Something that must be noted is that the term “Mandarin collar” is already a uniquely Western notion – the word “Mandarin”, derived from the Portuguese term Mandarim, is a Western term used to describe the 官 bureaucrat scholar from the government of Imperial China. More specifically, this Western notion of the “Mandarin collar” is most often understood to have been penned by the Portuguese travelers during the Qing dynasty, although the original concept of the Chinese stand-up collar can be traced back to Manchurian traditions and the fall of the Han Ming Empire. After the Qing Empire defeated the Ming Empire, Han traditions (including clothing) were largely outlawed, and Qing styles, such as the Mandarin tunic and collar were popularised. The Mandarin collar also made a comeback in China in the 1900s when the Communist Party came into power and discouraged the use of Western-style suits as it symbolised Western capitalist notions.
Popular Uses of the Mandarin Collar
Mandarin collars have seen its popularity wax and wane throughout the course of the history of popular fashion, and the use of Mandarin collars have shifted back and forth from being used both for formal uniform wear and more casual styles.
The British army became one of the first commercial users of Mandarin collars outside of China when they implemented the style onto their military uniforms. Although the ways in which the popularity of the Mandarin collar-style military uniforms spread are still widely questioned, many other military organisations soon followed suit, including the French, Russian, and the current U.S. army.
Since then, there has been a shift from using Mandarin collars for jackets to using them for more casual shirts. Interestingly enough however; Mandarin collared jackets are still very often worn by villains in popular film (think: James Bond’s nemesis in Dr. No, or the uniform of the Empire’s officers in the Star Wars films). This is presumably because of its lingering historical connections to formal military wear and its inevitable connotations with negative concepts such as imperialism and colonialism. On a lighter note, Mandarin suits, more popularly known as Nehru suits (more information on this in the next section), also enjoyed widespread popularity through the rise of Mod style and rock and roll in the 1960s and 1970s, most notably through the Beatles.
Extensions and Adaptations of the Mandarin Collar
The Mandarin collar is not a singular style – as is common in fashion, there have been many adaptations and extensions of the style. One of the most common adaptations of the Mandarin collar is the Nehru jacket, popularised by none other than the first Prime Minister of India, Jawaharlal Nehru. Although historical research reveals that rounded collars very similar to the Mandarin collar/Nehru jacket collar were worn by historical figures such as Mughal emperors, the Band Gale Ka Coat (“Closed Neck Coat”) truly faced a boom in popularity in the mid-1900s.
Other adaptations of the Mandarin collar include the banded collar and the grandfather collar. Both are only slight variations on the Mandarin collar. Band collars simply point to a lack of collar, as they originated with the invention of the detachable shirt and collar in early 1800s Europe. On the contrary, the grandfather collar is essentially a Mandarin collar with a button. The grandfather collar also traces its roots back to the British Industrial age instead of the Manchurian styles of the Qing dynasty.
Introducing: The Mandar Shirt
New to our range – The Mandar Shirt is a modern take on such traditional Mandarin collar shirts. We’ve kept the traditional streamlined silhouette, but made it looser and more breathable in order to cater to more modern needs. Not only have we stayed faithful to the traditional collar, we’ve also incorporated traditional dye techniques into this new style. Available in handloom natural, indigo, and indigo stripe, the Mandar Shirts are handspun and handwoven in khadi cotton and dyed naturally using the indigo plant.
Explore The Mandar Shirt here.