saharienne model for Vogue. Thanks to Saint Laurent’s feminine twist, the garment has come to play a more important role in fashion than on the savannah ever since.

Over the decades, the safari jacket has mainly been associated with leisure and comfort, giving you a relaxed look. The many pockets have made it a practical item for photographers to put film and photographic equipment in, but it was also widely worn by Indian businessmen until the 1990s. Today, modern takes on the safari jacket are often made from more technical materials but still most often comes in the classic colours khaki, beige or army green.

With 70’s inspired fashion being in style this season, the safari jacket is more fashionable than ever. It gives flashbacks to iconic pictures of Lauren Hutton and Versuschka von Lehndorff wearing the jacket – or dresses and shirts in the same style. 

H&M Life has styled the safari jacket together with an all-white look, broken off by a dominant tan leather belt. It’s an updated and modern take on the classic garment. The tight silhouette works well together with the looser fitted jacket. H&M Life stylist Columbine Smille holds the safari jacket as one of her wardrobe essentials.

“Except looking good, it’s so practical. I have plenty of safari jackets in my wardrobe – it’s a must-have. Just like the striped sweater, it’s hard to live without.”


Photographer Tobias Lundkvist’s favourite items are the classics: a black t-shirt and Chuck Taylors. Stylist Columbine Smille’s favourite item is the perfect black silk dress. Our model is the lovely Chiharu Okunugi. Hair by Mette Thorsgaard and makeup by Josefin Scherdin.

On a safari with Grace Kelly and Clark Gable, primatologist Jane Goodall, Yves Saint Laurent flanked by Betty Catroux (right) and Loulou de la Falaise, model and actor Lauren Hutton, Meryl Streep and Robert Redford in Out of Africa and model Jourdan Dunn, Getty Images/All Over Press.
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