Vintage Etiquette: Banana Republic (Safari and Travel Clothing Co.) General Style 48 Comments

Trav: It’s always interesting to see a brand revamp itself and go in an entirely new direction. Banana Republic, once a brand dedicated entirely toward safari clothing, is now one of the top go-to brands for the urban professional.

Given its status as a somewhat classy clothing line, I often wondered why the company chose a name for the brand that is also used to describe unstable Third World countries dependent on agriculture. My curiosity, however, was never quite severe enough to push me to seek an answer. It was one of those frivolous questions that we sometimes ponder with no intention of taking it any further. It’s quite obvious now that it was meant to be a witty name used to describe this adventurous safari line.

Founded in 1978 by husband and wife Mel and Patricia Ziegler, Banana Republic got its start as a catalog company selling vintage military surplus items from around the world. They later made the leap to a full-fledged clothing line that was widely popularized by their quirky, fascinating catalogs. GAP bought the brand in 1983 and slowly transitioned it into the Banana Republic we know today.

I was fortunate enough to get my hands on this vintage BR jacket. It’s essentially a jacket with removable sleeves. The abundance of pockets means there seems to be a place for every little item I tend to carry around. What I like most is how light-weight it is. I can easily get away with wearing this jacket on a hot day. In fact, it looks a lot like a photographer’s vest with the sleeves removed. I also came across another cool jacket that I’ll be sure to incorporate in an upcoming post.

Fit details: BR jacket and shirt. Topman pants. Polo loafers.

I mentioned that Banana Republic became widely known due to their creative catalogs. In 1986, they took that a step further when they released Banana Republic Guide To Travel & Safari Clothing. This book is fundamentally similar to the catalogs but on a larger scale. It catalogs virtually every piece of safari/military clothing with nice visuals and some insightful text that covers the history/origin of these pieces. This book is sure to hold your interest, as it explains everything with a fun, adventurous writing style.


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48 Comments



  • Theo Martins

        posted on June 20 , 2010 :

    This is the Banana Republic I feel I would appreciate much more. I have to agree that it seems to be the go to spot now for urban professionals and folks of that sort, fortunately for me I’m far from an urban professional. I seem to only appreciate their mocs as they are one of the few stores now that actually carry great moc, but anything other than that would less likely get a look from me.


  • Unyime Akpanudosen

        posted on June 20 , 2010 :

    What a great piece! I really appreciate the color of the whole look. The shirt is bold, but not to overzealous. Interesting information as well. You guys strike gold once again!


  • Christine

        posted on June 20 , 2010 :

    Great post. I love the heritage at BR. Luckily, I inherited an original BR leather cuff bracelet from my mum. She got it in the early ’80s and it has ‘Banana Republic: Safari and Trading Clothing Co.’ stamped on the inside. I will never get rid of it.


  • Tom

        posted on June 20 , 2010 :

    Great post. I love the small belt it has! Also interesting to see the catalogue they produced, it is sad that not many brands have the time or inclination to make those any more.


  • Reggie

        posted on June 20 , 2010 :

    yep, this is the way banana republic is supposed to be. nice vest and haircut.


  • Coldsun

        posted on June 20 , 2010 :

    This was a good read, but the jacket itself and the over all look, i’m not into it at all…


  • LOLA

        posted on June 20 , 2010 :

    I really like Banana Replubic because they have a lot of versatile and pieces that will last you .
    For sure, I like that vest but I dont know how I feel about the trousers with it (negativity intended :D
    But GREAT post as usual!

    -LOLA

    p.s: Happy b-day (it’s your bday right lol) and nice haircut!


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  • Lippens Scott

        posted on June 20 , 2010 :

    I believe there are more classic safari Jackets…


  • Prêt à Porter P

        posted on June 20 , 2010 :

    Excellent outfit.


  • Kate

        posted on June 20 , 2010 :

    As an avid reader of Street Etiquette your videos are phenomenal and this post is no exception; Street Etiquette has the best style!

    Love an Australian Fan:)


  • Kristopher

        posted on June 20 , 2010 :

    Yet another great post. I am a fan of the unique look of the jacket. I purchased a trench from BR last fall that Ilove and am sure will stand the test of time. Keep up the great work. FRESH CUTS! Much love from Canada!


  • Aaron

        posted on June 21 , 2010 :

    Very Nice Post. I really likE how the outfit is put together, especially the shoes and pants, i don”t wear CUFFS OFTEN BUT i DO LIKE THE TAPPER SLACKS. ( DIS REGRADED THE all caps caps lock was on)


  • Tev

        posted on June 21 , 2010 :

    Great Fit and post !


  • Mister Anderson

        posted on June 21 , 2010 :

    Great post, but that’s to be expected. Love those loafers.


  • Anonymous

        posted on June 21 , 2010 :

    I really like the history of the brand and the piece. Not a huge fan of the vest, but i can appreciate it for what i represents. Even though i don’t love the outfit, it’ makes me appreciate you guys even more, because you aren’t just mannequins following the latest trends like a lot of people i see out there. You inject your own tastes and personalities into your style, and then put yourselves out there for criticism without letting negativity faze you. Thanks so much for your blog, it has sorta opened my eyes more to what style really is.


  • JLouie

        posted on June 21 , 2010 :

    O i switched computers and didn’t realize i didnt input my name and stuff. that’s my comment above ↑


  • bapester

        posted on June 21 , 2010 :

    The scarlet colour on the shirt is so representative of the BR aesthetic. I would have guessed that BR was a heritage based clothing line, but your post helped give context and insight into their aesthetic.

    From where I come from (Malaysia) BR is only a few years old. Initially I was thoroughly impressed with their collection and had desired to get my hands on many of their classic items. Recently though I find less compelled to hang around their stores, as I notice their items getting increasingly generic. I am not sure if this is the fault of the Malaysian buyer, or if the same thing is happening in all countries.


  • Tobi.

        posted on June 21 , 2010 :

    Those Ralph Lauren Loafers Deserve a post on its own. Thought only Urban Brands revamp themselves. Great read.


  • Waraire Boswell

        posted on June 21 , 2010 :

    This is gr8.
    I just purchased a vintage BR safari jacket with the vintage BR logo from 1990 this weekend.
    You both have the pulse.

    Be well
    WB-COLLECTION.COM


  • Trav

        posted on June 22 , 2010 :

    @Theo Martins: Yea man I hear you… It would be really smart for them to reproduce some of this old stuff and broaden their demographic..It would be a great look!

    @Unyime Akpanudosen: Thanks a lot…the shirt is one of my favorites in terms of color.plus i thought it only right to pear the old BR with the new.

    @Christine: haha im jealous! that sounds like a really awesome piece. If you ever do decide to get rid of it, you can always sell it to me.

    @Tom: Yea man.. I totally agree with you. Aside from the little pamplets that stores like jcrew and Urban Outfitter produce, catalogues like these are pretty much obsolete in this day and age. It would be really interesting to see a brand do a catalogue very similar to this one breaking down the aesthetic, background and ideas about each piece in their collection.

    @Reggie: Thanks man.. I agree with you, there are quite a few brands catering to the same audience as BR but not enough filling that void of what BR use to be at an attainable price point.

    @Coldsun: Yea i understand man.. this look is pretty much like it or hate it. Its the type of look that had to grow on me before I was comfortable enough to pull it off. I was saying to myself that I actually would have probably never wore this particular outfit this time last year. This is all a part of evolving.

    @LOLA: haha yea it was my birthday.. Thanks!.. and thanks for always commenting and showing love.

    @Prêt à Porter P: Thanks a lot. Happy you liked it.

    @Kate: Thanks!.. its always pleasing to know that people outside of the US are admiring what we do. .. It really keeps us motivated!


  • Friend in Fashion

        posted on June 22 , 2010 :

    The vest, the loafers – great look!

    I can’t wait to add the travel & safari guide to my collection – great find!

    - Friend in Fashion
    http://www.friendinfashion.blogspot.com
    X


  • Alex Green

        posted on June 22 , 2010 :

    very great idea thanks to share ,Very useful icon sets, tweeted and saved on Delicious.


  • James

        posted on June 22 , 2010 :

    Wow, this a very interesting glimpse at the brand’s history. I didn’t even realize the company existed before GAP. The old catalogs are a great find too.


  • Stephanie

        posted on June 22 , 2010 :

    This is how I fondly remember Banana Republic. I first shopped in the store way back in the mid 80s, when they had those catalogs pictured here. I even recall the smell of the stores- the scent of bamboo and freshly dyed fabrics is the best way to describe it. Once they changed, and the merchandise started looking like every other chain store selling ‘tailored’ clothing, they lost my interest for the most part (except for the occasion purchase- they have nice shirts). The chain’s name no longer fits and I’m surprised they’ve held onto it for so long. “Banana Republic” it ain’t!

    Thanks for a wonderful blast from the past…for me, anyway! And I do love the images you’ve posted of their book, and your vest- what great finds! That safari-inspired look never goes out of style. You wear it very well.


  • Miss Lore

        posted on June 22 , 2010 :

    Hi, I am in love with you guys. I have been searching for inspiration for so long to push me in the right direction regarding my art and I think I’ve found it in you guys. Its amazing to see what you are doing and I would like to do something in this way. I’ve never been a big fan of Banana Republic, safari has never done it for me, but even now with their new look I doubt I would be into to it all the same. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that I’m too much of a girly girl.
    P.S: Your style is awesome, I am trying to get my boyfriend to dress like you guys, so sexy.
    P.P.S: Contact me pls, I would like to work with you on a future project


  • Strongforu

        posted on June 23 , 2010 :

    I love the entire look. But it was the shoes that really caught my eyes. I recently read your mates post on Sebago shoes and foudn a pair of Sebago loafers nearly identical to the ones you’re wearing in this post. (Mine have a medium brown leather trim…which is really cool).

    Thanks to both of you for liberating me from the drudgery of mass-produced fashion and helping bring me back full-circle to my own unique identity. In cities ouside of NYC, uniqueness in style is not always appreciated, but you guys help push me forward! Thanks again!


  • Preston

        posted on June 23 , 2010 :

    Being a sales associate for BR it’s really interesting to see all these archives and get a little history lesson included. With all the videos and such they show you when you first get hired, it’s surprising they never mention anything of the sort that you mentioned in the article above. Recently, we received a “safari jacket” for our store and I can now put two and two together considering where the brand derived from, etc. I would also say that the brand is, in miniscule aspects, going back to the “safari” mantra because we also received pieces such as the safari shirt and another jacket dubbed in the same category of “safari” themed. As always, the style (Josh and Travis) is far beyond anything else, as well as the blog, and I am extremely curious where you found those archives for BR. Also, are there any brands you see trying to put out a magazine paired with a collection such as this, or do you feel as though it’s been lost over the years?


  • John

        posted on June 23 , 2010 :

    Always stylish! Check out my blog for some swedish style advices…


  • ...love Maegan

        posted on June 24 , 2010 :

    what a fantastic blog!


  • Sedrick

        posted on June 26 , 2010 :

    Travis this post is awesome! After seeing a post on GQ about you guy’s “accessible, but never predictable looks” my interest was piqued. A quick first page skim-thru and you two have a new follower!


  • chomy

        posted on June 27 , 2010 :

    This is Brilliant!!! the Execution is Spot on and thanks for the history lesson on BR.


  • Mr. Sartorial

        posted on June 28 , 2010 :

    Hey Trav, all I want to say is that I really dig those shoes in this post. Sweet find.


  • Anonymous

        posted on June 29 , 2010 :

    Have you ever tried shooting in black and white? I know it can take away from the aesthetic, especially if colour plays a big part in the ‘look’. However it really seems to help with texture. Would be greatly appreciated if you could critique my latest BLack/white shoot. It’s the only way to improve your craft.

    http://individualism.co.uk/2010/06/equip-co-uk-energie-black-leather-holdall/

    Keep up the amazing work lads. Inspiration to us all, especially down in the UK shores.

    To your success.

    Aaron


  • sssence

        posted on June 29 , 2010 :

    Love the look here. I immediately went to Amazon to buy a copy of the old BR catalog. Can’t wait til I get it!


  • Kate

        posted on July 8 , 2010 :

    I truly enjoyed your insightful post. And you’re right, the catalogs really do know how to show off the best in Banana Republic’s selection of womens clothes!


  • R6 lady

        posted on July 16 , 2010 :

    I wish I could write like you as Margaret Laurence once said “When I say “work” I only mean writing. Everything else is just odd jobs.”

    Sent from my Android phoneI wish I could write like you as Margaret Laurence once said “When I say “work” I only mean writing. Everything else is just odd jobs.”

    Sent from my Android phone


  • brendan

        posted on July 19 , 2010 :

    i remember the san diego store in horton plaza.right next to abercrombie and fitch.they even had an old ‘willies’ jeep out front.my old photo journalist vest and isreali paratrooper shoulder bag lasted longer than the store did.think khaki.think pockets.think pleats and epaulettes.there was a time when no self respecting journalist(talk about an oxymoron) would be seen without his(or her) safari jacket or multi pocketed vest when chasing a story.and yes…i tracked down a copy of the book.i keep it near my copies of ‘the overland journal’.as for your vest…it works on you man.that it does.


  • Gary Roberts Art

        posted on November 4 , 2010 :

    This is often a great website. I’ve been back many times within the last 7 days and want to join your rss feed using Google but cannot learn how to do it accurately. Would you know of any tutorials?


  • Laura

        posted on March 18 , 2011 :

    I just found a vintage Banana Republic Safari & Travel Co. purse today. It’s absolutely gorgeous with a leather basket weave and long buckled strap, absolutely perfect for toting around my camera. Definitely would never find something like that at BR today, that’s for sure. This post was really great, I love that pocketed vest, it’s absolutely perfect!


  • Mike M

        posted on May 31 , 2011 :

    I grieve the devastating effect that The Gap, Inc. had on the long term viability of the niche retailer Banana Republic. The store with that name today, is not the Banana Republic store which was loved by any of us that were around for the original store. It is a corporate mockery, more interested in “branding” than the beauty of the clothing and ambiance of the company built by Mel and Patricia Ziegler. I miss it very much.


  • rothcomilitaryclothing

        posted on July 25 , 2011 :

    wow, the post really seems good..thanks for the post..
    the vintage etiquette are great..


  • Anonymous

        posted on May 31 , 2012 :

    Second what Mike M said. Having frequented the real Banana Republic during teh early to mid 1980s (and still owning at least one of almost everything of significance in the catalogs) I can barely stand to walk by the modern version.

    The ’86 book, while a good overview, is not even the tip of the iceberg on the stuff that was available, much of which was new old stock surplus, and the rest of which was made in England, Italy, the U.S. or (primarily) the now extinct British Crown Colony of Hong Kong.

    I cannot imagine that the 80′s version would not thrive if it could ever be put back together, but I doubt anyone will ever have the tenacity to try.


  • Henrique Mazza

        posted on June 30 , 2012 :

    I’m felling kind of sad now, I was triyng to reach “BANANA REPUBLIC – Travel & Safari Clothing”stores, back here from Brazil by internet, but unfortunatelly realized that the Dream its over…!!!! : (
    As a #1 Fan and Lover of it, fells kind of nostalgic… I used to enjoy a San Francisco store around 1985.
    But for my consolation I still have a “BR Catalogue Nº26 – Holliday” as a souvenir…
    Thanks Mel and Patricia Ziegler…. : )


  • Lonae

        posted on August 6 , 2012 :

    Anyone save memorabilia? Going through some old papers and found a Banana Republic Travel & Safara Clothing Co. brown small two handled shopping bag with name and zebra on it with jungle type background. Perfect condition.


  • Stephanie Ellison

        posted on September 16 , 2013 :

    Interesting day I had today… Currently, I travel around Texas, looking for work at farms and ranches since leaving Houston and the job I had at REI.

    I’ve got Banana Republic on my mind. Lately, I’ve been wearing my cargo shorts (Tag Safari) and tank top (Old Navy?) because it’s so hot out today. BUT, I wanted to go inside the mall to cause some political trouble at the BR store, so I brought my Tag Safari short-sleeve button shirt to wear open over the tank top, to help me stay a bit warm (the poor sales lady admitted that it was cold in the store). I’m bored, house-sitting in the city until the owner gets back from overseas. I was at a ranch for 4 months, volunteering to help build it to get it going, then I’m here for a month, and then I go onto a farm where I’ll help set up a permaculture farm growing organic produce. Anyway, the whole time in the store, I’m friendly and polite, and I look at everything for women in the top floor. They were nice to me, asking if I needed help.

    I said no but had a couple of questions I wanted to ask. Somehow, one of the managers got involved at the beginning of the question. Oh, I think it was whether the sales woman knew much about BR’s history (she’s young, and didn’t know as much as she did when I left). Being a bit older, the manager knew a bit more. The young lady was SHOCKED to see the photos of the store front and interior on the web site at http://www.scottcadams.com/bananarepublic , as well as the catalogs she can read cover to cover, like she was going to order something, and I pointed to the e-bay bar on the side where she can research vintage clothing and get an idea of what they looked like back then. I’m sure this was an interesting hour for the two today.

    The first question was this quote, “Parrot speaks, ‘A person in bush clothes is worth two in Gucci’s hand,’ ” and I asked, “Where did it come from?” Neither of them saw it coming – in the 1979 Winter catalog of BR! I had to explain to the young lady what bush clothes were, and how the safari thing played out through the 20th century, in a time of mechanical advancement of technology, especially during WWII, of exploration of unseen worlds in the post-war years. I also explained to them that in the beginning, BR got most of its clothes from military surplus stock because of the rugged quality of the clothing as well as the looks of them, which fit right in with the safari theme of the time.

    The second question was, “Do you know what the word banana republic means?” The manager kinda had an idea, but he knew that it was not “Imagining holding a banana in your hand and eating it in safari clothes on the dock of a river somewhere, though you could do that easily.” From wikipedia… “A banana republic is a political science term for a politically unstable country whose economy is largely dependent on the export of a single limited-resource product, such as bananas. It typically has stratified social classes, including a large, impoverished working class and a ruling plutocracy that comprises the elites of business, politics, and the military. This politico-economic oligarchy controls the primary-sector productions and thereby exploits the country’s economy.” I then said, “But wait a minute… The clothes you have here have nothing to do with banana republics. They’re all cosmopolitan, office clothes. Or do they have anything to do with the fact that America is well on its way to becoming a banana republic, only the main thing of export will be services rendered by the masses of yuppies, which is papers and numbers residing on a computer somewhere out there?” The manager laughed at this and agreed with my statement that the name Banana Republic really doesn’t fit the model and the business line that the company now has. My suggestion to him was to let go of the name, sell off the rights to the name and come up with something that better reflects their product line. “How about work out a deal with Tag Safari or She Safari, businesses that sell bona-fide safari clothing designed to withstand the rigors of outback use AND repeated rough washing/high heat ironing REQUIRED for regions suspected or known to have putzi fly infestations? I see people in safari forums asking the very basic question, ‘Where can I find real safari clothing? They told me not to bring clothes like Ex-Officio because they are made of synthetic fabrics, which will not withstand the heat of the ironing required to kill off the eggs of these flies?’ ”

    I thanked them for their time and went on my way. I stood outside to check messages and happened to see a woman, I’m guessing in her 60s, standing next to me. I knew she had been in the store while I was there, so I asked her if she remembered what it was like in the 80s. She didn’t… So I showed her your web site briefly. She had no idea… How short human memory is, since no one lives forever in a single body. Interesting day!


  • Adam Douglas

        posted on July 11 , 2014 :

    The original Banana Republic stores of the 1980s were a blast, with the jeep coming through the window and the whole travel-related theme. Walking into a Banana Republic store was like walking on to the set of Raiders of the Lost Ark. You really felt like an adventurer in there.

    The modern store sometimes tries to get back to its roots, with “mattress ticking” patterned dress shirts, and the occasional white linen Cuban short sleeve shirt, but they have mostly severed their ties to the past. Everything now is “dress casual”. Basically, it’s like going to The Gap but you expect the fabric to be a little nicer, the clothes to be a little better quality.

    The new mode seems to be working for Gap Inc. They are good to their employees–for a retail store–and they seem to care about conditions in their factories. I worked for a Banana Republic from 2003-2005 and I remember getting regular bulletens from Gap, Inc. about their factories around the world, complete with ratings on salary, hours and workers’ treatment.