The safari hat, a symbol of adventure, exploration, and colonial history, has been donned by numerous figures throughout time. From British soldiers in the 1800s to modern-day celebrities, this iconic hat continues to make a statement.
The Pith Helmet: Where It All Began
The pith helmet, also known as the safari helmet, sun helmet, or sola topee, is one of the most recognizable forms of the safari hat. Originating in the tropical British colonies as part of the military uniform, the pith helmet was made famous by British troops who wore them in arid and tropical locations around the world.
Constructed from lightweight sholapith, the pith helmet offered protection from the intense sun and heat, making it an essential piece of gear for those venturing into the wilderness. Over time, the pith helmet evolved beyond its military origins, becoming a popular accessory for explorers and adventurers.
Iconic Figures & The Safari Hat
One historical figure associated with the safari hat is former US President Theodore Roosevelt. Known for his love of nature and hunting, Roosevelt often sported a pith helmet during his African safaris. His association with the safari hat helped cement its status as a symbol of adventure and exploration.
More recently, former First Lady Melania Trump was photographed wearing a pith helmet during a safari in Nairobi, Kenya. While her choice of hat sparked controversy due to its colonial connotations, it nonetheless highlighted the enduring presence of this accessory in popular culture.
The Safari Hat: More Than Just a Fashion Statement
Aside from its distinctive style, the safari hat serves a practical purpose. Offering reliable protection from the sun, these hats are designed with wider brims that shield the shoulders, neck, and head from harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays. This functional aspect of the safari hat has made it a staple for those living in or traveling to sun-drenched regions.
While the pith helmet is synonymous with the safari hat, it is but one of many different styles. The Australian slouch hat, characterized by its wide brim and slouched, pinched crown, is another popular choice, favored for its rugged durability and comfort.
The more casual bush hat, made from soft, flexible materials like cotton or canvas, is ideal for lightweight travel. For high-intensity activities, the safari cap, with its shorter brim and adjustable strap, provides optimum sun protection without compromising movement.
Each type of safari hat carries unique connotations, but all share the same fundamental goal: to provide shelter from the sun and heat in style.
Many notable figures have sported various styles of the safari hat, adding to its iconic status. Australia's military personnel, for instance, have donned the Australian slouch hat since World War I, adding a distinctive edge to their uniform. Notably, Prince Harry was spotted wearing the slouch hat during his official visit to Australia in 2015, demonstrating its endurance and appeal.
Meanwhile, the bush hat has found favor among celebrities like Robert Redford, who wore a similar style in the classic film "Out of Africa." The safari cap, with its sportier silhouette, has been a popular choice among athletes and outdoor enthusiasts. Renowned adventurer Bear Grylls, for instance, is often seen wearing this style, further cementing the safari hat's association with exploration and adventure.
The Safari Hat in Modern Fashion
Today, the safari hat has found its place in the world of fashion. Whether it's worn for its practical benefits or purely for style, the safari hat adds a touch of adventure and exoticism to any outfit. While the pith helmet may not be as common, other variations of the safari hat, such as the slouch hat, continue to be popular choices.
In conclusion, the safari hat, with its rich history and practical design, remains a timeless accessory. Worn by historical figures and modern celebrities alike, it continues to be a symbol of adventure, exploration, and a nod to our colonial past.
Check out our review of the best safari hats here 👇