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.
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.