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A Short Read on Gurkha Shorts

Military-inspired garb is a well-established element of the modern wardrobe. Items such as fatigue pants, peacoats, and just about anything camo, are just a few examples of how past conflicts have ironically bred clothing we’ve come to covet and celebrate today.One item you may not be familiar with, however, is the Gurkha Short. Named after a group of reputably fierce Nepalese soldiers, the Gurkha short has been meandering in and out of fashion since the 1970s. So, if you’re yet to be acquainted the Gurkhas and their pleated, wide fitting shorts, allow us here at Heddels to break the ice.

Who are the Gurkhas?

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Gurkha shorts on Gurkha forces. Image via Street x Sprezza.

The Gurkhas, or ‘Gorkhas’, are Nepalese soldiers who have been enlisted by a variety of military authorities, most notably the British Indian army between 1857 and 1947. The Gurkhas were first an enemy of the British empire in the Anglo-Nepalese War from 1814 to 1816. But the British were so impressed by the Gurkhas ferocity and resilience that after winning this war, the British created the Treaty of Sugauli in 1816, allowing them to enlist Nepalese citizens to fight for the British Army.

Known for their courage, loyalty, and ability to adapt to almost any condition, the Gurkhas were deployed in numerous war zones across the globe and were instrumental in many allied military operations during the first and second world wars.

What are Gurkha Shorts?

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Image via Rakuten

The Gurkhas had their own uniforms, one of the most iconic pieces being their short pants, which were later adopted by the regular British army in hot climates.

The Gurkha Short itself is a high-waisted, barrel-legged short with multiple pleats and an adjustable belted waistband. Traditionally constructed from a tan-coloured cotton twill, the wide fit and pleated construction allow for improved airflow and ease of movement whilst fighting in the unrelenting conditions of North Africa, Syria, Singapore, and Burma. And as well as providing comfort, the adjustable waistband made sure the Gurkha short would continue to fit through any weight loss that may have occurred during long missions in harsh climates or sparse rations.

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Vintage Banana Republic Gurkha Short advert via Pinterest

After gaining prestige as a utilitarian garment, the Gurkha Short resonated with civilians and off-duty servicemen alike in the 1940s and 50s, but it would be a few more decades before the Gurkha short came into fashion again.

Before their mainstream takeover, American outfitters Banana Republic are noted for being instrumental in the success of the Gurkha Short in the 80s, an era which saw the unique buckled-short appear in casual and outdoor menswear catalogues alike.

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Images via Street x Sprezza

Gurkha Shorts on the Market Today

J. Peterman Gurkha Short

Although many contemporary brands will market any pleated short as a Gurkha Short – this effort by J. Peterman features a highly traditional design. Armed with a generously full leg, double pleats and buckled adjustable waistband, the J. Peterman Gurkha Short is constructed from washed-down cotton in a dark khaki colorway.

$79 at J. Peterman.

Military Surplus U.K. Gurkha Shorts

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Gurkhas Shorts are also available on a surplus basis from good military clothing retailers. This particular pair from Online Militaria is a reproduction of late-forties Gurkha Shorts, made from a durable khaki cotton drill. They feature a crossover front waistband with dual side buckles and numerous pronounced pleats.

Available for $38 from Online Militaria.

Monitaly Gurkha Shorts

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Stepping away from the traditional buckled waistband, Monitaly’s Gurkha shorts feature decorative drawstrings on either side of the hip. Constructed from an exclusive water-resistant poplin produced by Vancloth & Sons, these shorts also break the standard Gurkha Short formula have a low rise and a zipper fly. However, they’re still finished with the classic front pleats and military-standard melamine buttons for good measure.

Take a closer look over at Monitaly.