Everything you need to know about safari hats – from their origins to what makes a great safari hat, and a list of the very best safari hats to buy in 2020. Read on for the full lowdown on safari hats (or check out our articles on safari jackets, or more general safari clothing tips for planning your safari wardrobe):
What is a safari hat?
What became the first safari hats were introduced in Asia and the Indian subcontinent through the 1800s as a pith helmet, also known as a safari helmet, sun helmet, topee, sola topee or topi. These lightweight hats were made out of pith (a soft tissue found inside tree trunks) of the Indian sola tree and covered with a white cloth. They were first used by the European military, though they quickly realized that white hats made them an easy target, so started dyeing the white cloth with tea, to give them a distinctive khaki colour.
In the early 1900s many Europeans in Asia started to were these pith helmets – and variations on them – as sun hats to protect their heads from the tropical sun. (They were even worn indoors by some who believed sunlight could penetrate their roof!) Understanding of the sun’s powers has evolved since then, as has fashion, and safari hats have developed to be an essential piece of kit when spending time outdoors in sunny terrain, whether on a trip taking in the desert, jungle, savannah or, of course, safari.
And these days safari hats are being worn not just for protection from the sun, but as a fashion statement too, acceptable as an accessory of choice when going outdoors in any situation given.
What makes a great safari hat?
Whilst there’s a time and a place for the traditional pith helmet (fancy dress party, perhaps?), there is much choice for great safari hats around today – the question is, ‘what should I look for in a safari hat?’ We believe there are several things that you need to consider when buying a good safari hat:
The primary reason for wearing a hat on a daily basis – not just on safari – is to provide protection from the sun while you’re out and about. So just how much sun-protection will the hat provide? You might want to consider buying a safari hat with a wide brim so it can cover both your face and your neck and protect you from sunburn.
A waterproof safari hat is a good idea for a couple of reasons. The obvious one is that if it rains whilst you’re on safari and you don’t have shelter your hat can protect you from the rain. The other reason is that non-waterproof safari hats tend to be made out of cotton, which can start to smell a bit after a long day of usage. Buying a waterproof safari hat will make sure you’re protected from sun damage as well as from developing a bad odor.
They say that style and comfort must meet halfway, but if you must choose one over the other you should go for comfort. Why? Simply because you look the best when you feel most comfortable! And when on safari you can sometime find yourself wearing a hat for the best part of a whole day, so it makes sense to ensure that any safari hat you buy is as comfortable as possible.
Most safari hats are made out of leather, rubber, cotton or man-made fabric. Which one you go for will depend on your personal preference, but make sure you choose a well-made safari hat that will last. My personal choice is leather, because in most cases leather hats will last a lifetime (and grow character) with proper care.
Style is subjective, but it all comes down to how you picture yourself wearing something. Make sure that when you buy a safari hat you really see yourself wearing it and looking at your best.
Best safari hats to buy in 2020
That’s all we have to say on safari hats. Any information we’re missing, or you’d like to see added? Please let us know in the comments section below.