The princely state of Jodhpur, situated in the modern day state of Rajasthan in India, also known as Marwar, was founded in 1459 by Rao Jodha, who belonged to the Rathore clan of Rajputs. It has a chequered history and only ceased to exist when it merged with the newly independent state of India in 1947.
While the contribution of the Jodhpur or Marwar state to the history of the Indian sub-continent is immense, its contribution to the world of men’s apparel is no less spectacular. Today ‘Jodhpur ‘is well known among the connoisseurs of classic men’s style. The term refers to the Jodhpuri coat, the Jodhpur breeches and the Jodhpur boot.
The Jodhpuri Coat , or Bandgala , is an essential item in men’s formal wear in India . It is popularly known as the Nehru jacket in the rest of the world. However the term Nehru Jacket is a misnomer as Nehru never wore one! In India , the term Nehru Jacket is seldom used . However the Jodhpuri coat is an adaptation the long coat Achkan or Sherwani , which Nehru wore , and it is probably due to the similarities in both garments , to the untrained eye , that the mistake occurred .
Rajput man in traditional Jodhpuri Coat .
The Jodhpuri coat was designed over a hundred years ago by the Royal tailors of Jodhpur, who perfected the ‘Jodhpur cut ‘. It is essentially a short jacket which ends at the hip like a western suit jacket or sports coat. It differs from the sports jacket in that it buttons all the way up the front and ends in a high collar. The classic Jodhpuri coat is supposed to fit the wearer like a glove from the neck down to the waist and to achieve this it is cut high on the arm hole. To achieve a perfect fit while at the same time allowing free movement of the arms is a skill that has been mastered over the years. Due to the unique nature of the garment in terms of fit , the Jodhpuri Coat needs to be made to measure , the ready to wear variants fall short in terms of fit which is the very nature of the coat. It is usually worn with matching or contrasting trousers. However the classic pairing is with a pair of Jodhpur breeches.
Jodhpuri Coat .
In the year 1897 during the Diamond Jubilee celebrations of Queen Victoria, Sir Pratap Singh, the Maharaja of Idar and the Regent of Jodhpur, paid a visit to England. Sir Pratap Singh was an avid polo player and the Jodhpur Polo Team accompanied him. During their stay in England the Jodhpur Polo Team, besides winning most matches, also caused a sensation with their breeches. The breeches as worn by the Jodhpur Polo Team come to be known as ‘Jodhpurs ‘. There is a story behind the naming , apparently Sir Pratap Singh had a what is now known as a wardrobe malfunction and was forced to visit a Savile Row tailor . When asked what the garment he ordered were called, Sir Pratap misunderstanding the question , replied Jodhpur .
Jodhpur Breeches / Pant.
These breeches were a variation of the Indian long trouser known as the ‘ Churidar ‘. The churidar is a traditional Indian long trouser which is tight along the calf and loose or baggy at the hips. Sir Pratap Singh used the churidar as the template for the design of his breeches. He was personally involved in their design and subsequent improvements and the first pair were tailored in Jodhpur in 1890. The Jodhpur breeches were long pants and like the churidar, they were tight fitting from the calf to the ankle. The fabric was reinforced along the inner calf and knee to protect them from rubbing while riding. The thighs and hips were flared which allowed for their free movement when riding. This was a revolutionary design in the era before the invention of stretch fabrics. The British adapted the design and their versions were soon being produced by Savile Row tailors in London.
Jodhpuri Coat and pants in a modern interpretation.
The Jodhpuri Coat paired with the Jodhpur breeches and worn with tall boots was incorporated in military uniforms of staff officers in Nazi Germany and subsequently in Soviet Bloc countries. During the 1920’s, when women began to ride astride saddle, they chose the Jodhpur. Coco Chanel was reportedly the first high profile woman to wear Jodhpurs. She is said to have been inspired by a friend’s groom!
However the boots worn with the Jodhpur breeches were not the traditional tall boots. The boot of choice was an ankle boot with a rounded toe and low heel. These boots were fastened with a strap and a buckle. Tall boots, besides being more expensive to make, were no longer required due to the design of the Jodhpur breeches. As the fabric of the Jodhpur breeches were reinforced along the inner calf and knee, the purpose of tall boots , which was to protect the same , was made redundant. These ankle boots were first made in Jodhpur and hence their name. The British were quick to realise the advantages and quickly adapted them. Their version is now known as the Chelsea Boot. The Chelsea boot differs from the traditional Jodhpur boot in that it does not have a strap and buckle but has elastic siding. The place of the Chelsea boot in men’s fashion is well known and does not need repeating.
The Jodhpuri coat has been adopted by many international designers, finding their way into the collections of brands such as Canali and Ermenegildo Zegna . The Beatles wore matching Jodhpuri Coats for their Shea Stadiun concert. It is however extremely popular in India as it denotes luxury due to its need to be custom tailored. It is thus fitting that one of the best practitioners of the art is designer Raghavendra Rathore http://www.rathore.com
. As a member of the Royal family of Jodhpur he is all too familiar with the history and traditions of the Jodhpuri coat . The Rathore Bandgala , as he now calls it , is meticulously handmade by local skilled artisans ( yes , he is based in the city of Jodhpur the home of the Jodhpuri Coat ) and takes over twenty three hours of superb tailoring . He uses the best of fabrics sourced from around the globe and maintains the original cut. A graduate of Parsons School of Design in New York , he combines his unique heritage with a dash of the contemporary . He worked at DKNY and Oscarde la Renta before founding the Rathor Jodhpur brand in 1994.His Jodhpuri Coat , the true original , is one of the best products made in India today . Besides the Jodhpuri Coat , Raghavendra Rathore also makes the Jodhpur breeches , but now modified and tailored to go with the Jodhpuri Coat, and renamed the Jodhpur Pant . He recently launched a new collection named the Jodhpur Polo Collection in his home town of Jodhpur in December 2012 . And so the Jodhpur Legacy lives on, safe in the capable hands of Raghavedra Rathore who , it can be empathetically and literally said , is cut from the same cloth.