The Twelve Days of Christmas at Clothworkers’: Lord John Jacket


Furniture, Textiles & Fashion
January 4, 2018

According to “The Twelve Days of Christmas,”

On the tenth day of Christmas, my true love sent to me,
Ten Lords a-leaping,
Nine Ladies dancing,
Eight maids a-milking,
Seven swans a-swimming,
Six geese a-laying,
Five gold rings,
Four calling birds,
Three French hens,
Two turtle doves,
And a partridge in a pear tree.

The jacket pictured below was made by a British menswear company called Lord John in 1967.

Nehru style jacket, characterised by the stand collar and long line cut. This jacket is made from a synthetic woven brocade fabric, with a yellow ground and floral motif in blue, pink and green. The jacket buttons from neck to waist with four self-covered buttons.
Lord John jacket T.25-2014, given to the Museum by Peter Davies, © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

This garment is worlds away from the jackets that Western men were wearing earlier on in the twentieth century. These jackets had been characterised by simple, dark, matte fabrics, and lapels. Lord John chose a synthetic woven brocade material which resembles silk. It has a yellow ground and a floral design in blue, pink, and green. And lapels have been replaced by a standing collar. This kind of collar is also known as a Mandarin collar, because the style was worn by Mandarins (officials in the top nine grades of the former imperial Chinese civil service). The jacket also stands out from earlier equivalents due to its self-covered buttons and long line cut. This garment’s cut, along with its collar and row of buttons from neck to waist, make it a Nehru jacket. Interestingly, although the Nehru jacket got its name from Jawaharlal Nehru, the Prime Minister of India from 1947 to 1964 who wore an Indian sherwani (similar to a Nehru jacket but longer), this man didn’t actually wear Nehru jackets.

This Lord John jacket may stand out from what Western men had been wearing prior to the 1960s, but it’s fairly typical of its time. The Western world was experiencing a post-war economic boom and young people with money to spend were eager to shop. These customers craved variety and rebellion, due, presumably, to both their age and the mood of the decade, which can be understood as a reaction against the famously straight-laced 1950s. Therefore the 1960s saw a wide variety of popular styles and crazes, many of which were arrestingly non-traditional, as well as relatively inexpensive. Examples include mini skirts, paper dresses, and Yves Saint Laurent’s le smoking (a tuxedo for women), and for men, psychedelic shirts and Nehru jackets.

Lord John, run by brothers Warren, Harold, and David Gold, was one of the companies central to this sartorial revolution, specifically the Peacock Revolution—a term used to describe the exuberant taste of many men in the 1960s. London was at the heart the rebellion, and it was here, on Soho’s happening Carnaby Street, that Lord John opened its first shop in 1963. The company soon ran into trouble when influential designer John Stephen, “The King of Carnaby Street,” sued Lord John for passing off. Nevertheless, Lord John thrived in the 1960s and 1970s, selling a range of unconventional garments to men who embraced the ethe of the “Swinging Sixties” and the bohemian seventies.

 

If you’re interested in making an appointment to view textiles and fashion objects at the Clothworkers’ Centre, please email clothworkers@vam.ac.uk.

 

The Clothworkers' Centre

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