What is a Nehru Jacket?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

A Nehru jacket is a tailored coat which lacks a collar and lapels, with a smooth, sleek front. Nehru jackets are modeled on a style of jacket worn by Jawaharlal Nehru, who was Prime Minister of India from the 1940s through the 1960s; such jackets became very popular in the West in the 1960s and 1970s, when many people wore Eastern-inspired clothing. The style has since become classic, with many stores offering Nehru jackets as the style's popularity waxes and wanes.

The Nehru jacket is modeled after native clothing worn in India and southeast Asia.
The Nehru jacket is modeled after native clothing worn in India and southeast Asia.

This jacket is modeled on the achkan or sherwani, which has been a form of native dress in India and Southeast Asia since the 18th century. Nehru popularized the style while in office, frequently being photographed in the design, and it became very popular in India as well as abroad, especially among members of the counterculture movement.

The distinguishing feature of the Nehru jacket is the lack of lapels and the absent or small collar. In cases where a Nehru jacket does have a collar, it is typically small and it stands straight up, rather than folding over. Nehru jackets are also shorter than their Eastern cousins, falling just to the hip, rather than further down the leg, in keeping with Western styles. Many modern Nehru jackets look more like understated suit coats than achkans, which tend to be longer and a bit looser.

A wide variety of textiles can be used with a Nehru jacket, ranging from lightweight linen for warm weather to heavier brocade and embroidered fabrics for cooler weather. Many designers keep the style of their Nehru jackets simple and understated, allowing people to dress the jacket up with various accessories, from matching pants to brightly colored scarves.

The Nehru jacket can be worn by both men and women, although styles for men and women differ slightly. Since a Nehru jacket tends to look best when it hugs the body with a tailored fit, women benefit from designs which emphasize the waistline and provide room in the chest, while men look better in more slim-fitting designs. Various options include features like pockets, although some people don't like to use pockets because they can ruin the line of the coat when it is worn.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Discussion Comments


Does a mens nehru jacket count as a black tie jacket? I've been invited to a party with a black tie dress code, but the only dinner jacket kind of thing that I have is a black men's nehru jacket.

Could this possibly count, or do I need to go out and rent a tux? I don't want to show up at my event looking like I'm wearing a boys jacket, so I'd really like to know you all's opinion.



If you're ever looking for a good look for a dinner party, then try pairing a formal shirt with a men's nehru dinner jacket.

It's a nice look for a lot of guys because the nehru jacket is a flattering look for most body types, and it's also visually interesting to see the minimalist look of the nehru collar mixed with such a formal shirt.

If you're ever stuck for a good way to make a statement in a dinner party, without wanting to do something too crazy, then this is a good choice. So give it a try sometime -- you might be surprised how well the work looks for you.


I've been looking at several nehru jackets for sale, because I want to get a mens nehru jacket for my husband for Christmas, but I am really a little confused as to how to go about it.

Do you think I should go for a white nehru jacket, like the really classic ones are, or a black nehru dinner jacket for a more modern style?

My husband is pretty heavily into the 1960s, so I thought this would be a good choice, but after seeing how hard it is to buy one I'm kind of re-thinking this. Can you guys give me any advice? Should I even stick with this or should I go for another present?

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