Before embarking on the details of this piece, let us understand a little history of Nehru Jacket. India's first Prime Minister, Jawahar Lal Nehru, publicly wore two kinds of jackets. The technically correct name for the most common one he wore is Achkan. We will have more information on What an Achkan is soon.
The other jacket piece he wore, but not too often, is an Indian Vest, also known as Bundi. For some odd reason, this latter piece has become popular as a Nehru jacket even though there are not too many pictures of Nehru wearing it in his public appearances.
As a matter of coincidence, PM Modi also finds Bundi as one of his favourite dressing pieces, which many have started referring to as Modi Jacket.
What is a Nehru Jacket
It is a sleeveless outerwear with a round band collar, has an open placket with four to five buttons, and ends well above the hips. But a Nehru Jacket or Modi Jacket goes much beyond this fundamental construction. The choice of buttons, pockets, vents, fabrics and other trimmings can convert this classic piece into a formal, casual, traditional or even adventure outfit.
What is so good about Nehru Jacket
As explained briefly above, among many good things, the best piece about the Nehru Jacket is its versatility, which allows it to be worn on various occasions & paired with different types of clothing, be it traditional Indian attire like kurta-pajamas or Western wear like shirts and trousers.
With the names of two biggies of Indian politics attached, Bundi naturally attains a cultural significance & adds a touch of India to the style. So, for a foreigner visiting India, it becomes a good ice breaker and an exotic piece to carry from here.
Which fabric is best for a Nehru Jacket
The original Nehru Jacket (as seen in the picture above) was in khadi. During the non-cooperation movement, Mahatma Gandhi made khadi fabric the symbol of resistance. Probably, Nehru tried adding his bit to make it a mainstream fabric, at least amongst the political class.
Today, the usage occasion decides what fabric works best for a Nehru Jacket.
Classic suiting materials like 100% wool or wool blends work best for workwear or formal occasions. One should consider this type of Nehru Jacket as an Indian Summer Suit/Coat and select the fabric and styling ideas similar to a two-piece suit or jacket. One should pair a contrasting colour shirt & trousers with it. One shouldn't opt for lighter colours for this type of occasion.
For casual occasions, cotton, linen & khadi are the go-to fabric. One can team it up with denim and tees and add a casual flair to the do by keeping the front buttons partly open.
A Nehru jacket looks fabulous in classic traditional attire comprising a kurta and pyjama.
Apart from linen, one can opt for silk, jacquard, or polyester in solid colours, prints or even with standard or customized embroidery. The play of buttons and the embroidery on the jacket edges, like collar & cuffs, can make the Nehru jacket look rich. Click here to see some cool Traditional Nehru Jacket designs.
How to Wear a Nehru Jacket
Traditionally, men have been closing all the front buttons irrespective of what they have paired their jackets with. However, it looks better if one keeps the top button or even the second one open. It looks modern and improves breathability.
One shouldn't wear a traditional fabric with formal wear and stick to the protocol explained above. However, the reverse may work depending on the outfit.
Unlike what many think, a Nehru Jacket with a standard turndown collar shirt works better than with a round band collar. The former supports the Nehru Jacket's neck and keeps it standing. But most prefer wearing a round band collar with it, which is fine.
How to match Kurta with a Nehru Jacket
On the silhouette side, the good news is kurtas of any length and style work with a standard Nehru Jacket.
On the colour side, one has a lot of choices in terms of popular combinations that depend on factors like the event theme or coordination with family members, etc. One can go all monochromatic with an embroidered or printed Nehru Jacket and plain Kurta or reverse. Contrasting ideas also work very well. A well-planned pocket square adds a lot of flair to the ensemble.
One should avoid cheap golden lace work on the jacket or made in shiny polyester fabric.
The technically correct name of a Nehru Jacket or a Modi Jacket is Bundi or Indian Vest. It is one of the most versatile outerwear for men, and one should definitely invest in a few classic pieces. Here is what our suggestion on what kind of Nehru Jacket you should have in your wardrobe:
One jet solid black formal nehru jacket in 100% wool or high quality wool blend
A casual version in dark shades like deep blue, brown or grey in linen or cotton
These two pieces will help you level up your style quotient in formal or casual settings.