Safari style has been around a few dinosaur ages and then some, since tomboy-spirited chicks like Harriet Chalmers Adams and Katherine Hepburn channeled their inner safari on expeditions and in films. Today, this timeless, quintessential look remains a staple in a classic tomboy’s wardrobe, so together with the UK’s Safari Store, here’s some history about the style and some ideas to get you started.
I don’t know about you readers out there but when a tomboy child grows up, part of the outdoor fun is role-playing fantasies like ‘Jungle’ – a popular fantasy role-playing game that kids here in the tropics of my era were into. This is the game where we’d explore isolated areas of the neighbourhood (usually a huge drain or grassland) and pretend we were exploring a dark, ominous place with life-threatening situations. We didn’t don safari outfits back then but we all certainly imagined we were all decked out like Indiana Jones about to unearth the Holy Grail.
Of course, waaayyy before Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark film series made safari-styled action heroes best-selling toy figurines and tee-shirts, tomboy-styled icon, Katherine Hepburn had already did it, decades before, on the film, ‘African Queen’. This look was again made popular when Grace Kelly and Lana Turner pulled it off in the wildly enticing, ‘Mogambo’ while Deborah Kerr boldly went ‘femme’ with her safari outfit in the action adventure piece entitled, ‘King Solomon’s Mines’.
One thing’s for sure – As resilient as the suits are to the harshest of environments, this practical and functional look, has never really gone out of style, establishing itself as a timeless fashion classic of the modern age.
Safari started 150 years ago in Kenya. In those days, safari suits were tailored out of drill cotton and equipped with pockets, buttons as well as epaulets with a belt. Early designs of safari suits were paired with a bush shirt that came with pleated pockets, a belt with a holster that could fit a gun, hunting knife or revolver, all topped off with a pith helmet.
The utilitarian nature of the safari suit was one of the reasons why it eventually became a huge part of the British military uniform designed for the tropics. At the same time, it also became the go-to suit for the elite caviar-relishing outdoor enthusiasts of the early 1900s who dreamed of big game hunting in exotic locales.
This group included pioneer women explorers who had a big thirst for travel, conservation and adventure; explorers like Harriet Chalmers Adams and Delia Akeley, who took on the safari look during their expeditions into the great wilderness.
While Ernest Hemingway and creator of James Bond, Ian Fleming, gave pizazz to the whole safari look from a male perspective, safari suits were easily adopted by women adventuring out in the wild. From the hunting jacket used for bush hunting or fishing expeditions to field jackets that served as utilitarian wear for multi-purpose outdoor activities, women were able to pull the look off with a charm and class all of their own.
In contemporary women’s fashion, the safari look has persevered thanks to international designers like Ralph Lauren (who even has a scent called ‘SAFARI’) creating timeless safari-inspired pieces in their yearly collections.
To tell us more about safari style and how you too can wear the look successfully, we asked the good folks down at The Safari Store – founded by safari enthusiast, Steve Adams in 2007, about why safari style has remained such a timeless favourite with people all over the world.
TT: What do you think makes the safari style so endearing?
TT: Tell us the story behind The Safari Store and how long have you been around?
TSS: The Safari Store was founded by Steve Adams in 2007. He founded the business after working in the industry in Africa and in the UK. He realised that there was no single retailer who a safari traveller was able to go to online to get the best advice on what to pack for their safari, and the best possible supplies too. He selected items to stock based on the simple premise of “What would I take myself for a safari?. When he first started out, Steve found out that the quality of products available on the market were not up to his expectations, with many of the products failing to meet the rigorous demands of a safari tour so when he started The Safari Store, he designed, expedition tested and manufactured his own brands. Rufiji, SafariSUN and Mara&Meru™ have since become our top sellers, and are only available through The Safari Store.
TT: How do you keep things interesting for your customers?
TSS: We are constantly expanding our own range as well as introducing new products that we have tested on our own expeditions. Nothing on our virtual shelves go untested. We are also starting to add clothing items that are more versatile and not necessarily Safari specific. Through social media we also keep creating “noise” around the excitement the word ‘safari’ conjures up. By including the entire team in the design and testing process, we also hone our products before launch to be the best they can possibly be the time they reach market.
TT: Women have been known to steal from the guys everytime they want to go tomboy chic. What recommendations can you give us from the men’s shirts section that our ladies can pair up with their skinny jeans or cargo pants?
TSS: Our men’s Mara&Meru™ Everything Shirt would go great with a pair of skinny jeans or tights. With a pair of our Rufiji APU Boots you’ll have the tomboy chic look perfected. This tomboy style safari look can be pulled off in urban areas, however if you’re heading out to wild country, we strongly suggest other safari essentials a wide brimmed hat (we recommend our Barmah hats) and a good pair of sunglasses (see our funky Kraft range).
TT: Tell us more about the Maru & Meru™ Brand.
TSS: Mara&Meru™ is our brand new range of luggage, jewellery and clothing. This specific range is designed to suit any lifestyle. These items are born out of a love for safari, but also explores the world beyond safari. Whether you are a businessman, outdoor lover, city slicker or a traveler, Mara&Meru™ will have something to offer. Our team has designed, manufactured and tested these products and has incorporated it into our YOUbuy, WEgive campaign. For every Mara&Meru™ product we sell, we give back to wildlife conservation and local communities in Africa.
TT: Any chance of letting us in on the Maru & Meru™ women’s line which you’re currently working on?
TSS: We are very excited about our up and coming Mara&Meru™ women’s line. This range is designed for comfort and versatility. We based our selection on one question: “What would we wear on safari & still want to wear each day?” The rest will be revealed in good time…
Want to get the safari look? No problem! The Safari Store has graciously given all Tomboy Tarts readers a discount on all items being sold in the store! Head on down to The Safari Store’s online shop to browse now. When placing an order online simply type the code: safari where it asks for a voucher code and click on ‘update basket’ and your purchases will be instantly discounted. Happy shopping, Tomboy Tarts readers!