Nothing marks out Jodhpur Tailors from other tailoring shops in Jaipur. But for the last fifty-five or so years, this nondescript, 300 sq ft store on Motilal Atal Marg has been tailoring bandhgalas for men of note, royal personages, and politicians from across the country. The late Bhairon Singh Shekhawat, the 11th vice president of India, was a patron, and so is PRS ‘Biki’ Oberoi, executive chairman of EIH Limited, the flagship company of The Oberoi Group. At present, its clients include Arvind Singh Mewar of Udaipur, chairman of the HRH Group of hotels, former Maharashtra tourism and FDA minister Jaykumar Rawal, and, among others, Rajasthan HC judge Ashok Kumar Gaur.
“If there is a high profile wedding, especially in Western or North India, chances are that the Indian formal wear will be tailored by us,” says Prateek Chauhan, who helms the tailoring establishment along with his father Ashok and uncle Jugal. Jodhpur Tailors’ bandhgala demographic is not restricted to men over 50. Prateek says that they recently stitched one for Lakshya Raj Singh, the younger brother of the globe-trotting 21-year-old Padmanabh Singh, the 12th titular maharaja of Jaipur.
The bandhgala is derived from the angrakha, the court outfit worn by men, and its origins can be traced to the 1600s in Jodhpur. With the arrival of the British and the consequent influence of western tailoring techniques, the garment acquired a sharper silhouette. It also became much shorter and could be worn with both pants and Jodhpuri breeches. Jawaharlal Nehru was, famously, a fan, and the garment, both the full-length bandhgala and the ‘Nehru jacket’, has always been closely associated with him. The Beatles wore variations of it and the bandhgala was favoured by the late Rajiv Gandhi as well. “Today, Narendra Modi wears it with great elan, and we get a surge of requests each time he sports one,” says Prateek.
Tried and tested
The story of the Chauhans began in Jodhpur in the 1930s when Prateek’s great-grandfather would stitch uniforms for soldiers in the maharaja’s army. His grandfather, the sartorially inclined Shankarlal Chauhan, moved the store to Jaipur in the mid-1950s, and set about creating templates for tailoring men’s garments that his descendants still follow. The Chauhans have a set of tailors they work with, but the patterns are still cut by either Ashok or Jugal. Prateek says that the store stitches over 3,000 bandhgalas a year, and a fair number of them are orders from customers across the world such as Sir Anthony Bamford, the British billionaire and owner of construction equipment manufacturer JCB.
The hunter jacket.
Over the last decade or so, the bandhgala has been offered by several designers as well as brands. Tailorman and Raymond are among them, and the designer Raghavendra Singh Rathore is often credited with reviving the classic bandhgala – and for imparting his signature twist to it. In the early years of this decade, Italian luxury brand Canali, too, tried its hand at making the bandhgala. All of this activity hasn’t impressed or impacted the Chauhans much, though. “We stick to the tried and tested. You don’t experiment much with something like the bandhgala,” says Prateek. “The alignment has to be right and the shoulders have to be ‘clean’. The best bandhgalas have a sharp silhouette and taper almost imperceptibly at the waist. The collar should have a double hook to help it stay in place and you’ll always find five buttons on our bandhgalas,” says Prateek.
Apart from classic bandhgalas, the Chauhans’ also tailor bush coats, the open collar hunter suits, achkans, and hunter jackets. Prateek says there is a lot of interest in hunter jackets, especially from youngsters in Delhi. If you happen to be in Jaipur this winter and are looking to add variety to your wardrobe, it would be a good idea to head to Jodhpur Tailors, like this writer did some years ago. The service offered by the Chauhans is unfussy and quick (be prepared to be put on a waiting list though, especially in winter), their charges are eminently affordable, and the bandhgalas impeccably tailored.
Murali K Menon works on content strategy at HaymarketSAC. Read his columns