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Wearing the traditional safari clothes of the old Hollywood era might get a few raised eyebrows when you arrive for your African hunt. In reality, the old-time safari clothing was very practical - light-weight, lots of pockets, muted colours and comfortable.
The early Victorian explorers, naturalists and hunters adapted their usual sombre attire to more suitable outfits for life in the African bush. Black was rejected in favour of light browns, beige or olive green which provided camouflage and better protection against the heat. Safari hats were 'scientifically' designed to shield the wearer from the dangerous effects of the sun. Sun helmets or pith helmets were particularly fashionable.
In 1888 Thomas Burberry patented Gabardine which was tightly woven worsted cotton which was waterproofed before weaving and more comfortable than rubberized fabrics. Gabardine garments became all the rage with sportsmen and particularly African hunters and explorers, receiving 'celebrity' endorsement from the likes of Denis D Lyell and Powell-Cotton, who says, "Burberry suits resist the thorns while khaki and other shooting cottons are torn to rags."
East African hunting clients from the early 1900s onwards were whisked into the safari tailors Ahmed Brothers as soon as they reached Nairobi. They were then measured and kitted out in perfectly tailored safari suits, boots and hats which were delivered to them the next day. Pith helmets and terais were replaced by Borsalino safari hats.
The 'safari look' became popular with non-safari goers in the 1950s with the advent of the Hollywood interest in Africa. The films of Ernest Hemingway's books 'The Macomber Affair' and 'The Snows Of Kilimanjaro' followed by 'King Solomon's Mines' and 'Mogambo' firmly planted the safari image in the minds of the public.
Safari style jackets were the 'in thing' to wear as casual attire in an effort to emulate the debonair looks of Clark Gable and Stewart Granger in these movies.
Every item of clothing, even socks and towels, get ironed in a hunting camp because if the clothes are dried outside, which they mostly are, there is a risk of a botfly laying eggs in the damp clothing. The larva may then burrow into the skin of the person wearing the clothes and further grow into a big fat maggot. The heat of an iron kills any potential botfly eggs. Some camps in South Africa will use a tumble drier to dry the client's clothes which negates the botfly issue. However if you rinse out any clothes yourself like a swimsuit or underwear and leave them to dry outside, be aware of the botfly.
Also check whether your synthetic safari clothing, trousers especially, are liable to be noisy while walking. Light nylon fabric tends to make a gentle swish with each step.