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Are Gurkha Trousers & Shorts Timeless, or Just a Trend?

CEO Tinh Phung
If you're a fashion enthusiast like us, you've probably noticed various trends in menswear over the years. From smartwatches paired with classic outfits to unique ways to style a necktie, trends are constantly emerging and...

If you're a fashion enthusiast like us, you've probably noticed various trends in menswear over the years. From smartwatches paired with classic outfits to unique ways to style a necktie, trends are constantly emerging and evolving. One clothing item that has recently gained popularity is the Gurkha trouser. But is it just another trend, or does it have timeless appeal?

Gurkha trousers were worn by men long ago. Gurkha trousers were worn by men long ago. [Image credit: The Rake+Fox Photos]

Gurkha trousers have quickly become a favorite among menswear influencers and are frequently spotted at events like Pitti Uomo. While they may have initially gained popularity in European countries, their influence has now spread worldwide.

These pants are not just a recent trend; they have a rich history. And besides their unique backstory, there are a few style details that you should keep in mind when identifying a pair of Gurkha trousers. Let's delve into these details and determine whether they have timeless staying power or if they're destined to be just another passing trend.

What is a Gurkha Trouser?

Gurkha trousers are defined by several distinct features. Firstly, they typically have pleats. Pleated trousers are not uncommon, but Gurkha trousers are distinguished by their strong double pleat. While there are variations with a single pleat or a "kissing pleat," dramatic pleating is a hallmark of Gurkha trousers.

Cotton Gurkha trousers in khaki with a double-pleated front. Cotton Gurkha trousers in khaki with a double-pleated front. [Image credit: Todd Snyder]

Above the pleats, you'll find a single or double extended waistband. This waistband can be adjusted using a buckle or buttons, or it may feature side adjusters. The wide waistband starts at the left hip and extends to the right, resembling a built-in cummerbund. It's important to ensure that the pleats of the cummerbund face upwards.

These design features contribute to a slightly more casual look, even though Gurkha trousers often have a higher rise. The high and tight waistband creates a visually elongated appearance, making the wearer appear taller. The trousers usually taper down to a narrow opening at the hem and can be styled with plain bottoms or cuffs.

Trousers are high-waisted to visually look taller. Gurkha trousers are high-waisted to visually look taller.

Gurkha shorts, which are a shorter version of the trousers, are also available. The main difference is that the shorts have a wider opening compared to the more tapered trousers. Gurkha shorts are a bold style choice and can be paired with various classic menswear items.

History of Gurkha Trousers

Like many other menswear items, Gurkha trousers have military origins. These trousers were based on the Nepalese military uniform in the Kingdom of Gurkha during the early 1800s. During the East India Trading Company conflict in 1814, the British military engaged in battle with the Nepalese army. Despite being outnumbered, the Nepalese soldiers' knowledge of the terrain proved advantageous, and they earned the respect of the British forces. Eventually, a peace treaty was signed, allowing Gurkha soldiers to join the British military.

The Kingdom of Gurkha in 1800 was where Gurkha trousers originated. The Kingdom of Gurkha in 1800 was where Gurkha trousers originated. [Image Credit: Nepali Times]

The Gurkha trouser is a fusion of British military design and Nepalese influences. The trousers were tailored to offer ease of movement with their slightly fuller cut and pleats. The high and wide waistband, resembling a cummerbund, is another element of cultural fusion. British forces stationed in the East Indies at the time adopted the local custom of wearing a sash around their waist to keep their waistbands covered. This evolved into waistcoats and eventually cummerbunds.

The side buckles on the Gurkha-style waistband were a military innovation. They allowed soldiers to secure their trousers without the need for suspenders or belts, providing control over the fit in hot and humid climates.

Gurkha shorts were actually created before trousers due to the hot climates they were designed for. The shorts were primarily worn in shades of khaki and olive drab.

Are Gurkha Pants Formal or Casual?

When it comes to the formality of Gurkha trousers, it largely depends on the fabric they are made from. Silk, linen, and cotton versions evoke a more casual summertime feel. On the other hand, opting for a thicker and heavier flannel fabric can elevate the trousers to a more formal level. The weight and properties of the fabric can also contribute to a sharper crease, adding to their formality.

How Can I Wear Gurkha Trousers?

As a separate trouser

Due to the unique details of Gurkha trousers, they are not ideal for wearing with a suit. The intricate waistband doesn't pair well with a suit jacket, as these trousers are meant to be a statement piece. They work best as part of odd jacket and trouser combinations and are particularly well-suited for warm weather outfits.

Gurkha trousers also offer the advantage of eliminating the need for belts or suspenders. The built-in fastening mechanism provides a streamlined look.

With a shorter jacket

Pairing Gurkha trousers with a shorter jacket can create a balanced look, counteracting the higher-waisted nature of the trousers. Consider jackets like a Schott leather jacket or a Harrington jacket for transitional seasons when the weather is cool but not too cold.

A turtleneck or long sleeve polo shirt works well underneath, offering a classy and relaxed combination.

With breezy shirts

Light and breezy Cuban collar shirts are an excellent choice for pairing with Gurkha trousers. These shirts add a touch of vintage style and are perfect for warmer climates. Short sleeve polo shirts and even plain t-shirts can also complement Gurkha trousers.

In hot weather, opting for a looser fit Gurkha trouser promotes airflow and keeps you feeling cool. This is particularly important if you have broader thighs.

With boots

Given their military heritage, Gurkha trousers pair well with boots. Whether you opt for dressier derbies or wingtips or go for a more rugged and utilitarian look with military-style boots, these trousers offer a range of footwear options.

With sneakers

For a more relaxed look, leather sneakers are a great choice. Pairing Gurkha trousers with canvas sneakers can create a casual and summery vibe. When selecting dress sneakers, it's important to remember that they differ from gym shoes.

Gurkha shorts, on the other hand, are suitable for warm climates and should be worn with classic menswear pieces. They are a versatile choice that can be paired with various shirts, including printed shirts, for a more laid-back aesthetic.

How Should I Not Wear Gurkha Trousers?

With dress shoes

While Gurkha trousers can be styled with loafers or canvas sneakers, they don't pair well with dress socks. Opting for dress socks with Gurkha shorts is considered a fashion faux pas. Additionally, flip-flops are best left at home.

When wearing Gurkha trousers, it's essential to consider fit. These trousers can be tricky to get right, and finding the perfect fit is key. Avoid trousers that are too baggy or too tight to ensure a flattering look. Adding a cuff to the bottom of pleated pants can help them drape nicely and provide visual weight.

Timeless or Trend?

So, are Gurkha trousers a timeless piece or just a passing trend? After considering their rich history and enduring design, we believe Gurkha trousers have timeless appeal. While they may currently be trending, they are not a new invention but rather a resurgence in popularity. Their unique features and distinctive style have stood the test of time.

Recommended Brands

If you're inspired to explore Gurkha trousers further, here are some brands we recommend:

  • J. Peterman
  • Studio suits
  • Grand Le Mar
  • Craftsman Clothing

For a price range above these, consider brands like Todd Snyder, Lucan Fashion, and Rubinacci. Singapore tailoring houses such as Yeossal and Callaro also offer Gurkha trousers, as they are popular in that region.

These are just a few of the many brands available, but we hope this list serves as a starting point. If you know of any other reputable brands or have your own styling tips for Gurkha trousers, please share them in the comments below!

Outfit Rundown: In today's outfit, Raphael embraces the workwear and military nature of Gurkha trousers. He pairs them with a brown tweed Spier & MacKay overshirt and a light gray Spier & MacKay button-down collar polo shirt. The Gurkha trousers are from J. Peterman and feature a robust twill material. Wolverine 1000-Mile boots complete the ensemble, honoring the trousers' military heritage. Raphael accessorizes with a Tudor GMT Pepsi watch and blue cotton socks from Fort Belvedere.

Original Article: Gentleman's Gazette