The Nehru jacket is a hip-length tailored coat for men or women, with a stand-up or "mandarin" collar, and modeled on the South Asian achkan or sherwani, an apparel worn by Jawaharlal Nehru, the Prime Minister of India from 1947 to 1964. However, unlike the achkan, which falls somewhere below the knees of the wearer, the Nehru jacket is not only shorter, but also, in all respects other than the collar, resembles the suit jacket.
The apparel was created in India in the 1940s as Band Gale Ka Coat (Hindi/Urdu: "Closed Neck Coat") and has been popular on the subcontinent since, especially as the top half of a suit worn on formal occasions. It began to be marketed as the Nehru jacket in the West in the mid-1960s; it was briefly popular there in the late 1960s and early 1970s, its popularity spurred by growing awareness of foreign cultures, by the minimalism of the Mod lifestyle, and, in particular, by the Monkees and the Beatles, who popularized the garment.
- The Beatles wore Nehru jackets for their famous Shea Stadium performance of 1965.
- Johnny Carson was commissioned to wear Nehru jackets on his show during the mid-1970s, in the hopes of making them popular again. His wearing one in 1966, launched the Johnny Carson brand of mens apparel manufactured by Hart Schaffner & Marx.
- A popular costume for James Bond villains. Dr. No, the first Bond villain, wears a Nehru jacket in the film of the same name. Kamal Khan also wears several Nehru jackets in Octopussy. In Tomorrow Never Dies, Elliot Carver wears the same black Nehru Jacket throughout the movie, as does Moonraker's Hugo Drax. However, Bond's arch-enemy, SPECTRE chieftain Ernst Stavro Blofeld, wears a Mao jacket in You Only Live Twice and Diamonds Are Forever.
- The villain Dr. Evil, from the action-comedy series Austin Powers, wears Nehru jackets in a spoof and nod to Dr. No of the Bond films.
- Khan Noonien Singh wears a Nehru jacket to the formal dinner on the Starship Enterprise in the Star Trek episode "Space Seed".
- No doubt because of its association with sophisticated villainy, the Doctor's arch enemy the Master in Doctor Who is often to be seen wearing a black Nehru jacket in his earliest appearances (starting with Terror of the Autons).
- Sammy Davis Jr. claimed to have over 200 Nehru jackets.
- Paul Merton a comedian famed for his unusual dress sense has worn a Nehru Jacket on Room 101.
- Dr Mahathir, the former prime minister of Malaysia, is well known for his signature Nehru jackets.
- Homi K. Bhabha often wears Nehru jackets; his shirts also often have Nehru collars despite being paired with a western-style suit.
- Televangelist Benny Hinn often wears a Nehru jacket.
- Theologian Francis Schaeffer was well-known in his later years for combining a Nehru jacket with knickers.
- Steven Seagal wears Nehru jackets, as well as a variety of other Asiatic styles.
- "Weird Al" Yankovic is wearing a Nehru jacket in the afterlife in his song "Everything you Know is Wrong" found on the album Bad Hair Day. Consequently, he receives a room next to a noisy ice machine.
- In the popular Harry Potter movies, Severus Snape (played by Alan Rickman) is almost always shown wearing a black Nehru Jacket-like cloak. In the books, it is assumed that he wears simple black robes.
- Rajendra Pachauri, head of the Intergovernmental Panel of Climate Change, wore one in the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony.
- The British television series UFO features the Nehru Jacket as a staple fashion item of the future (1980).