“Achkan” – its sounds so cool but wearing it is even cooler!
In the last decade, men’s ethnic fashion in India has evolved substantially. The unique feature in this paradigm shift is the fact that instead of adapting western styles of clothing, the trend with designers seems to be bent towards the more traditional forms of formal wear.
Around a decade ago, wedding wear or traditional clothing for men was either an embellished kurta or a traditional sherwani. At that point of time, concepts of the Jodhpuri suit or the Angarakha kurta or jackets etc was yet to be introduced! But slowly, these items have come into the periphery of ethnic wear for Indian men.
Take for example the achkan kurta, which looks much like the sherwani yet is entirely different! In fact, if observed closely it has a strong resemblance to menswear in Mughal courts. In fact, the achkan has its roots in Central Asia and today it has been adapted as one of the most popular forms of ethnic wear for Indian men.
An achkan, basically, is a knee-length jacket, buttoned down the centre or side. It has long sleeves and a breast pocket in the left side. The buttons run all the way down to the bottom hem from the neck line. Achkans are usually made up of light fabrics which makes them an immensely popular, smart and sleek option of weddings in summer.
The Achkan Vs The Sherwani
The biggest confusion Indian men face today is whether they should wear an achkan or a sherwani at a traditional function. This confusion is enhanced by the fact that both the attires look similar from a distance. But observed closely, an achkan and a sherwani are pretty different from eacg other no matter which point of view you use. Let us find out about the major points of difference between the achkan and the sherwani.
- The achkan is a knee-length jacket usually made of a light fabric. The sherwani is a long coat, similar to a British frock or Polish zupan.
- It is also known as baghal bandi as traditionally it always had a side opening, to be fastened with strings. The sherwani always came with a straight frontal opening.
- Usually tall and well-built men with a good physique look good in a sherwani, owing to its straight cut. In other words they can carry the outfit well. But there is no such rule when it comes to the achkan.
- Achakans come in lighter fabrics and in solid plain colors with minimal embellishments. On the other hand, sherwanis, which originated as decorative outer-coats for occasions during medieval times, come in rich fabrics like brocades, usually with embellishments such as thread work, sequin work etc.
- Usually knee length and sherwanis are longer.
- Sherwanis come is a straight cut while traditional achkans are usually flared from the waist.
A group of fashion historians opine that after the British introduced the concept of well-tailored outfits into the fashion arena of the Indian princely states, some bent towards the achkan and some chose to stick to the sherwani. The northern states that has been invaded by the Mughals before and had a history of war with them, went for the achkan.
On the other hand, the states which had been friendly with Mughals refrained from including British tailoring concepts in their fashion game and stuck to the sherwani. This may be the historical reason why the achkan and the sherwani co-existed and got popularized together, though in parallel universes.
10 Trending Achkans on Social Media
The achkan kurta is immensely popular among Indian men today and owing to the outfit’s lightness and simplicity, it can be worn on non-wedding occasions as well. These guys on Social Media have nailed it when it comes to styling their achkan kurtas.
1. A Pink Day Dream
A pink textured achkan over white cigarette pants and trendy shades – that is all one needs to look this desirable! This guy has understood the rules of the game – simplicity with swag!
2. Brooches instead of Buttons
The achkan style is primarily simple and straightforward. Enhancing that with a lot of embellishments kills the masculinity of the outfit. But this guy has played it clever. Instead of traditional buttons he has used big ones that resemble brooches. This input adds just a hint of glitz.
3. The Groom in Blue
If you want to wear an achkan on your wedding, you may go for something like this. This bright blue textured achkan looks glamorous yet bears a sense of sophistication.
4. The Royal Beige Brocade
This side-buttoned, angarakha style achkan with an uneven hem is as royal and as traditional as one can get. The beige brocade fabric just adds to the glamour quotient of the outfit. The cleverly used red pocket square adds the required touch of color. It’s an example of a well-used accessory.
5. Keeping it Casual
The achkan is a jacket after all! This guy has done just that by pairing a dark colored solid achkan with a white kurta. This layered look frames the physique really well and results in a casual but glamorous style.
6. Going Vintage
If you can carry it, you might want to drift back to a style of the bygone days. This achkan kurta in light green and beige has been worn over a kurta with a flared hem. If you really want to wear a statement outfit for your wedding, you may go for this kind of a look.
7. The Destination Wedding Look
If you are attending an Indian destination wedding on a seaside, you may be confused about what to wear! On one hand an Indian wedding outfit demands high ethnic quotient and on the other the beach inspires you to keep it casual. You really can’t wear a sherwani or a Jodhpuri suit on such an occasion! We suggest you go for something like this. This kurta is in a light sea green color with sparsely placed motifs in a shade darker than the base color. This is casual yet traditional.
8. Achkan in Pastels
Another great outfit for a groomsman is an achkan in a light pastel shade, like this one. It has lightly embroidered floral patterns all over and has been paired well with white trousers and leather footwear, creating an Indo-western look.
9. Fused with Tradition
The guy in this blue and maroon achkan look must have a really good designer! Taking traditional cuts and styles like an achkan jacket, a flared kurta and a churidar, this unique look has been created. The solid light blue achkan has a nice dash on self-color embroidery which does not look ‘over the top’. This has been contrast paired with a dark maroon kurta and a black churidar.
10. As Royal As It Can Get
The achkan was first introduced as an outfit for the royalty and the nobility. So you just can’t go wrong with it if you sport an achkan styled with a royal flavour! This rich dark achkan has been paired with a vintage pearl necklace and a Kashmiri shawl. The look is extremely classy and stately. This can easily be your reception evening look.
The Achkan Kurta Today: Styles & Innovations
The achkan kurta may have its forefathers in the ancient Mauryan, Parthian or Central Asian Empires, but today, it has been widely embraced by men both in India and Pakistan. A few years ago, it was first adopted by the royalties of the Sikh, the Maratha and the Rajput communities.
The achkan was popular wedding wear for them mainly owing to the attire’s strong masculine vibe. The achkan kurta today breathes smartness. It is a well-tailored, well-fitted and an extremely classy and glamorous outfit. Today it is worn by Indian grooms during wedding ceremonies or other formal festive occasions.
Let us see what else makes a good achkan kurta
- Achkan kurtas are always made up of lighter fabrics which makes them ideal for summer weddings or layered looks.
- Owing to its brilliant style and cut, achkan kurtas are preferred in deep solid colors. This gives a very masculine and classy vibe. Too many embellishments don’t go with the style.
- As achkan kurtas come in deep solid and rich fabrics, it turns out to be the best attire for showcasing family heirlooms like a vintage pearl or stone necklace, finger-ring or brooch. Remember, not long ago, the achkan kurta was strictly an attire for men of royalty and nobility. To give the look a more contemporary twist, you may go for nothing but a designer watch.
- Some achkan kurtas come slightly embellished but that does not meddle with the attire’s classy appeal. Indian embroidery like like gota and badla, Swarovski crystal work, royal zari thread work, semi-precious stone work etc go well with achkans.
- Achkans originally had a side-opening with string mechanism. This style was called the baghal bandi. But achkans with frontal opening are not uncommon today.
- It was traditionally worn with a sash. The patka or dora or kamarband was wrapped around the waist to give shape and form to the entire outfit.
- The achkan kurta is worn with either a dhotior churidar. Worn with tapered trousers or cigarette pants too, they look good.
- An achkan can be worn like a kurta, buttoned all the way. It can also be carried as a jacket over a kurta by keeping the buttons open.
- The achkan kurta has counterparts all over the Indian subcontinent. It is known as daurain Nepal and Northeast India, angi in South India and chola or cholu in the Indian Himalayas.
- Designers are innovating on the achkan style with every passing day. Though traditionally it is an attire for men, women are also flaunting achkan jackets over kurtas and dresses.
Chapters in the History of the Achkan Kurta
Derived from the Angarakha
The most popular theory on the origin of the achkan kurta states that it is a derivative of the angarakha kurta. Before the British came to India, the angarakha kurta was the most popular menswear. The closure mechanism of this kind of kurta was always at one side instead of the middle.
There were strings that had to be fastened here which would bring the torso of the outfit in shape. Different versions of the angarakha kurta was popular in various regions across the subcontinent.
rajput_sardars | Get Custom Made Achkan & Sherwani
It should be mentioned here that at this time, Indians were unaware of the concept of structurally tailored clothing. It was the British who introduced tailoring techniques and concepts of fit and cut, shoulder pads etc in India. This became immensely popular among the men of the royalty, nobility and upper class. With the invention of the camera, it became necessary to appear more put-together in portraits.
Moreover, the combination of heirloom jewellery and clothes tailored in a western way proved to be attractive. The royal tailors thus started incorporating western tailoring ways to create Indian clothing. This resulted in a lot of fusion fashion and the angarakha evolved in a myriad ways, one of which was the achkan kurta.
Images and sculptures of an attire resembling the achkan kurta has been found on rocks in Iran. Ancient paintings of the Parthian Empire also show the same. In India, the earliest iconographic evidence of an achkan-like outfit has been traced to the Kushan Empire which was founded by a Central Asian nomadic tribe called Yeuzhi. The culture of the Yeuzhi Kushans was highly influenced by the Greco Parthian Kindgom. Thus, it may be said that the achkan kurta has been derived from something similar that existed in ancient Parthian culture.
Central Asian Roots
Some believe that the achkan kurta has originated in Central Asia. Something resembling an achkan used to be the court apparel among Persian & Turkish nobility. Later on, noblemen and the men of the ruling class during the rule of the Delhi Sultanate and the Mughal Empire wore achkans. In the 18th Century, the achkan was adopted by the Indian aristocracy across cultures. At that time the attire was believed to be a fusion of the Indo-Persian chapkan and chogha with the British frock.
Another very interesting, but not so popular, theory states that ancient Greek documents mention something very similar to the achkan gown-like attire being used by men and women of the Mauryan era.
Celebs and their Love for the Achkan
Bollywood royalty, Chote Nawaab Saif Ali Khan is known for his love for the achkan. He had sported it during his wedding.
Saif, is often seen in this outfit in other occasions too!
Anil Kapoor is ageing gracefully if not glamorously! He sports this smart achkan on the ramp. The gold brooch and the black shoes complement the outfit!
His nephew is not far behind when it comes to the swag!
Varun Dhawan is one celeb with a good physique and looks really handsome in this shiny powder blue achkan that he wore to the wedding reception of Sonam Kapoor and Anand Ahuja.
Ranbir Kapoor sports this black achkan with big gold buttons and a unique collar.
Just before his wedding with Deepika Padukone, Ranveer Singh was touring Switzerland in this achkan! This celeb has a
Final Word – Achkan
We are sure that you are dying to get your hands on an achkan kurta now! If you still haven’t invested in this style, we suggest you slowly collect a few achkans for your wardrobe as this is one style you can sport at any traditional or semi-traditional occasion. You can wear it all throughout the year as it is not too heavy.
Minimal embellishments make it even more versatile. In fact, in comes in different kind of cuts and can be paired as jackets too! We have a rich collection of achkans in different kinds of styles and you should definitely check out!