The last Nizam of Hyderabad wearing a sherwani; all the men accompanying him in the picture except the one in a cream coloured garment to his right wear sherwani of differing styles.

Sherwani is a long-sleeved outer coat worn by men in South Asia. Like the Western frock coat, it is fitted, with some waist suppression; it falls to below the knees and is buttoned down the front. It can be collarless, have a shirt-style collar, or a stand-up collar in the style of the Mandarin collar.[1] It evolved in the Indian subcontinent in the 19th-century as a result of the outer garment of the late Mughal period, the angarkha—itself evolved from the Persian cape, balaba—being given a western style with a button-down front.[2]


The name of the attire is plausibly derived from Shirvan or Sherwan, a region of present-day Azerbaijan, due to the folk dress of that area (Chokha) which resembles the sherwani. Therefore, the garment may also be a Mughalized derivative of the Caucasian dress due to the ethnocultural linkages of Turco-Persian affinity during the Middle Ages.[3]


The founders of Aligarh movement wearing sherwani, Nawab Mohsin ul Mulk (left), Sir Syed Ahmed Khan (centre), Justice Syed Mahmood (right).

The sherwani originated in the 18th century in South Asia, before being more generally adopted in the late 19th century. It was originally associated with Muslim aristocracy during the period of British rule.[4] According to Emma Tarlo, the sherwani evolved from a Persian cape (balaba or chapkan), which was gradually given a more Indian form (angarkha), and finally developed into the sherwani, with buttons down the front, following European fashion.[5] It originated in 19th century British India as the European style court dress of regional Mughal nobles and royals of northern India,[4] before being more generally adopted in the late 19th century. It appeared first at Lucknow in the 1820s.[6] It was gradually adopted by the rest of the royalty and aristocracy of the Indian subcontinent, and later by the general population, as a more evolved form of occasional traditional attire.


Nawab of Bahawalpur in various styles of sherwani

The sherwani evolved from a Persian cape (balaba or chapkan) and was developed into the sherwani, with buttons down the front, following European fashion.[5][6]


The sherwani is now famous as a wedding outfit, and it has always been popular as an outfit which can be worn on formal occasions.[7] The sherwani signified the dignity and etiquette of the nobility, and it used to be the court dress of the nobles of Turkish and Persian origin. It is the national dress of Pakistan for men. A sherwani carries a regal feel.[8]


Main article: Achkan

In India, the achkan has been generally worn, which is much shorter than the sherwani. The achkan was worn on formal occasions in winter, especially by those from Rajasthan, Punjab, Delhi, Jammu, Uttar Pradesh and Hyderabad.[9] The achkan is generally associated with the Hindus while the sherwani was historically and is still favored by Muslims.[10] The two garments have significant similarities, though sherwanis typically are more flared at the hips and achkans are lengthier than simple sherwanis. The achkan later evolved into the Nehru Jacket, which is now popular in India.[11] In India, the achkan or sherwani is generally worn in combination with the churidar as the lower garment.[12]


A Bangladeshi Bengali Muslim groom in traditional Sherwani

In Bangladesh, the sherwani is worn by people on formal occasions such as weddings and Eid.


Jinnah (right) addressing the Constituent Assembly on 14 August 1947, wearing a sherwani.

After the independence of Pakistan, Muhammad Ali Jinnah frequently wore the sherwani.[14] Following him, most people and government officials in Pakistan such as the President and Prime Minister started to wear the formal black sherwani over the shalwar kameez on state occasions and national holidays.[15] General Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq made it compulsory for all officers to wear sherwani on state occasions and national holidays.[citation needed]

Sri Lanka

In Sri Lanka, Sherwani was generally worn as the formal uniform of Mudaliyars and early Tamil legislators during the British colonial period.

Modern sherwanis

Sherwanis are mostly worn in Pakistan, India and Bangladesh.[16]: 571  These garments usually feature detailed embroidery or patterns. One major difference between sherwani-wearing habits is the choice of lower garment: while in India it is mainly worn with churidars or pyjamas, in Pakistan and Bangladesh it is mainly worn with a shalwar.

Pakistani journalist, filmmaker and activist, Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy appeared in sherwani when she won the Academy Award for Best Documentary Short Film in 2012 and 2015.[17][18][19][20][21]

See also


  1. ^ Tarlo, Emma (1996), Clothing Matters: Dress and Identity in India, University of Chicago Press, p. xii, ISBN 9780226789767, Glossary: Sherwani Men's long coat, usually collarless
  2. ^ Tarlo, Emma (1996), Clothing Matters: Dress and Identity in India, University of Chicago Press, p. 47, ISBN 9780226789767, The historian Abdul Halim Sharar ... shows how the Persian cape (balaba, chapkan) was gradually given a more Indian form (angarkha), and finally developed into the sherwani which had buttons down the front, following European fashion. In the early stages wealthy men's robes were made from the luxury fabrics of muslin and silk and often embroidered. But as they became more Europeanised, they became increasingly like the Englishman's frock coat, made from heavy dull material with less ornamentation and given tight sleeves. Some men added a white shirt collar to the sherwani to complete the look.
  3. ^ "Sherwani | Meaning of Sherwani by Lexico". 22 December 2019. Archived from the original on 22 December 2019. Retrieved 30 October 2022.
  4. ^ a b Jhala, Angma Dey (6 October 2015). Royal Patronage, Power and Aesthetics in Princely India. Routledge. ISBN 978-1-317-31657-2.
  5. ^ a b Tarlo, Emma (1996). Clothing Matters: Dress and Identity in India. Hurst. ISBN 978-1-85065-176-5.
  6. ^ a b The Social Life of Things: Commodities in Cultural Perspective. Cambridge University Press. 29 January 1988. ISBN 978-1-107-39297-7.
  7. ^ "The Traditional Dress: Sherwani". RiciMelion. Retrieved 27 July 2021.
  8. ^ "What is a Sherwani?". Retrieved 27 July 2021.
  9. ^ "Shifting Sands: Costume in Rajasthan".
  10. ^ Langkjær, Michael Alexander (2014). "From Cool to Un-cool to Re-cool: Nehru and Mao tunics in the sixties and post-sixties West". Global Textile Encounters, ed. Marie-Louise Nosch, Zhao Feng, and Lotika Varadarajan. Ancient Textiles Series, Vol. 20, Pp. 227-236: 227 – via
  11. ^ "Nehru's style statement".
  12. ^ Altogether book. Vikas Publishing House. ISBN 978-93-259-7971-0.
  13. ^ "Nehru's style statement".
  14. ^ Ahmed, Akbar S. (1997). Jinnah, Pakistan and Islamic Identity: The Search for Saladin. Psychology Press. pp. 99–. ISBN 978-0-415-14966-2.
  15. ^ "The Traditional Dress: Sherwani". RiciMelion. Retrieved 8 August 2021.
  16. ^ Marcus, Lauren (1 December 2013). "Sources: Encyclopedia of National Dress: Traditional Clothing Around the World". Reference & User Services Quarterly. 53 (2): 197–198. doi:10.5860/rusq.53n2.197c. ISSN 1094-9054.
  17. ^ "Pakistan's Oscar triumph for acid attack film Saving Face". BBC News. Nosheen Abbas. Retrieved 28 December 2014.
  18. ^ "Oscar-winning Pakistani Filmmaker Inspired by Canada".
  19. ^ Clark, Alex (14 February 2016). "The case of Saba Qaiser and the film-maker determined to put an end to 'honour' killings". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 18 February 2016.
  20. ^ "Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy is Pakistan's First Oscar Nominee". 24 January 2012. Retrieved 24 January 2011.
  21. ^ "Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy fights to end honour killings with her film A Girl in the River". Retrieved 18 February 2016.