Safari Jackets, Safari Shirts and the Garments In-Between

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Roger Moore’s James Bond loved his safari clothes in a number of different forms. On one end are the tailored safari jackets, on the other end are the safari shirts, and in-between are various types of shirt jackets.

Safari or bush garments are characterised by their pleated pockets with flaps and shoulder straps. There are usually at least two pockets on the front. These are typical features of many different styles of military clothes, but any garment with these features in certain safari colours can give off a safari look.

Khaki, tan, olive drab and other earth tones are the traditional colours for safari clothes because they camouflage within the colours of the jungle where they were originally designed to be worn, but they can be made in other colours too.

The Classic Safari Jacket

Roger Moore wearing a traditional type of safari jacket in The Saint in 1965

The traditional safari jacket is an unstructured type of shirt-jacket—or ‘shirt-jac’—without a lining. It is lightweight and constructed like a shirt but cut like a jacket. The safari shirt-jacket is traditionally made in cotton, linen or a blend of the two. It has four front flapped, pleated patch pockets and has a belted waist. It may have either a one-piece collar or a two-piece collar.

The garment originated in the Victorian era and has been worn explorers and military officers. It has strong colonial connotations because of its history with British colonists.

Tailored Safari Jackets

A tailored safari jacket in The Man with the Golden Gun

Some of Roger Moore’s safari jackets are fully tailored garments that are structured like a suit jacket. These are fashion pieces and are not appropriate for wearing of a safari. They are a more stylised type of sports jacket and fall into the leisure suit category, and they can be described as fashionable 1970s interpretations of the safari jacket that follow the leisure suit trends of the time. Moore’s tailor Cyril Castle made a four-pocket cream leisure jacket with shoulder straps and an Ulster collar for The Man with the Golden Gun. Moore wears it with a shirt and tie, just as he would wear a sports jacket.

A leisure suit jacket in Live and Let Die

Castle also made a dark navy silk example for Live and Let Die that questionably fits into the safari jacket category because it lacks shoulder straps and is not in an earth tone. The overall military-inspired style with inspiration from the field jacket brings it close to safari jacket territory. But more than anything, it’s a luxurious leisure suit and a fashion piece that follows 1970s trends rather than historical safari jacket trends.

A safari sports jacket in The Spy Who Loved Me

In The Spy Who Loved Me, Moore wears a tan cotton safari sports jacket that has the cut and structure of a button-two lounge suit but takes direct inspiration from the safari jacket. It is detailed with two flapped patch hip pockets, a single flapped breast pocket, sleeve straps and shoulder straps. The front quarters are cut straight down from the waist, with a minimally rounded shape at the bottom that hints at the straight cut of the safari jacket’s front without awkwardly squaring the bottom. Being made of tan cotton like a traditional safari jacket is another nod that brings this closer to the safari jacket. Like the other tailored safari jackets, this is one of the most fashionable pieces of the lot.

Safari Shirt-Jackets

A safari shirt-jacket in Moonraker

A shirt-jacket is a cross between a shirt and a jacket. It can be anything from a shirt made out of a heavier jacket material to a jacket that uses aspects of shirt construction. Some are made like a shirt without any internal structure or a lining, whilst some have a small bit of structure and a lining.

Moore wears two safari shirt-jackets in the Bond series. These examples are both closer to shirts than they are to jackets. They are made in heavier materials that would be appropriate for a jacket and have a jacket-like cut with two rear pieces instead of one and front darts. However, they have a yoke and a two-piece collar like a shirt, the construction is like a shirt, and they are made by a shirtmaker. Moore wears them in a shirt-like manner with nothing underneath, though they could just as easily be worn as an overshirt with a t-shirt underneath or as a jacket.

A safari shirt-jacket in Octopussy

Frank Foster made these two safari shirt-jackets, in khaki cotton drill for Moonraker and tan plain-weave worsted wool for Octopussy. These are the closest examples that Bond wears to the traditional safari jacket that originated in the Victorian era, but Bond’s examples look cleaner with a more fitted cut and lack a belt. Of all of Moore’s safari garments, these are amongst the most timeless because they are practical as well as fashionable. The oversized collar is the part that dates these two shirt-jackets the most.

Safari Shirts

A safari camp shirt in The Man with the Golden Gun

Moore also wears two safari shirts as Bond. These are purely shirts with the quintessential safari pockets and shoulder straps, and they function merely as shirts and cannot work as jackets. This is primarily down to the material being too light to work as anything other than a shirt.

His first safari shirt is in sage green in The Man with the Golden Gun and is made by Hong Kong tailor Jimmy Chen. Though this one takes cues from the classic safari jacket, it is ultimately a fancy camp shirt because it is made in a lightweight shirting that is too light to be worn as a jacket. The lightness of the shirt can be seen in the way Moore wears his sleeves rolled up. It has no lining either. It is an untucked shirt with a camp collar that is designed to be worn without a shirt underneath. Like a safari jacket, it has a four-pocket design, long sleeves and shoulder straps, and it has set-in sleeves, long side vents, large buttons and a half belt inspired by jackets. But no matter how much inspiration it takes from safari jackets, it is shirt, albeit a very creative one.

A military shirt in Octopussy

Frank Foster made a traditional military shirt for Roger Moore to wear in Octopussy. This is a regular shirt with a semi-spread collar, long sleeves and cuffs, meant to be tucked. Like classic safari garments, it is khaki and is detailed with two flapped and pleated patch breast pockets and shoulder straps. Bond wears it as part of a military uniform disguise, so it works perfectly in context and comes off as an army look rather than a safari look. There is much overlap between army style and safari style, with safari clothing being a subset of army clothing.

The Safari Suit

The full safari suit in Moonraker

The safari suit is a two-piece outfit with matching top and bottom, and the top can be a jacket, a shirt-jacket or a shirt. A suit only means that the top matches the trousers. The only two safari suits that Roger Moore wears are the shirt-jackets in Moonraker and Octopussy, when Moore’s tailors made trousers in the same material that his shirtmaker Frank Foster made the shirt-jacket.

The safari sports jacket in The Spy Who Loved Me was made with matching trousers for Moore’s film Street People, but for Bond he replaced the trousers with ones in a different material and lighter colour, and it helps him to avoid some of the leisure suit vibes that the full suit has.

See diagrams of these safari garments and what sets them apart.

13 COMMENTS

  1. I am thankful that the safari jacket and safari shirt have seen such a strong resurgence in menswear over the past few years. I am now up to 4 safari-inspired pieces in my own wardrobe (all in either tan or olive), and I think they’re excellent for the hot, humid summers where I live. I think it’s a classic piece of clothing that has finally escaped the negative 70s leisure suit connotations that you mention in the blog.

    • I completely agree. Few years ago I ordered myself bespoke made safari suit, inspired by the one from Moonraker and back then they were not popular, but as you said, now we can notice more and more safari style in clothing stores.

  2. While Moore generally looks good wearing his (I like the one in The Saint the best, and the Man with the Golden Gun the worst), I think it takes a certain type of person to pull it off. I am not that person. So I will admire it from a distance, but outside maybe the the safari sports jacket in The Spy Who Loved Me, I don’t think any will be making it into my wardrobe, but to each their own.

    • I’m definitely the guy who can pull it off. I love safari clothing and Roger’s pieces have always been a big inspiration for me.

      • I wish I could. I am a hunter, and I was at the Dallas Safari Club a couple years back and either Purdey or Westley Richards, one of the prestigious British gunmakers, had a tough as nails safari jacket available for sale. I have never felt a cotton jacket so dense and heavy, you could tell it was made for the bush. I certainly wanted it, but given its price and the limited use I could get for it I decided against it. But I always think of it when I see safari clothing. Maybe someday…

  3. I have always admired that tan cotton safari sports jacket worn by Moore in ‘The Spy Who Loved Me’. Somewhat sportier than a standard sport coat, thus affording Moore a little extra dash in his already dashing prime as 007.

  4. I love safari attire. I have in my position three safari outfits. I have an olive green safari shirt jacket and a classic belt safari jacket in the same color.
    I also own a marine blue shirt jacket. I know that it does not fit with the traditional idea safari jacket, but I found it on a great bargain. This opinion maybe controversial, but I never had a problem with Moore’s leisure suit.
    Anyway, I enjoyed the article, and I love safari wear. Keep these amazing topics up.

    My regards
    Bill
    Ps. I was wondering Matt, have you ever had the chance to get your safari shirt-jacket. I remember you mentioning on the Bond Experience that the pandemic slowed the process on your safari shirt jacket.
    Also, I love the Chetwynd shoes. Thanks for the advice. Take care.

  5. Do Timothy Dalton’s beige shirt in LTK and The Scotsman’s terry shirt in DAF enter the category ?

  6. Creo que la mejor chaqueta safari que uso MOORE es la utilizada por el en “The Persuaders”, definitivamente una chaqueta mas estructurada y pesada , que pareciera que fuera de un algodon piel de durazno . Un modelo similar sino igual fue utilizada por Robert Vaughn en “Los Protectores “.

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