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You’ve recently got into style – or you’ve been into style for a while – and you’re looking to add some new items to your rotation. You have this feeling – this feeling that your life would be better after picking up a field jacket (or safari jacket).
So, you start doing a bit of searching, but the results you get for either term look a bit different across all of the images and shops you’re visiting. That’s because a field jacket and a safari jacket are similar (but different!), so often get mistaken for each other, even in the search results.
A safari jacket is more formal, lighter coloured and lighter weight, and worn in the warmer months, compared to a field jacket which is more rugged, darker coloured and heavier weight, and worn in colder months. Though they are two distinct jacket styles, many designs incorporate aspects of both.
Though this is a good summary, the differences go deeper than that…
The good news is that this article will cover the differences between a field jacket and safari jacket, to help you decide which one you want to add to your personal style, and so you actually know what you’re looking for.
The Differences Between a Safari Jacket and Field Jacket
To provide the clearest view on the whole topic, I’ve made this handy chart that lays out a general attribute, alongside its status in both jacket styles.
|Attribute||Safari Jacket||Field Jacket|
|General Aesthetic and Formality||Formal and elegant. Can replace a sports coat.||Rugged and practical. Can still be more formal, depending on the design.|
|Wearability||Usually worn in replacement for a sports coat or blazer.||Worn at the outermost layer, on top of any additional sports coat or blazer.|
|Time of Year||Suitable for spring, summer and fall.||Suitable for fall, winter and spring.|
|Weight||Light to medium weight.||Medium to heavy weight.|
|Fabric||Often lighter and more breathable, such as linen, but can be made of anything, such as thick winter flannel, cotton, or suede.||Heavier, often with weather resistant properties. Specific fabrics can include cotton, leather, or a waxed canvas.|
|Collar||Notched, turn down collar, that can be turned up.||Funnel neck, unsuitable to turned down.|
|Fastening||Most likely buttons, often, but not always, with a belt.||Zipper, sometimes with buttons as a second layer. Unlikely to have a belt.|
|Insulation||Likely to be unlined.||Will usually feature a felt lining, potentially with a plaid pattern.|
|Pockets||4 on the front.||4 on the front.|
|Colours||Generally lighter colours, such as natural, and green.||Generally darker colours, such as a navy and brown.|
|Fit||Usually nipped in at the waist with waist suppression, that can be a adjusted by a toggle.||May feature waist suppression, but more often have a more ‘rectangular’ fit.|
|Additional Details||More likely to have epaulettes.||Less likely to have epaulettes.|
If you’re still confused, to make things even clearer, let’s quickly run through each style individually.
Safari Jacket Style: Closer Look
A safari jacket is usually unlined, which generally makes it able to fit closer to the contours of the body, making it more ‘tailored’ and formal. This means it can even replace a blazer. However, because the other features (big, pleated pockets) make it less formal than a blazer, it looks more natural when you try to wear it with more casual items, such as t-shirts.
Moreover, because it’s unlined, it’s usually lighter weight and more breathable compared to field jackets, which makes it more applicable to warmer temperatures. Many safari jackets lean into this by using linen as a main, or composite, part of their fabric, which provides breathability.
However, the main difference compared to the field jacket – that I don’t really see discussed anywhere – is the collar. A safari jacket almost always has a notched, turn down collar, which can be popped up for some individual flair, compared to a field jacket, which has a non-turnover-able funnel neck.
Other defining factors of a classic safari jacket are a belt, and epaulettes (the latter of which are awkwardly missing from the above illustration).
The main ‘downside’ of this jacket is that, especially with the belt, it definitely looks more ‘unusual’ than a field jacket. So, if you’re not comfortable standing out, I potentially wouldn’t recommend this until you’re very comfortable with your personal image.
Field Jacket Style: Closer Look
A field jacket really is a completely different style compared to the safari jacket. That said, I can understand why people (including my past self) get confused, mainly due to the positioning and presence of the front pockets.
A field jacket is a much more ‘practical’ and heavy duty garment compared to the safari jacket, usually being made of a tougher fabric, and featuring lining for insulation. It’s the sort of jacket you might wear in the cooler months to keep you warm.
It also is very likely to feature a zip over buttons and a belt of the safari jacket style, making it easier to do up, and take off, in a hurry.
Personally, I find most field jackets less ‘stylish’, than safari jackets, though there are definitely exceptions.
The Inbetweeners: Jackets Stuck Between a Field Jacket and a Safari Jacket
There are some jackets which utilise elements from both styles. For example, a jacket could be a field jacket – have a heavy fabric, and a dark colour – but feature a turn down collar, a cinched in waist, epaulettes, and have a button closure over zippers. In fact, this is the standard setup for most field jackets supplied to various world militaries, and is likely the style you’d find if you shopped military surplus.
It’s still firmly a field jacket, as the ‘main’ factors, such as general aesthetic, fabric and weight, all lean towards the traditional field jacket camp, whereas many of the details, such as the collar, fastening and fit tend towards a safari jacket.
These styles are a good place to look if there are parts of one style you don’t like, but you still want something military inspired.
The Low Down…
Though they’re completely different garments, they both have a place in most people’s wardrobe. If you’re a bit more sartorially mined, the safari jacket would probably be the best bet for spring, summer, and early autumn/fall, whereas a field jacket is a good robust pick for the colder months.