My Kinda Clothes: An Urban Safari On 44th Street

willis geiger

This is the latest in our new series “My Kinda Clothes,” which takes its name from a delightful phrase coined by Charlie Davidson of The Andover Shop.

Richard Press will be trickling out a series of these posts, based on what he wore at different times of his life, from boarding school to Dartmouth to his years at the helm of J. Press. We commence with the kinda clothes Richard wears today.

If you would like to contribute to the series, please use the contact button above.

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Safari jackets became my magnificent obsession in 1977 when expeditionary outfitting company Willis & Geiger allowed my then family company J.Press the right to merchandise its eponymous Safari Jacket, which had previously been restricted to Abercrombie & Fitch.

The original Abercrombie & Fitch Co. declared bankruptcy that same year, closing its landmark New York store on Madison Avenue and 45th Street. The 12-floor, museum-quality emporium featured a shooting gallery, hundreds of guns in the gun room, which was decorated with stuffed game heads, plus fishing, boating, skiing and archery gear, a sporting bookstore, and five floors of clothing suitable for different climates and terrains.

The Abercrombie bankruptcy left Willis & Geiger its largest creditor. However, J.Press continued to carry its product until the brand was sold to Lands’ End in 1990.

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Since then the Safari Jacket has been my costume of choice, and I wear it accompanied by matching khakis or Nantucket Reds from Murray’s Toggery Shop. If I’m feeling like a Hemingway rogue, I tie on an ascot. More than half a dozen Safari Jackets remain in my closet, including the slightly ragged 1977 remnant souvenir (pictured above), hanging next to less-than-pluperfect copies from LL Bean, Orvis, TravelSmith, Tag, J.Peterman, Brooks Brothers and Ralph Lauren.

Several years ago, while performing the comedy of marital comity, my wife purchased a women’s Safari Jacket from TravelSmith that allowed a wiseguy on the 86th Street crosstown bus to taunt us, “You guys on the Road to Timbuktu?” — RICHARD PRESS

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13 Comments on "My Kinda Clothes: An Urban Safari On 44th Street"

  1. My grandfather wore a safari jacket in the 1970’s, I guess they were very popular at that time.

  2. Fred Johnson | July 13, 2016 at 2:08 pm |

    I still have & wear my W & G safari on a regular basis. Purchased around 1980 at Ensons in New Haven

  3. I grew up in Madison, WI, so Lands’ End was a favorite source of clothes. In the mid-1990s LE opened up the “Inlet” store on the far west side of town with section of the store dedicated to Willis & Geiger clothing. I didn’t always buy clothes, but the free catalogs were almost as fun as buying new clothes. I still have a lot of my W&G clothes from that time–a safari shirt and shorts in “balloon cloth”, a pair of shorts made from a very heavy cloth, a cotton-linen blend Aran sweater, and a bulletproof red parka. Alas, I never bought a safari jacket.

  4. “Less-than-pluperfect” is a really strange turn of phrase.

  5. Yes, Cameron. But the risk one runs with some among this crowd is that after calling attention to said strangeness, light is suddenly and brutally shed on how the phrase was coined by Cole Porter, Sullivan (as in “Gilbert and…”), or an similarly droll librettist. So, stand down.

  6. I actually like the phrase. And will use.

    As for the safari jacket–it looks great. Very stylish.

  7. I wear my W&G pants and shirt when ever possible. Great products. What happen to them?

  8. Liking it beltless and sleeves rolled up shirt style as Mr. Press in the picture. Fully belted probably better left to Clark Gable in Mogambo et al.

  9. Their bush shirts are top notch. The two I have are close to 20 years old. What a shame they closed up shop. Their catalogs were a treat to look at too!

  10. The safari type jacket was indeed popular in the mid 1970’s. The “leisure suit” was, I guess, an offshoot of the safari look. I never really liked that stuff, although I couldn’t pass up a corduroy belted winter jacket in the safari style for $10 back around 1976. It was dark red, a 70’s color. I wore it into the 1980’s, for shoveling snow and trips to the market.

    I was in a Kaufmann’s store (Pittsburgh’s equivalent to Macys’) one day circa 1977, and leisure suits were selling like hotcakes for $20, double knit textured polyester, flare bottom pants, and the safari type coat in the pastel colors One guy I knew bought a couple “suits.” I doubt he wore them much, though. Soon after that, I only saw elderly guys wearing them, the same guys that bought Haband stuff.

    Another day, a Richman Brothers store downtown advertised every suit in the store was $20. I went in to browse; every suit in the store was unwearable. Just think of the wildest stuff Johnny Carson wore in that era.

    I belonged to the Elks for a few years back in the 1980’s. A sea full of leisure suits, wives in equivalent attire, some guys even wore ties with their “leisure” suits.

    I actually miss the 70’s, a colorful era.

  11. @Wriggles: I don’t know whether you are familiar with the great novels of Charles Willeford. But in “New Hope for the Dead” the hero Hoke Mosley buys two leisure suits at discount price (probably left over from the 70s, the book is set in the mid-80s) exactly as described by you – in order to simplify his life. Though how textured polyester feels in the Florida sun, I dare not imagine.

  12. Hey Squeeze! What a great post. I am a fan of the safari clothes, and just bought a great vintage one yesterday. I sure hope that once it arrives, it actually fits me. We should have an NYC safari-jacket meet up for drinks one evening 🙂

  13. At the Explorers’ Club, of course!

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