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Safari Fashion

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Africa is all over the runways this year – designers like Gucci, Ralph Lauren and Donna Karan are unleashing their inner Indiana Jones and using the safari theme as a source of inspiration. If however, you live and work in the bush, a pair of leopard print stilettos won’t get you far – in fact, it might get you killed. Here’s the lowdown on what works, what doesn’t and why.

A century ago, the great outdoors and professions associated with it was almost exclusively male – the Karen Blixens and Dianne Fosseys of this world were few and far between. Thankfully things have changed. Game ranging, hunting, wildlife rehabilitation, lodge management – women are everywhere and with them, the safari clothing industry is evolving slowly but surely.

No self respecting woman wants to be seen ill-fitting men’s cast-offs. Our bodies are different and what you wear should reflect this.

If done right, the outdoor look is timeless, lends itself to a certain amount of dressing up or down and above all, is practical. What you choose to wear depends hugely on what your planned activities are, but a few rules apply no matter what:

Choose clothes specifically designed for women – it’ll fit better and be more comfortable.

Materials used should be durable and practical. Go for cotton or easy-to-dry, hardy and lightweight Quantec.

Earth tones work best. Drawing attention to yourself in the African bush is not necessarily a good thing - the more you blend in, the better the likelihood of getting close to animals.

Become a lightweight. Arriving at a game farm with an eight-piece set of matching luggage will not endear you to anyone. Choose clothes that can double up for both day and evening wear.

Consider the elements. The scorching midday sun makes way for chilly sunset drives and evenings. A waterproof, fleece-lined jacket can be a lifesaver and long pants with detachable legs or button tabs for rolling the legs up, work well.

Remember your wide-brimmed bush hat – a baseball cap will not provide adequate protection against the onslaught of the African sun.

There’s no substitute for quality. Clothes worn in the great outdoors need to be able to withstand a certain amount of bashing.

Unless you’re on a walking safari, there’s no need for heavy boots. Light, comfortable shoes or sandals work best.

Big no-no’s

  • Excessive or flashy jewellery

  • Bright, attention-grabbing colours

  • Impractical shoes

  • Synthetic materials

A short history of safari clothes

First sported by turn of the 20th century Anglo-African adventurers, safari wear has always been engineered for durability and practicality. Traditionally made from lightweight, khaki-coloured cotton with pockets and epaulettes, its mainstream popularity was given a boost in the 1950s by Ernest Hemingway.

Roger Moore’s James Bond donned a safari jacket in The Man with the Golden Gun, Moonraker and Octopussy as did J R Ewing in the 80s soap opera Dallas. It is however, generally accepted that the original safari suit is hopelessly outdated and best suited to period dramas and fancy dress parties.

Actresses like Rachel Weisz in The Mummy has helped tremendously in elevating the look to total babedom and Hollywood’s love affair with safari clothes endures.

Dressing it up

The safari look not only works in the bush, but is the ideal office or leisure wear for women on the go. Team up your outfit with matching accessories (wooden bangles and beads, belts, animal-print scarves or dainty leather sandals), but make sure you don’t overdo it.

The Supply Company was established in 1989 and manufactures a full range of outdoor clothes and accessories. It proudly supplies to many South African safari operators and lodges. To view its full range, go to or visit one of the company’s outlets.

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