Yeah, you read that right. Why not? Don’t we need a little break from all the mayhem?
The greatest chick-flick of all time gave us the finest exemplar of proper men’s attire: Robert Redford’s portrayal of the hunter, lover and wayward spirit Denys Finch-Hatton in “Out of Africa.”
From safari boots to slouch hat — that’s the way a man oughta dress. Functional and classically stylish. You could walk down the street in 1915 or 2015 and the look is never out of style.
The World War I era was the apogee of all things Frontier Partisans. Firearms hit a peak of design. You could argue that everything since has been a refinement of what was in place in that era. Men still rode horseback, but you also had some glorious motorcars and bi-planes with which to conquer geography. The steam train was still the king of transportation. Camping under canvas had been brought to a high art form.
There was still Adventure to be had in the wide world and you could go forth and find it — and look good doing it.
Is there any more romantic and badass footwear than the Strathcona Boot? Named for Lord Strathcona’s Horse, a regiment raised in Canada among cowboys and Mounties to fight in the Boer War.
The “safari jacket” had not yet been standardized into the 1950s-era icon — its original Norfolk jacket or khaki military jacket antecedents reigned. Men wore vests (waistcoats) and you wouldn’t think of going out and about without a hat.
And fine hats they were. Not the “cowboy hat” of today, those blocky, boxy, winged up things. No, the outdoor hat styles of the era were the military campaign hat we now think of as a “Mountie” or “drill instructor” hat or a slouch hat or a fedora.
Now, Finch-Hatton and Karen Blixen are an interesting couple, “Out of Africa” is a fine book and a beautiful movie. But if you’re looking for an adventurous, stylish couple from the first half of the 20th Century, the go-to pair is without a doubt Martin and Osa Johnson. Way more compelling than Finch-Hatton/Blixen (and I always liked Bror Blixen best anyway).
The Johnsons — American adventurers and naturalists— traveled in the South Pacific and East Africa from the 19-teens through the 1930s, hunting and filming and leaving a remarkable record of a life well-lived. Osa’s “I Married Adventure” is a classic.
They deserve their own post and I’ll get to it one of these days. In the meantime, visit the Martin and Osa Johnson Safari Museum site and you’ll get plenty of information.
The classic style of the era wasn’t just found on safari in Africa, of course. You see the same elements from the dinosaur-hunters in the Gobi Desert to hunters and fishermen in the North Woods and Far West of North America.
Ah, yes… the golden age.
I know it was a bad time in many ways: The Great War, terrible, bloody revolutions and apocalyptic political radicalism, the rise of organized crime syndicates, racial attitudes that are appalling to a 21st century mind-set.
But, man, the folks of that era — men and women — had style. That style has a timeless appeal; just ask the folks over at www.thefedoralounge.com. They’ve made a way of life out of keeping the classic style of this era through the 1940s contemporary. I doff my tattered old Baldwin slouch hat to ’em.