Rahul Gandhi’s quilted jacket-on-white-kurta look has a touch of modernism & youth, and Congress leaders from Sachin Pilot to Navjot Sidhu have adopted it.
New Delhi: The old Nehru jacket, a sort of unofficial uniform for Congress leaders over the decades, has now become synonymous with Narendra Modi. South Korean president Moon Jaei-in even tweeted about the jacket he received from Modi earlier this year, labelling it the ‘Modi Vest’.
Prime Minister @narendramodi of India sent me some gorgeous garments. These are modernized versions of traditional Indian costume, known as the ‘Modi Vest’, that can also be worn easily in Korea. They fit perfectly. pic.twitter.com/3QTFIczX6H
— 문재인 (@moonriver365) October 31, 2018
But Rahul Gandhi has brought about a sartorial change of his own in the grand old party, courtesy his quilted jackets.
Earlier this year, Gandhi drew flak for appearing in a Burberry quilted jacket that reportedly cost in the region of Rs 60,000-70,000. But the man who once promised the masses a ‘kurta pajama sarkar’, as opposed to Modi’s ‘suit-boot sarkar’, has experimented with the look to add a touch of modernism and the element of youth, and Congress leaders from Sachin Pilot to Navjot Sidhu have followed suit.
But is Rahul Gandhi really the originator of this trend, as the Congress would have you believe? Not quite. The fact is that his father, late prime minister Rajiv Gandhi, was often seen sporting a yellow-coloured quilted jacket over a white kurta.
A conscious choice
Lawyer and Congress spokesperson Jaiveer Shergill told ThePrint that there is a comfort factor behind the choice.
“When you are working on the ground, these jackets are the most comfortable and easy-going things to wear,” he said.
But according to Aparna Mudi, assistant professor at fashion school Pearl Academy, Rahul Gandhi’s sartorial choice is a classic example of the ‘trickle up’ theory of fashion — that is, his choice is inspired by the street fashion of the youth, symbolising his youth icon branding.
“The Nehru/Modi jacket is an expensive thing to buy, because they have to be fitted and nicely constructed. These quilted jackets, on the other hand, are made of polyfill or ‘parachute material’ as it is colloquially called. It is cheap and easily available in places like Sarojini Nagar in the capital,” she said.
Mudi believes Gandhi consciously adopted the trend after 2014, to draw a contrast with Modi’s style. “This is more of ‘we have our roots in India but we are still modern’ style,” she said. “It’s a fusion of traditional and casual. It’s actually street style.”
Shergill accepted this, and said the quilted jacket was there to make a bigger statement than mere comfort.
“It’s a perfect blend reflecting youth energy, casualness and politics. For Congress leaders, it’s a statement that we are one among many, we are from the youth and we are with the youth,” he said.
“Rahul Gandhi has changed the definition of dress code for a politician. You don’t have to dress strictly traditional — you can be an easy-going politician with focus on important issues.”
What youth leaders say
Arun Hooda, former DUSU president from the Congress’ student wing, the NSUI, believes the quilted jacket is just a more “advanced form” of the Nehru jacket, but said he does receive more compliments when he wears one.
“I went to a book launch recently, where BJP members were also present, and a foreign dignitary complimented me on my jacket,” Hooda said, also confirming that he started wearing the jacket after seeing Gandhi wear it.
Akshay Lakra, the NSUI’s Delhi president and member of the All India Congress Committee, said the contrast between a dark jacket and the white kurta made it an attractive proposition.
“If you look at BJP leaders like (Haryana Chief Minister) Manohar Lal Khattar, he completely follows Modi’s style. Same with Rahul Gandhi too — in Punjab, you see most politicians wear sweaters, but (chief minister) Captain Amarinder Singh wears the puffy jacket,” he said.
Although these quilted jackets can be quite affordable, various politicians fancy different brands for their style. Lakra bought a plain black quilted jacket from Woodland when his tenure began in 2017. Congress MP Deepender Singh Hooda, meanwhile, can be seen sporting an Aston Martin jacket from time to time.