Upon entering any of our stores, customers are drawn towards our staple Nehru pieces defined by a special kind of collar that has been synonymous with SIRPLUS. Some who stop to contemplate these in greater depth wonder about its origins. Many will probably know that this style has been an integral part of our brand’s history, but what they may not know is that the collar carries a relevant history of its own.
Known originally as the ‘Mandarin’ collar, this twist on the more common
straight-point flapped collar originated from Imperial China and is representative of traditional Manchurian dress. Throughout the following centuries it became a
prevailing element of oriental and minimalist styles, which can be seen throughout
decades of fashion.
Fast forward to early 20th century India, where jackets made with this type of collar were originally made up of khadi wool and cashmere, being worn traditionally in simple colours and exclusively by men. Also called the ‘band’ collar on classical shirts, the Nehru collar is now given this name after India’s first Prime Minister, Kashmiri-born Jawaharlal Nehru.
Nehru was a scholarly barrister known for his exemplary leadership, pacifism and neutral approach to policy and foreign affairs. Aside from his wise and rather revolutionary approaches which have left a great mark on history, it is this component of his style that has left a lasting impression in the fashion world.
In all of his public appearances, Nehru was seldom seen without his famous collar. Throughout the course of his bountiful career this fit became a trademark of his. This was especially so from 1947 onwards, following India's independence and his appointment as the country’s Prime Minister.
Amid being featured in Vogue in 1964, further attention was brought to Nehru and his stylish features. Thus throughout the 1960s the Nehru collar rapidly increased in popularity and was to be worn by icons such as the Beatles.
As this coincided with the wave of independence movements throughout the world, affiliates took to wearing this collar themselves. Amid ladies and gents alike, the collar was to be worn as a particularly classy and upmarket special component of a casual jacket. Thus it became an inspiring piece encouraging the display of one’s activism and quest for freedom.
Like Nehru himself, the collar was a subtle symbol of freedom done elegantly. It is as such that the Mandarin collar came to be known as what we now love to call the ‘Nehru’ collar on the classical ‘Nehru’ jacket.
Ever since its prime decade, the Nehru collar has trailed along subtly throughout the rims Western culture and fashion, being worn by famous characters such as Austin Powers and James Bond. A slight comeback was made along the 1990s, when the collar began to reappear in fashion magazines and came to be worn by Bill Clinton in 2001.
Fast forward again to the 2010s, when Henry and the team chose to move on from producing just boxers made of shirt offcuts. In came the Nehru pieces, which have since remained an essential trademark of our brand. In fact the traces of Jawaharlal Nehru sit so close to home it is almost uncanny.
The influences of this important figure sit loudly in Notting Hill’s 60 Elgin Crescent, where Nehru resided between 1910 and 1911. A mere fifteen minute walk away from our original Portobello Road store, we’re proud to know we would have been neighbours. For our Winter 2021 campaign, we decided to shoot outside of the imitable Jawaharlal Nehru former house in honour of his imprint in fashion. The house is celebrated with an iconic blue plaque - London’s famous blue plaques link the people of the past with the buildings of the present.
Today at SIRPLUS, you’ll find the Nehru waistcoats, jackets and grandad shirts made up of a variety of different materials, from heritage tweed to surplus cotton to tactile velvet. Our Nehrus are all made with the greatest care in the UK.
Nehru’s is a story of freedom, sophistication, equality and elegance. As a symbol of independent intellect and grounded peace, the Nehru collar in turn reflects a set of timeless values that we honour here at SIRPLUS.