Like many things we’ve featured on Classic American Style, the Gurkha short has military antecedents, hearkening back to the legendary Nepalese colonial military regiment. It was, for many years, the short of choice for British soldiers operating in our world’s tropical latitudes. With its high, dual strap waist band, forward pleats and wide legs, it was both stylish and functional.
In the mid 1980s, the short gained an unlikely degree of popularity on this side of the pond, with a young company called Banana Republic largely responsible for its introduction into the American sartorial zeitgeist. For some years, the J. Peterman catalogue also featured a reasonably authentic version. And recently, Tokyo-based Beams+ had a version, although it no longer appears to be part of their collection.
Today, military surplus is about the only option for those among us seeking a reasonable facsimile of the original Gurkha short. And that is how I found my pair–combing the shelves of a now defunct militariana store in my hometown.
I’m the first to admit that the Gurkha short is more classically British than American, but much of what makes up classic American style has roots in Albion. I think the Gurkha and the venerable Bermuda short are the only acceptable options for climates where even the lightest of trouser is too much fabric.