The British eventually
overwhelmed the Gurkhas through sheer numbers, and the Nepalese
were forced to settle for peace with them at the end of the
Anglo-Nepalese war. However, the British were so awed by the combat
prowess of the Gurkhas that they created the highly unusual Treaty
of Sugauli, which allows the British Army to recruit Gurkhas into
their military to this day. The modern Gurkha recruitment programme
is known for being one of the world’s most brutal, famously
including a 5km uphill run which has to be completed with 25kg of
sandbags strapped to the recruit’s head.
The Gurkha trouser was borne out
of this alliance as well - rooted in British military tradition but
modified specifically for use by the Nepalese. The pant is defined
by its double-pleated front and high, cummerbund-style waistband
with buckle fastenings. As is often the case with clothing derived
from militaria, the specifics can vary. Traditional Gurkha pants
feature a very distinct buckling system, with a buckle emanating
from within the waistband on the left hip and an extension above
the fly piece forming the buckle’s tongue for the right hip,
although modern interpretations sometimes simplify this design, to
their detriment. It’s not unheard of for Gurkha style trousers to
have a double-buckle on each hip either, though woe betide you if
you have to remove them with any semblance of haste.
It would be remiss to discuss
the Gurkha trouser without mentioning its brother the Gurkha short.
Essentially the same design but - obviously - cut as a short, it’s
as easy-wearing as its longer counterpart, and the buckle
construction makes it a surprisingly unfussy choice for summer
dressing; no belt required.
So why now for the Gurkha? Well
there are a number of good reasons, but the main one is that it’s a
bloody good trouser, and one that’s been underappreciated of late.
It’s hardy, utilitarian and exceptionally comfortable but its
design references fine tailoring throughout (that distinctive
waistband has much in common with that of the traditional ‘Oxford
bag’) and its construction lends a distinctive, romantic
silhouette. It’s also visually striking - the Gurkha doesn’t look
like any other design - which makes the ease with which it
complements so many other garments all the more surprising. This is
a trouser that one could comfortably wear on the plane, out on the
weekend or dressed as part of a smart evening or cocktail ensemble.
It pairs elegantly with a tailored blazer, and yet would feel just
as at home with a shooting jacket, a boatbuilder’s sweater, or even
It’s the design’s inherent
humility - a trait famously shared with the Gurkhas themselves -
that imparts upon it this sense of versatility. The Gurkha pant was
designed to be practical - it simply happened to be damnably
stylish along the way, and regardless of how it’s worn it will
always retain a touch of its namesake’s dauntless and adventurous