A few months back I was sitting in my office (read: my miniscule at best apartment) doing work (read: trolling the internet) when I stumbled upon the definitive photo of my summer. Amidst an article about “the good ol’ days” when Presidents got blind drunk, shot guns and had secret children, I spotted this shot of a middle-aged Teddy Roosevelt, gun in hand, stern look on his face, pith hat on his head, proudly standing next to a massive dead elephant he presumably slayed. If I had a personal moodboard I imagine it would be wallpapered with, like, 30 copies of this picture. What I did do was save the photo on my desktop, and I've been periodically reviewing it whenever I’m trying to get fucking amped. As a result of this behavior I’ve had a pretty sub-Saharan summer filled with lots of khaki, printed shirts and, seriously, pith hats, but more on that later. While I thought elephant murdering-era Teddy Roosevelt I were way ahead of the curve on this one, I soon realized that basically everyone is drinking from the same watering hole of African influence right now.
At first it was the little things—the resurgence of cargo pants, tans balanced with bright colors, the occasional safari hat popping up in a photoshoot. Then shit blew up. Burberry Prorsum and Woolrich Woolen Mills made the initial move by showing off collections overflowing with loud tribal prints. A few months later the trickle down effect kicked in and the patterns could be seen everywhere from a Gitman Vintage button down, to camp camps from Ale et Ange and FairEnds. As summer rolled around everything got a bit more relaxed and the wavy prints acted as the perfect compliment to this, adopted by too-cool streetwear kids and too-cool magazine editors alike.
Some signs (it’s hard to read them all with a pith hat on) point to this whole African trend simply not being out there enough.
The patterns just skim the surface though. Simultaneously we’re also seeing the return of real deal safari gear. Pieces such as Ovadia & Sons cargo shorts, Ian Velardi’s belted jacket and Belstaff’s cinched-waist coats seem ripped right from Roosevelt’s closet. And Engineered Garments’ most recent collection? That’s what happens when you take a safari while tripping on acid. Jackets with front flap pockets and epaulets, once reserved for Times Square tourists with cameras as big as their guts, have suddenly become acceptable.
In the end though, it’s not the big things that have the most visible influence over the past few months, it’s the little touches. Sid Mashburn’s beaded necklaces that are flown in straight from Ghana, and have become so popular they even warranted a full-blown GQ investigation. And then there’s the unavoidable and ever-polarizing headwear trend this year—the bucket hat. Initially worn by Westerners during their treks through the desert, the bucket hat became popular with South Africans later on thanks to American rappers (shout out to L.L. Cool J’s Kangol fetish). It’s recently jumped back stateside, becoming the hat of choice for seemingly everyone in New York right now. Taking it one step further as per usual, Thom Browne took the original adventurer’s headgear, the pith hat, and made it a part of his Black Fleece line. Speaking from experience, it’s probably the most uniquely comfortable hat of the past year. And the most insanely fucking ridiculous looking. Which is why I bought one.
So the question is, where do we go from here? Some signs (it’s hard to read them all with a pith hat on) point to this whole African trend simply not being out there enough. I mean, sure, loud prints, cargo pants and costume-y headgear are one thing, but when you start wearing 6th-century-rug-resembling-blousy pullover shirts there’s really no going back, is there?