Dallas Styles: J.R.’s Safari Shirts

The shark wore epaulettes

When “Dallas’s” wardrobe designers were figuring out how to dress the Ewings, I suspect J.R. presented the toughest challenge.

I’m not referring to his office outfits. Those were easy. Put Larry Hagman in a conservative business suit and send him off to do his scenes. Done.

But J.R. wasn’t all business, all the time. How would he dress when he wasn’t at work?

“Dallas” answers this question during the second season, when J.R. begins wearing what becomes one of his signatures: the safari shirt.

The look was popularized more than a century ago by western hunters, who wore multi-pocketed jackets and vests during expeditions to Africa. The clothing was usually made of cotton or poplin and often came in muted colors – beige, brown, khaki – that allowed the adventurers to blend in with their surroundings.

This made safari shirts ideal for J.R., a character who was always on the hunt – for deals, for money, for women. The shirt’s military-style epaulettes also remind us J.R. is always at war with his enemies, while all those pockets are perfect for a man who has lots to hide.

J.R. is first seen in a safari shirt in “Reunion, Part 1,” the second-season opener, when he begins secretly plotting against his brother Gary. In later seasons, J.R. wears the shirts when he and his brothers venture into the South American jungle to search for the missing Jock and when he breaks out of an Arkansas jail. (Don’t ask.)

We also see J.R. wearing the shirts during lighter moments. In the eighth-season episode “Shadow of a Doubt,” the Ewings spend an afternoon at a waterpark, where Sue Ellen catches a safari-shirted J.R. checking out two shapely women in revealing bathing suits.

It’s one more reminder that no matter where J.R. goes, the game is on.

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