The Nehru Jacket

If you met me, you wouldn’t think I am very fashionable.  I write.  I blog.  I go Target.  wear jeans and a t-shirt.  I go to the theater or a concert every now and then, but LA isn’t a very dress-up type of town.  I would be more fashion-conscious if I lived in New York.  Walking around New York is a little bit of theater, and it is fun to costume yourself.

I like sportsjackets.  I think I look good in them.  Sadly, I never wear them.  I like the jacket, but I hate wearing ties.  Because of this, I am attracted to this jacket I saw online – the Nehru Jacket.   I’m not sure what it is about this jacket, but it draws me in, telling me that I need to wear it.


via The Sartorialist

I’ve never seen a real live person wearing a Nehru jacket.  OK, maybe some Indian guy wearing traditional white garb that is similar in style.  To most people, the Nehru jacket is an outdated fad from the 1960’s.

The Nehru jacket has an interesting history:

The Nehru jacket is a hip-length tailored coat for men or women, with a stand-up or “mandarin” collar, and modeled on the South Asian achkan or sherwani, an apparel worn by Jawaharlal Nehru, the Prime Minister of India from 1947 to 1964. However, unlike the achkan, which falls somewhere below the knees of the wearer, the Nehru jacket is not only shorter, but also, in all respects other than the collar, resembles the suit jacket.

The apparel was created in India in the 1940s as Band Gale Ka Coat (Hindi/Urdu: “Closed Neck Coat”) and has been popular on the subcontinent since, especially as the top half of a suit worn on formal occasions. It began to be marketed as the Nehru jacket in the West in the mid-1960s; it was briefly popular there in the late 1960s and early 1970s, its popularity spurred by growing awareness of foreign cultures, by the minimalism of the Mod lifestyle, and, in particular, by the Monkees and the Beatles, who popularized the garment.

Did you know that The Beatles wore Nehru jackets for their famous Shea Stadium performance of 1965?

Sammy Davis Jr. owned 200 Nehru jackets.

Alas, the popularity of the Nehru jacket lasted only a few years.  By the late 1960s, the fad was over and the Nehru jacket fell into obscurity.

In the mid-1970s’s,  Johnny Carson was commissioned to wear Nehru jackets on his show, in the hopes of making them popular again, but it was too late.  Fashion had moved on.   The disco years were here.

More recently, the fashion was mocked when it was worn by Dr. Evil in Austin Powers.

I think the Nehru jacket is pretty cool.  Maybe I should try to find one in a vintage clothing store while I’m in New York.  Chicks will dig it.

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41 Responses to The Nehru Jacket

  1. LVGurl says:

    My dad almost wore a Nehru tux to my wedding.

  2. Dagny says:

    Ummmm. Neil please come to BlogHer. If not then, please come to San Francisco some other time. So that we can discuss fashion. Because your love of the Nehru jacket? Yeah. I think an intervention is necessary at this point.

  3. kanani says:

    Ah, fashion. Well, this is my current gig after all.

    I love Nehru jackets –always have, and used to see men wearing them in the late 60’s and early 70’s. I remember for awhile, they made them in tapestry –like the stuff you’d find on a 60’s sofa. Anyway, yes, the Satorialist is usually spot on in finding people who put things together well.

    I find the Nehru jacket works best on men who don’t have a paunch –so thus being the case, it’d look good on you. But I think you want to push it forward from the 60’s and get away from a beige/grey jacket to something colored –like the one on Sart’s blog.

    I’d recommend having one custom made, with a paisley silk on the inside. Also –neck wear, I think lots of men wore cravats under them, but don’t go that way. I love what this guy has done –a scarf. But then, I’d push it further and put weird pins or some other embellishment under it –maybe your infamous chest hair?

  4. ingrid says:

    i think that a hairless cat is absolutely necessary to complete the look. have you ever noticed that their skin resembles… no I won’t go there.

  5. cruisin-mom says:

    Neil, stop posting

  6. natalie says:

    i like the jacket. i think you just might be able to pull it off. it would need the right accessories though. if i were you i’d listen to kanani. she seems to know what she is talking about.

  7. You could totally pull off a nerhu jacket. Except for the first one. Because it’s missing a button.

  8. V-Grrrl says:

    She sighs. Loudly. Does not want to say that men in nehru jackets look like they should be carrying your suitcase and delivering room service…

  9. the guy in that first pic looks like a young bob newhart to me. i think you need to have a certain frame to carry off that look. i think i’d prefer a jacket.

  10. Carolyn Bahm says:

    Urg. I so want to do a Nehru intervention right now. Like v-grrrl’s comment, I’m suppressing a similar thought about Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band: http://math.mercyhurst.edu/~griff/sgtpepper/picture.jpg

    FYI, that first jacket looks like someone just buttoned a regular jacket up funny. Wouldn’t a Nehru jacket have buttons evenly spaced down the front?

    Yeah — I’m being a buzzkill, right?

  11. Diane Mandy says:

    Just think–you could revive a fashion trend!

  12. Neil says:

    Carolyn — Why should the women have all the fun with clothes? Where is OUR “Sex and the City?” where a bunch of guys throw away their ties and break out their Nehru jackets?

  13. miguelina says:

    I think you have a future in fashion blogging. This was very well researched! Have you read Vogue or W lately? Half the clothes are things the average person wouldn’t be caught dead in. But a select few, they can pull it off – mainly because they want to.

  14. Judy says:

    Are you also going to do the modified pompadour ala blue jacket guy? If so, totally hot – no woman will be able to resist. Oh wait – this post wasn’t about that – never mind.

  15. Caron says:

    In my mind you’re more of tweed and elbow patches kind of guy.

  16. Finn says:

    I really don’t know what to say… I’m thinking don’t do it, but who knows it might look good.

  17. brettdl says:

    I’m a bit surprised some of your commenters have come down so hardly on you for liking these jackets.

    Here you go:

    choice one
    choice two

    Btw, I think Ricardo Montalbán is wearing a Nehru in his original Star Trek-Khan role.

  18. Now I am officially worried about you.

    I think the last time I saw the jacket was in an off-broadway (HORRIBLE) production of the King and I.

  19. Neil says:

    Caron — My tweed phase ended years ago.

  20. Memarie Lane says:

    Well, you can get away with it in LA or New York. But maybe not anywhere else. When I lived in Palm Springs designers were always giving me free samples of couture-ish things to wear because they knew I was always around celebrities and photographers. It was normal there to dress like that, and to have very short orange hair with red spikes, things like that.

    Then I moved to Florida. I remember well the day I wore my translucent judo pants to the laundry room, perfectly acceptable casual wear in SoCal. OMG the stares. I have since learned. Cool stuff on the coast, in between its Crocs and Dockers.

  21. gorillabuns says:

    In Oklahoma, this jacket so wouldn’t work for so many reasons. One being, it’s 96 degrees right now.

  22. kanani says:

    A black Nehru jacket would be divine. Black, black with a psychedelic lining. Maybe made of a very tight linen. Also, see if there’s an ochre —ochre is one of the colors for fall. But if you want one now –well, the blue that the guy has is good.

    Also, I like these little buttons by RE:VOLVE (look them up) and think they’d be cool along the top.

    You can also have a second one made, that’s slightly longer and flares out –like the Beatles had. This will really make them swoon at Strauss Farrar Giroux. The jr. editors will look up from their grotty cubicles and offer to have sex with you. I’m pretty sure.

    And then, of course, we’ll call you Sahib.

  23. Neil says:

    Brettdl — Can’t you see yourself wearing that?! Who wouldn’t want to look like Ricardo Montalban in Star Trek? I think the female commenters are worried that WE will look sexier than they would at a cocktail party. Despite what they say, they want us to look shitty, so they get all the complments.

  24. Neil says:

    Kanani — the black is a little too “priest”-like for my Jewish taste.

    http://tinyurl.com/5wzvm8

  25. Ellen Bloom says:

    I like the look of the Nehru jacket too. The men at my cousin, Carolyn’s wedding party all wore them in 1967. It was totally groovy.

  26. Roadchick says:

    For some reason, a Nehru jacket reminds me of Paul Lynde.

    Go figure.

  27. V-Grrrl says:

    Waiting for you to carry my suitcase and deliver dinner….

    (And the blue color? Looks like the scrubs my dentist wears…)

  28. kanani says:

    Black? Okay, so go ochre. Or better yet, fulfill your deepest desire and go plaid. Believe me, no one will have a plaid Nehru jacket.

    Though franky, I doubt anyone will offer you sex if you do that.

  29. Nehru jackets, like Mr. Nehru himself, are hotttt.

    The assistant conductor of my community orchestra always wears them.

    We New Yorker chicks dig us some Nehru action.

  30. Robb says:

    I started wearing Nehru jackets (on occasion, not everyday) when I moved to New Delhi about 18 months ago… Last year I was in Amsterdam for a few days and went out to a trendy lounge bar wearing a jacket I had made here, crushed velvet, heavily beaded and weighed a ton. In a word, fabulous. It would have made Carrie Bradshaw take a second look. I can’t say it was very appreciated and I spent the whole evening getting looks that were a combination of confusion and curiosity. But in a sea of cookie cutter Abercromie clad people, I was definitely the original.

    I think I will take Kanani’s advice and make it my own and go get myself a plaid one made… My tailor has a great Scottish Tartan Cashmere I have been eyeing.

  31. Caron says:

    Stanford would have been the Sex and the City man who could pull off a Nehru jacket without looking pompous. As far as I can tell, you’re neither gay nor pompous.

    So, you’ve done tweed, how about a classic levi’s denim jacket?

  32. Jonathon says:

    I think men’s fashion blogging is a lot like writing about one’s penis — just in an affected voice.

  33. Neil says:

    Jonathon — I like that line. One more in the pipeline!

    Caron – that was like done in junior high.

    Robb – Interesting story. I’ve never had a tailor make me clothes. Just out of curiosity, how much would that cost for someone to make that for you? I’m assuming you can get this done for much less if you are in India or Hong Kong than say London?

  34. brettdl says:

    Neil, I think your right, it’s a plot against manhood. But skip the black, because the guy looks way too much like a priest.

  35. Carolyn Bahm says:

    Hi, again, Neil! If Nehru makes you happy and you’re comfortable in it, then more power to you and I’ll be happy to see you wearing it. :o) Even if I don’t like a particular style, I do enjoy seeing someone strut his or her stuff in bleeding-edge fashion with panache and pleasure. Also, I should have mentioned before: this was a great post and the pictures were perfect for it.

    What other non-boring men’s clothes are you contemplating?

  36. Paul says:

    Carolyn — Why should the women have all the fun with clothes? Where is OUR “Sex and the City?” where a bunch of guys throw away their ties and break out their Nehru jackets?

    BY NEIL ON 06.12.08 3:01 AM

    Neil- you are so right. I am not gay and I would love to design mens clothing, it’s so boring.

    Can anyone email me a link to a psychedelic Nehru Jacket, like the Beatles wore

  37. John says:

    If I person feels confident in something and is having fun don’t be such a judgemental crap that you have to be insulting. A few comments above are exactly right … men’s clothes, especially sport coats and suit tops are as boring as hell. This is a fun alternative. Want to live a cookie-cutter life or go your own way?

  38. The Amish also where Nehru jackets. Though they don’t call them that. They are cut almost the same.

  39. Pingback: Neh-ruing the Day: No to Nehru

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