When you see a man in a Nehru Jacket, what’s the first thought that crosses your mind? I’ll be honest with you, as far as I’m concerned, any man in a Nehru Jacket is 10 times more appealing than the same man without this classy attire. So what’s the story behind this mandarin-collared, hip-length vest? How did it come into being? How did it become such a staple sartorial choice for Indian politicians? What is its global appeal? Let’s explore all that and more!
Origin and History
The Nehru Jacket is an enigmatic piece of fashion steeped in history. Originally called the Bandhgala or Bandh Gale ka Coat, Nehru Jacket has India’s first Prime Minister to thank for its nomenclature. Indeed, before being reinvented as the ‘Modi vest’, it was Jawaharlal Nehru who made this silhouette famous in the 1940s.
However, the origin of this silhouette predates even Nehru. In fact, it can be traced right back to the first century to the Yeuzhis tribe of Central Asia. This is the first mention of a long garment—a coat-style gown—popular with the women of the tribe. This original form came to be known as the achkan. Another popular version of this is the sherwani that Mughals introduced to India. However, the more structured versions of these two as we know and see them now are all thanks to the colonial influence.
Post-independence, the Nehru Jacket or bandi as it was fondly called became the marker of Indian aspiration – a rich garment with a distinct professional appeal that could rival any western suit, but this one was all Indian at heart.
Nehru’s Love for the Single-Breasted Jacket
Over the years, the classic, structured, bandh gale ka coat evolved into a shorter, crisper, hip-length version without sleeves that we can now instantly recognize as the Nehru Jacket – the perfect amalgamation of the royal Persian style jacket and the sharp British sartorial sensibilities. Just like our beloved country, this enchanting jacket has multiple cultures to thank for its present form, and Jawaharlal Nehru never shied away from expressing his love for both.
In 1964, the same year Nehru died, he did an exclusive shoot for Vogue and it spread like wildfire among global celebrities. From The Beatles in the UK to Frank Sinatra and Sammy Davis Jr in the USA – this ‘Jawahar Cut’ Jacket was an absolute rage! It has had its moments in Hollywood as well: from Sean Connery as Bond donning the jacket in Dr No to Dr Evil sporting it in Austin Powers, the Nehru Jacket is not just an item of clothing – it is a whole mood, a personality, a statement.
When you shop at www.yellwithus.com, you will discover a wide variety of Nehru Jackets to suit all sensibilities and styles. The designers at Yell wish to take this classic style to every stylish, sophisticated wardrobe in India and abroad. After all, who wouldn’t want to be dressed to the nines and look like a sartorial king? No wonder this iconic garment has been an absolute favorite of most Indian politicians ever since it first gained popularity.
The Indian politicians love it!
All over the world, men discovered the fashion statement called the Nehru Jacket, and back home, our politicians took to it like a moth to flame. From Rajiv Gandhi to Dr. Manmohan Singh, to the man of the hour – Mr. Narendra Modi himself – the country’s Prime Ministers turned this clean, polished look into one that translates into political power. In 2012, Time magazine included it in their Top 10 global fashion list as well.
Indian politicians have always been a fan of this modish jacket and throughout the years, many have styled the Nehru Jacket in their own way and made it their own. The Nehru Jacket isn’t restricted to menswear either. Women have worn it and looked absolutely dapper! Kiran Bedi has worn it for years and made it her own.
However, after 2014, a new debate stirred. Was it Nehru Jacket or Modi Jacket? After all, Modi did popularize them during his campaign and even after that. The colors he chose to don were interesting and a little flamboyant. While he was frequently seen in the more serious greys, blues and beiges, he also picked a particular peach Nehru Jacket that caught everyone’s eye instantly.
When the Chinese President Xi Jinping visited the Sabarmati Ashram with Modi, the two coordinated their outfits and wore Nehru Jackets. Modi, with a khadi kurta, and Jinping with a pastel shirt. When the Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe visited India in 2015, he flaunted an exclusively designed Yell Nehru Jacket, as he attended the mesmerizing Ganga Aarti. Jeff Bezos, Founder and CEO of Amazon, Jeff Bezos, during his visit to India in 2020, picked the Nehru Jacket as his staple. He paired a classic brown Nehru Jacket with a cream-colored kurta while paying his respects at Rajghat and paired a quirky blue option with traditional floral prints with a blue shirt during his chat with the Amazon India head.
Nehru Jacket even managed to create a furore when PM Modi gifted some to the South Korean President Moon Jae-in and the latter called it a ‘Modi Vest’ on Twitter. The Twitter-storm may have only lasted a couple of weeks at best, just like all social media uproars, one thing became crystal clear:
It didn’t matter what you called it—the bandh gala or the Nehru Jacket or the Modi Vest or the bundi—it has a dedicated and passionate fan base all around the world. A fan base that lives, breathes, and tweets style. A fan base that’s ready to go to digital war at a simple comment. The incident was a great reminder of the true popularity of this iconic jacket.
The Politics of Style
At Yell, we understand that attire and political ideology have always had a deep connection. Whether it was Gandhi’s simple white cotton dhoti, or Mao’s boxy suit, the politicians’ clothes have been scrutinized almost as much as their politics. Any particular sartorial choice easily threads into the fabric of the person’s political ideology. The idea is actually rather simple – clothes may not maketh the man, but clothes do help his audience remember him. Image building is essential to politics and if you can manage to stand out in a sea of similar voices with the help of a simple choice of outfit, there’s no reason to deny it.
Yet, the Nehru Jacket has surpassed all such labelling. It simply cannot be tied down to one man or one school of thought. Don’t mistake it for a political choice; no sir, the Nehru Jacket isn’t bound by any ideology or party. It is not associated with the left or right. It is neither liberal, nor conservative. It is a marker of one and only one thing – an excellent sartorial sense.
Carrying the legacy
Yell is leaving no stone unturned to carry on this incredible legacy by offering a wide range of Nehru Jacket for men in locally-sourced sustainable fabrics. Check out the collection at www.yellwithus.com.