Safari Jackets

Beginning with this first Bush jacket offered in 1979 Banana Republic always had some form of safari style jacket. Catalog number 3 in Spring 1980 carried some “limited supply” of a surplus “safari antique” that had been found in Australia. The fabric is described as a light tropical cotton weave. They must have been frustrated to run out of this safari classic.

This update carefully taped into Catalogue #2 shows the first safari style jacket in the BR catalog.
The next catalogue, No.4, in mid-1980, they had found some jacket and pants that they labeled as Poplin Bush Clothes.

The following catalogue for Fall/Winter 1980 brought the very first “Kenya Safari Jacket” at nearly double the price of the poplin Bush clothes. These were sourced from an outside manufacturer, Willis & Geiger.

Spring 1981 brought a full line of Kenya Safari clothes and the first appearance of the Safari Clothes manifesto: “We are a safari clothing company. All our energy is directed towards finding and designing quality safari clothes. Safari jackets and safari pants are the key elements of the safari wardrobe. The reason we offer Kenya Safari Clothing is because, frankly, we’ve scouted from one end of this globe to the other and have never found any better, at any price.”

According to Patricia Ziegler, the Kenya Safari line was manufactured for BR by famed American outfitter Willis & Geiger.

The Kenya Safari Clothes (manufactured by outfitter Willis & Geiger) were a standard offering in the catalogues until fall of 1984 when the Ventile Poplin line was introduced.

Kenya Safari Jacket

This is a Kenya safari Jacket made for Banana Republic by Willis & Geiger. It has the early tag which dates it to 1982-84 and it says Made in USA. The design appears to be identical to the later, more common Ventile Poplin jacket (further down). The key difference is the early large Mill Valley label.

Women’s Kenya Safari Jacket. Kenya Safari Jackets were offered in a women’s version that doesn’t have epaulets.

Ventile Polin Safari Jacket

Manufactured by Banana Republic in The British Colony of Hong Kong,, the Ventile Poplin Jacket (and pants) debuted in Fall 1984: ” As the premier, pre-eminent purveyor of safari clothing, we are forever circling the globe, scouting for exotic, highly functional natural fabrics. We take pleasure in now re-introducing and old fabric gem we recently rediscovered in the British Isles–Ventile Poplin.” The copy goes on to explain the particulars of the weave that cause it to swell and repel moisture when it gets wet as well as the silky texture and wrinkle resistance.

I believe the “Ventile Poplin” safari line represents perfectly the manufacturing power of the GAP with the imagination and exacting standards of the Zeiglers. These were clothes they had always dreamed of making and the infusion of money and know-how from the 1983 sale to the GAP allowed them to create their own safari clothes at last.

The Fall 1984 Catalog introduced “Ventile Poplin” Egyptian Cotton Safari Clothing made in Hong Kong and extolled it’s special weave that repels water and keeps cool. Previously, the safari clothes were simply “100% Egyptian cotton” claiming similar properties, and I don’t know if there’s a real difference. According the Wikipedia it’s a trademarked weave that originated in Britain.

In the Wild Company memoir the Zieglers discuss their first safari trip to Africa in 1984 and marvel at the “Cheaply made, misshapen, ill-conceived, impractical, shiny polyester safari clothes….Only erstaz safari garb can be found in Nairobi. We in California are the default source for the best selection of the real thing.”

Ventile Poplin Safari Jacket Photos

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.

4 Comments

  • Mark Sherman on March 28, 2021

    Still my favorite jacket for over 40 years! A most versatile and comfortable jacket that I enjoy wearing as often as possible.

    I am quite sure I bought one of these from the original BR back in ’79 or ’80 (when BR had unique style!) and I purchased replacements as long as they were available. Then there was a company in Georgia called Stafford’s that made a very similar jacket and I went through at least two or three of those. I still own two from Staffords but the collars have worn through (on both sides) and beginning to shred.

    Would you know where replacements are available? Thanks!

    • Robyn Adams on March 28, 2021

      Hi Mark, welcome! You know, these jackets show up all the time on eBay and other sites, you should be able to locate one if you keep an eye out. Good hunting!

  • Ron Parker on July 14, 2021

    I went to Nairobi c. 1986, first morning came downstairs in the hotel and every tourist was head to toe in this stuff. Every single one.

    • Robyn Adams on July 16, 2021

      HAHAHA! Mixed feelings on that one, eh?

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