Safari jackets became my magnificent obsession in 1977 when expeditionary outfitting company Willis & Geiger allowed my then family company J. Press the right to merchandise its eponymous Safari Jacket, which had previously been restricted to Abercrombie & Fitch.
The original Abercrombie & Fitch Co. declared bankruptcy that same year closing its landmark New York store on Madison Avenue and 45th Street. The 12-floor, museum-quality emporium featured a shooting gallery, hundreds of guns in the gun room, which was decorated with stuffed game heads, plus fishing, boating, skiing and archery gear, a sporting bookstore, and five floors of clothing suitable for different climates and terrains.
The Abercrombie bankruptcy left Willis & Geiger its largest creditor enabling J. Press to carry its product until the brand was sold to Lands’ End in 1990.
Since then, the Safari Jacket has been my costume of choice and I wear it accompanied by matching khakis or Nantucket Reds. When I fantasize myself a Hemingway rogue, I tie it together with an ascot and knock-off a Bacardi Cuba Libre. More than half a dozen Safari Jackets remain hidden in my closet, including the slightly ragged 1977 remnant souvenir (pictured above) next to less-than-pluperfect copies from LL Bean, Orvis, TravelSmith,Tag, J. Peterman, Brooks Brothers and Ralph Lauren.
Several years ago, performing the comedy of marital comity, my wife purchased a women’s Safari Jacket from TravelSmith that allowed a wise guy on the 86th Street crosstown bus to taunt us, “You guys on the Road to Timbuktu?”
The beat goes on with different strokes for different folks. For Fall/Winter 2020 J. Press is back in the game introducing a Safari Jacket more of an outerwear piece maintaining some of the details that distinguished Bush Jackets of an earlier time. Constructed in khaki Waxed Cotton with a lemon hue outercoat and cotton olive tattersall lining, belted closure, lower bellows pockets with button flaps, shirt sleeve cuffs, made to our specification in England.
Arguably one of the most iconic outfits for better or worse—Roger Moore’s sophomore outing in a green safari shirt-jacket via James Bond in The Man With The Golden Gun.
J. Press drives it up a notch.