How would these sharp dressers from the past dress today? Designer Ravi Bajaj recreates contemporary looks for four of the most suave men of Indian vintage.
JEHANGIR RATANJI TATA (JRD)
The man with an international vision for Indian business dressed accordingly. It would be rare to come across a photograph of him clad in anything other than a suit and tie, which he wore right up to his late 80s.
The champion aviator, who founded what is now India’s national airline, Air India, was born in 1904 in Paris to the pioneering businessman Ratanji Tata and a French mother, Suzanne “Sooni” Brière. JRD spent a large part of his childhood in Paris (his first language was French); a factor that might explain much of his strict sartorial discipline.
While his father dressed like European top brass, even incorporating white ruffled shirts and collars in his wardrobe, JRD wasn’t as flamboyant. He stuck diligently to a more formal look, veering to experiment with variously coloured ties and the occasional pocket square.
THE ICON TODAY: JRD is styled in a fitted grey suit—a departure from his otherwise baggy silhouette—and a mauve tie to spruce up the tones. Bajaj also gives a brown leather attaché to the man who carried a lot on his shoulders.
Tom Ford: Mother-of- pearl cufflinks, at DLF Emporio mall, Vasant Kunj, New Delhi, Rs 1.50 lakh.
Ermenegildo Zegna: Laptop bag, at DLF Emporio mall, Vasant Kunj, New Delhi; The Taj Mahal Palace and Tower, Mumbai; Taj Krishna, Banjara Hills, Hyderabad; and UB City mall, Vittal Mallya Road, Bangalore, Rs 90,300.
He carried off fitted linen shirts and cotton trousers with panache on his impossibly tall 6’ 4” frame.
The Kobal Collection
As a film-maker who often shot in rural locations, he was dressed for the heat and grit of the outdoors, with trousers slightly rolled up and the sleeves always elbow-length, never longer.
In equal parts a salon man, he wore a crisp white kurta (long but fitted) for the indoors.
Both the linen shirt look and the kurta-pyjama were adapted for his iconic detective, Feluda, whose illustrations were done by Ray himself (Ray designed the clothes of all the characters of his movies, making painstaking character drawings).
Though he was rarely seen without a pipe, cigarette or camera in hand, his strongest accessory was his brooding intellectual look.
THE ICON TODAY: Bajaj shortens the traditional kurta length and swaps the loose pyjamas with a tapered pair for a more streamlined silhouette. While outdoors, Ray donned some sort of headgear to protect
himself from the scorching sun, which the designer envisions as a straw fedora trimmed with a rust-coloured ribbon.
Dunhill: Straw hat, at DLF Emporio mall, Vasant Kunj, New Delhi; and UB City mall, Vittal Mallya Road, Bangalore, Rs 9,999.
Dunhill: Lighter, at DLF Emporio mall, Vasant Kunj, New Delhi; and UB City mall, Vittal Mallya Road, Bangalore, Rs 32,999.
Ermenegildo Zegna: Aviators, at DLF Emporio mall, Vasant Kunj, New Delhi; The Taj Mahal Palace and Tower, Mumbai; Taj Krishna, Banjara Hills, Hyderabad; and UB City mall, Vittal Mallya Road, Bangalore, Rs 21,800.
Tom Ford: Overnight bag with trimming, at DLF Emporio mall, Vasant Kunj, New Delhi, Rs 2.5 lakh.
The first and longest-serving prime minister of India was surely a busy man, but not one to leave home without being impeccably well turned out. While Nehru wore three-piece suits to dandy perfection in his younger days as a student at Cambridge, UK, he graduated to a shorter version of the traditional subcontinental achkan soon after his return to India.
Nehru’s signature dress was purposefully simple in design, material and colour. It represented a lifestyle that was pertinent to his political milieu: a uniform for a new India.
Not too many politicos would have style trends named after them, but Nehru had the “Nehru jacket”. He had these made in stiff fabrics that lent to the sharp lines and high collars. With such defined lines for “Indian” wear, he blurred the boundaries between Indian and Western dressing. He even managed to add a touch of class to the then commonplace white topi by incorporating it in his formal wardrobe.
His original silhouette, and the ever-present red rose tucked in his buttonhole, make him one of the most memorable of Indian style icons. But his fashion sense ran far deeper. Legend has it that not only did he have his suits tailored in England, but that they were also sent there for dry-cleaning.
THE ICON TODAY: Bajaj’s Nehru wears his
trademark achkan more fitted while his pyjamas become slim-fit trousers. The designer intervenes with patent leather lace-ups instead of the leather slip-ons Nehru usually wore and suggests pocket squares as an alternative to the rose.
Tom Ford: Silk pocket square, at DLF Emporio mall, Vasant Kunj, New Delhi, Rs 7,000.
Gucci: Lace-up shoes, at DLF Emporio mall, Vasant Kunj, New Delhi; and The Galleria, Trident, Mumbai, Rs 32,000.
Bottega Veneta: Briefcase, at DLF Emporio mall, Vasant Kunj, New Delhi; The Galleria, Trident, Mumbai; and UB City mall, Vittal Mallya Road, Bangalore, Rs 2.05 lakh.
IFTIKHAR ALI KHAN PATAUDI
Born into the princely state of Pataudi, Iftikhar Ali Khan Pataudi—or IAK, as he was called by friends—carried his style on his lapel, rather literally.
He captained the Indian cricket team in the 1940s, was an accomplished billiards and hockey player, and made quite the mark with his sartorial flourishes.
His college years at Oxford, UK, and subsequent cricket career as part of the English team had a noticeable imprint on his style staples: the trench coat, the exaggerated collars and lapels, the ubiquitous scarf, and the fedora that he wore with a delicate tilt. He emphasized cuts over colour, and was usually seen in middle greys and browns.
While his son Mansur Ali Khan Pataudi (who also captained the Indian cricket team later in a rare father-son coup) is also known for his personal style, IAK was among the best that Indian cricket has seen. When he died in 1952, at the age of 41, he was at a polo game, outfitted like a star.
THE ICON TODAY: Bajaj styles the adventurous sharp dresser in beige Jodhpurs paired with a pastel shirt. Bajaj’s interventions are in the colour palette: the burnt peach scarf and violet moccasins pepper Pataudi’s otherwise muted ensemble.
Audemars Piguet: The Royal Oak Offshore Chronograph, at Kapoor
Watch Co., DLF Emporio mall, Vasant Kunj, New Delhi; and Time Avenue, Bandra (West), Mumbai, Rs 24.48 lakh.
Tom Ford: Sunglasses, at DLF Emporio mall, Vasant Kunj, New Delhi, Rs 15,750.
Canali: Cravat tie, at DLF Emporio mall, Vasant Kunj, New Delhi; UB City mall, Vittal Mallya Road, Bangalore; and Palladium, High Street Phoenix, Mumbai, Rs 21,700.
Tod’s: Moccasins, at DLF Emporio mall, Vasant Kunj, New Delhi; and The Galleria, Trident, Mumbai, Rs 25,000.
Compiled by Anindita Ghose and Seema Chowdhry; firstname.lastname@example.org