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The Mandarin Jacket: Mandarin Collar vs Grandad Collar

Mandarin Collar Jacket

It’s not often that we talk about Puff Daddy at Sir Plus HQ. But while researching the history of the Mandarin Jacket, we were surprised to find that it's been reinvented and rebranded countless times over the years – not unlike the artist formerly known as Sean Combs. Depending on where you’re from, you might know the Mandarin as the Tang Jacket, the APEC, the Chinese worker or the bleu de Chine. Through countless incarnations it's been a peasant tabard, an official state uniform and a favourite of artists across the world.

Mandarin Jacket

The Mandarin is, as you’d expect, of Chinese origin, and was originally a simple tabard worn by workers and horsemen. By the 17th century it had been adopted by state officials and had morphed into something much more decorative. Like our Mandarin, the traditional Tang jacket featured a simple band collar and frog knot buttons, but was made from delicately brocaded silk. It remained a staple of Chinese fashion until the end of the country’s civil war in 1949, after which the Mao suit became the standard.

Mandarin Jacket

At around the same time, French dockers adopted a version of the Mandarin dubbed the Bleu de Chine. A spin on the classic Bleu de Travail (Workman Jacket), it kept the frog fastening but swapped the silk for durable blue cotton twill and added practical patch pockets. It soon became popular with workers and artists across the south of France – including one Mr Pablo Picasso. It’s this version that our Mandarin jacket has most in common with – we’ve kept the patch pockets and workwear-inspired shape, but swapped the heavy-duty fabric for lightweight seersucker or midnight velvet. The latter is the more formal of the two, but either looks sharp worn over a white grandad shirt or plain white t-shirt.


Mandarin collar vs Grandad collar


Mandarin collar vs Grandad collar

If the Mandarin is Puff Daddy, think of the grandad as the Notorious B.I.G: closely related, but fundamentally quite different. A Mandarin collar is a slim band of fabric that doesn’t quite meet in the middle. We sometimes refer to it as a Nehru collar, for obvious reasons. A grandad collar is very similar, but crosses over at the centre. Like the Mandarin, the grandad has it's own storied history, which you can read more about here.

Mandarin Jacket

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