During the 19th-century arrived a piece of clothing that remains popular to date — the safari suit.
The suit has its origins in Africa, where it was used for safari tours due to its light and breathable material.
It was this same quality that made it ideal for the uniforms of soldiers of the British Army, who were stationed in South Africa during the Second Boer War.
The button-down shirt has four large pockets on the chest and waist areas, which were ideal for carrying bullets, weapons, and binoculars.
The shirt has a large collar and a belt at the waist, which keeps everything together; and the pants, too, come with pockets.
When it first arrived in India during the colonial era, the safari cloth retailed at approximately Rs 40 per metre and was considered a luxury that could be afforded by only the cultural elite.
Geeta Khanna, principal director of the Hirumchi Styling Company — one of India’s first styling companies — agrees.
“It [safari suit] spelled prosperity and an anglicised mindset that was considered superior,” she notes.
The tailored suit continued to be fashionable attire for men up until the 70s, when the unisex safari suit became du jour.
French designer Yves Saint Laurent came up with the two-piece safari suit, which was worn later by Roger Moore as James Bond.
The 007 fandom in the Western world caused people to imitate their styles.
They had a special spot in the world of Indian media too, as everyone from Sunil Gavaskar to Rajesh Khanna and Vinod Khanna wore them in ads and movies.
In time, the simplicity and allure of the safari suits got their place in politics, with even former president Ram Nath Kovind often sporting the suit in the bandh-gala style.
Rishabh Khandelwal, co-founder of Hangrr, a custom clothing brand for men, says the “unlined, unstructured” safari suit jackets are similar to military uniforms in style and design.
While the liberalisation of the 90s opened up India’s economy to a host of Western products, marking a shift in the country’s geopolitical landscape, the safari suit faced stiff competition from other styles.
But even so, it has not been rendered irrelevant.
Whether for the sake of nostalgia or as experiments with retro fashion, the safari suit has been etched in the patchwork of Indianness.