British Drill Trousers

An up close look at the Banana Republic Drill Trousers included in the Ziegler’s gift to Abandoned Republic. As mentioned in the previous post, there were two versions available in the same catalogue in 1983, authentic surplus or newly manufactured, which I believe these to be. The early Mill Valley large tag places it squarely in 1983. Interestingly, the cargo pocket doesn’t have a button, and all of the catalog illustrations show a button on that pocket.

British Drill Trousers (AKA Safari Trousers) were limited surplus items from 1980 until Fall 1983 when they were mass-produced by BR, and were available through 1985. They have the same waist as the Safari Shorts/Gurkha Shorts.

From the 1980 Catalogue No. 4: “These spectacular British safari trousers, an inspired creation of Her Majesty’s tailors, were made for colonial wear in the early 1950s. As the Empire crumbled, the pants piled up (never worn) in a London warehouse, which is where we found them. This is not only an authentic collector’s item, it’s the best pair of trousers you’l find at any price. We live in them. The only remaining sizes will for men from 32-inch to 37-inch waists. All others: sorry, you’re too late.”

The 1983 Catalogue had two kinds on one page: Authentic British Drill Trousers (surplus) and Banana Republic Drill Trousers, re-made by BR. “We’ve matched the original drill cloth and recut the pattern into a more contemporary fit. Dashing on men and quite flattering to women.”

From the 1985 Catalogue: “An inspiration form the British Empire’s masterful tailors, these drill trousers were designed as an extremely comfortable pair of pants that would allow maximum freedom of movement. We’ve matched the original drill cloth (100% cotton, of course) and recut the pattern into a more contemporary fit. Dashing on men and quite flattering to women.”

About The Author

Robyn Adams
Robyn's fascination with Banana Republic began in 1984 when her Alaskan adventurer father began buying the clothing and giving her the catalogs. She loved the clothes and as an artist she was drawn to the illustrations. She went on to study illustration at art college in BR's hometown of San Francisco and worked for years as a background artist for animation. She is now based in Oakland, CA as a graphic designer and illustrator with Secret Fan Base . She's been collecting and archiving at Abandoned Republic since 2011.


  • Mark on September 28, 2022

    Congratulations! This is a real rarity, maybe from a very early run of Banana Republic’s new-made, post-surplus offerings — because yes, you’re right, these aren’t the British surplus ones. They look to be BR’s first recut, commercial version of the trousers. It’s fascinating to see an early iteration of one of the company’s staples.

  • James C. on October 30, 2022

    OMG! I had a pair of these pants in 1984/85!
    I want a new pair! They were awesome!!! They had to be cheap because I was in a master’s program and had no money. I miss those pants.

  • Patrick on September 11, 2023

    Ms. Adams;

    Just came across your site while searching British drill trousers. I too had a pair in 1984 and remember them well. I would dearly love to find them again. Do you have any tips on where they can still be found, or do you know of tailor with experience making this style? Banana Republic was so much more fun back then, and the catalogues were a great read.

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