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Jinnah as a fashion icon

Jinnah’s taste and sense of style made him one of the most well-dressed and sophisticated men in the world.

Quaid e Azam, Mohammad Ali Jinnah’s achievement as the founder of Pakistan has dominated his reputation in a public life spanning 42 years. But his multidimensional personality led him to play several roles with distinction: one of the brightest legal luminaries India, an ambassador of Hindu-Muslim unity, a distinguished parliamentarian and constitutionalist, an indefatigable freedom-fighter, a dynamic Muslim leader, a political strategist and, of course, one of the great nation-builders of modern times.

Little wonder then that so much less has been written about his personal life which is interesting in its own right. His taste and sense of style made him one of the most well-dressed and sophisticated men in the world.

The youngest Indian to graduate from Lincoln’s Inn, Jinnah became the first Muslim barrister in Bombay after returning to India from England in 1896. Unlike, Sir Syed Ahmad Khan, he secured himself financially and his lifestyle resembled that of an upper-class English professional.

Jinnah had a fine taste for homes and extravagant décor and owned three houses: one in Hampstead, one of the posh areas of London, one on Malabar hill in Bombay and another at Aurangzeb road in New Delhi, designed by Edwin Lutyens, a renowned architect at the time.

When at his London home, he would hire an English staff to serve him including an English chauffer, who drove his Bentley. He always had two cooks, an Indian and an Irish. Jinnah’s favorite food was curry and rice. He always smoked his favorite Craven A cigarettes, one of the finest and the most expensive, at the time. His wealth gave him independence, which in turn, enabled him to speak his mind.

Clearly a very attractive man, he prided himself for his appearance. He was said to never wear the same silk tie again and had nearly 200 tailored suits in his wardrobe. His clothes made him one of the best-dressed men in the world, rivaled in India, perhaps only by Motilal Nehru. Jinnah’s daughter Dina called her father a “dandy”. His tall, lean physique and his liking for good clothes enabled him to wear clothes with flair, confidence and conviction.

With his monocle, clipped accent and Saville Row suit, Jinnah was the perfect upper class gentleman of his day. His mimicry of the upper class Englishmen in India was so accurate, it made the English uncomfortable. Wearing Western clothes among the Indian elite at that time was not unusual; however what made Jinnah unusual was the authenticity and exaggeration of his aristocratic appearance, which consistently transitioned with time.

By the late 1930’s, Jinnah had adopted the local dress, although he did not entirely give up his Western clothes. For a headdress he opted for a karakuli cap, instead of a fez or turban, since the latter reflected the tradition followed by an older generation. Jinnah had an instinct for choosing the right clothes to make a cultural and a political statement. With this shift in his attire, he created a modern Muslim identity.

When Pakistan was created, he stopped wearing the chooridar or tight pyjamas worn in UP and Delhi, and adopted the loose-fitting shalwar. He still wore his western clothes with a karakuli, as is depicted in many of his official pictures after the 1940s. His clothes suggested a Muslim identity, that was proud of its past and yet at ease with the cataclysmic changes in modern Indian society.

Jinnah was adored by women for his distinguished yet classic fashion sense. After meeting him at the viceroy’s dinner in Simla, a British general’s wife wrote to her mother in England: “After dinner, I had Mr Jinnah to talk to. He has a great personality. He talks the most beautiful English. He models his clothes and his manners on Du Maurier, the actor, and his English on Burke’s speeches. I have always wanted to meet him and now I had my wish.”

His ‘beautiful English’ could be attributed to the keen interest he took during his adolescent years in reading Shakespeare and being an actor. His sister frequently recounted his love for reading Shakespeare to the family after dinner at his residence in Karachi. He was also offered to work with a theatrical company as a student in London in 1893, but refused to join since he always fancied being a barrister and for his inclination towards politics.

Published in The Express Tribune, November 14th, 2010.

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17 Responses to "Jinnah as a fashion icon"

  1. Fellow-Pakistani United States Unknow Browser Unknow Os says:

    Thank God. Jinnah did not have taste like Gandhi. Defined in words of P.M. Churchill:
    “Half naked Fakeer of India”.

  2. Pankaj India Unknow Browser Unknow Os says:

    That Naked Fakeer Gandhi is still remembered for his work and Quoted extensively.

    No less than Albert Einstien ,Martin Luther king to Nelson Mandela to President Obama have all praised that Naked fakeer

    Churchil was anti India He didnt want Independence for India .To hell with him

    If you want to compare looks and tastes compare Jinnah with Nehru who was all smart ,sauve and royale ; charming MR and Mrs Mount batten and then Mr Radcliffe too fell prey to his charms and did our bidding

  3. ramesh Bahrain Unknow Browser Unknow Os says:

    jinah was aperfect ”gora’ trapped in indian environment.he had once taken a british passport,cared very less for his religion,only played the muslim act to charm the muslims to create his pakistan ,many muslims saw through him.ahmadis sided with him and are repenting today.

  4. Samachar United States Unknow Browser Unknow Os says:

    I would have thought that Jinnah’s sartorial splendor was one thing we could all agree upon without acrimony. He did know how to dress well, and he did pay attention to such matters.

  5. Feroz Khan Canada Unknow Browser Unknow Os says:

    Can anyone tell what brand of cigars Jinnah smoked and the scotch he drank?

    Didn’t Jinnah’s father prevented him from being an actor?

    ciao

  6. YLH Reserved Unknow Browser Unknow Os says:

    Craven A Virginia Cigarettes. Not sure about the scotch.

    He smoked Cuban cigars though.

  7. Rafiq Mian Saudi Arabia Unknow Browser Unknow Os says:

    Why are we all so stressed up and uncivil. Is it the times or is it us? We do not earn anybody’s respect by being demeaning to their kind. As a matter of fact, to an eyeing mind, we appear silly and distasteful. My apologies for my French.

    I am and shall remain an admirer of Jinnah. He was a a great human being, true leader and deserved the accolade this article grants unto him. Having said that, I value and respect Nehru and Gandhi as well. They were all supreme in their own right.

    But, is that what we are going to live by?

    Look at us?

    No sensible individual out there considers us worthy of a second look.

  8. Chote Miyan United States Unknow Browser Unknow Os says:

    I didn’t like his shoes though, the multicolored ones.

  9. Fellow-Pakistani United States Unknow Browser Unknow Os says:

    To Hindus:
    Jinnah MARRIED a young beautiful lady.
    Gandhi SLEPT with young nieces WITHOUT MARRYING THEM.

    See the difference between tastes of two!

  10. no-communal United States Unknow Browser Unknow Os says:

    Yeah, do you see the difference between you and others? Between secatrian, bigoted, blabbermouth and decent?

  11. no-communal United States Unknow Browser Unknow Os says:

    Between *sectarian*, bigoted, blabbermouth and decent?

  12. asad Pakistan Mozilla Firefox Windows says:

    @Fellow-Pakistani:
    My friend but you don’t have even the idea of the whole notion behind sleeping with young nieces, He slept, but never had any sexual relationship with anyone, it was a practice which he did to purify he soul, to abstain himself from any earthly impurity and that why he was termed “Mahatama”
    Infact, he was such a great promoter of Hindu-Muslim Unity and by the way he was killed just because he voiced for the rights of the Muslims.

  13. Caroline United States Mozilla Firefox Windows says:

    Boys,, Boys, Boys! Lets not let this discussion slide into one of a sexual nature! It is about Jinnah’s wardrobe! You know how easily things can get out of hand here on PTH! LOL!

  14. Junaid Ansari United States Mozilla Firefox Windows says:

    It was disgusting to read Jinnah’s lifestyle. Shame on such leaders and writers. A bad article. Writer to praise Jinnah for his lifestyle serves nothing. It makes him look worse. The greatest leaders are those who live simply. For writer to say, “By the late 1930’s, Jinnah had adopted the local dress…” As far a I know, he started wearing Pakistani dress in 1940 to come across as genuine Muslim.

  15. MARK Pakistan Google Chrome Windows says:

    what is the brand of his shoes?

  16. Fahad United Kingdom Google Chrome Windows says:

    @MARK

    Probably had them made bespoke, as he did his suits. Probably from London. There are a few shops in central London dating back to the 19th century, so probably from there.

  17. just an opinion Pakistan Mozilla Firefox Windows says:

    Clothing does not define a man. It defines a culture. A man can wear a dhoti and still be an amazing person just like a man with a smart suit. The article was about Jinnah’s choice of clothing not the kind of person he or Gandhi was. Its high time we stop defining man by the cloth he chooses himself to cover up with and start looking at what is within.

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