Madras Madness

PRL Pink Plaid Close up

Summer is now in full swing and I thought it was time for a madras post. The word madras conjures up images of lightweight cotton shirts woven in brightly colored plaids. However, it is not the type of plaid (or plaid at all) or the use of primary colors that makes a shirt an authentic madras, but rather where the shirt was produced. Madras are named for the region (now Chennai, India) where they were originally handspun. The cotton used to create madras cloth is very light weight and breathes well making it the perfect choice for hot weather. The plaid patterns associated with madras are said to be an influence left by the Scottish after their occupation of southern India during the 1800’s. I am not sure how strictly the term madras is enforced when applying it to clothing, but if I had to guess I would say that it is not very strict.

PRLMadras2.jpgPRL Madras

PRL Pink Plaid Close upI picked up four madras shirts last year. I thought that my “uniform” could use a little color since I would be without my sweaters during the summer. I purchased three brightly colored madras shirts and one not-as-bright in blue plaid. I even went wild and got a madras “fun shirt” (more on fun shirts from Heavy Tweed Jacket). They have turned a few heads as my co-workers and the familiar strangers that I encounter on a daily basis are used to my blue OCBDs. I have to admit that this makes them kind of fun.

PRL Madras Fun shirt 2PRL “Fun shirt”

PRL Fun ShirtPRL “Fun Shirt”Fun shirt part 1

Fun Shirt Part 2

Two of my madras shirts are Polo Ralph Lauren (PRL). I generally avoid wearing shirts with icons (so I generally avoid PRL) which is why I was so excited when I found these. Not only is the emblem absent on these shirts, but they also feature the highly desirable flap pocket. To top it off they were made in India which adds to their authenticity. I purchased one in a traditional pink plaid and the other features multiple summer plaids placed together “fun shirt” style. I have received quite a few compliments on the pink shirt. I have yet to wear the “fun shirt”. It could end up being a vacation shirt. Not only does it draw more attention that I am used to, but I have not had it altered yet.  Being that these are sports shirts and are not sized in the neck and sleeve length they needed a trip to the tailor.

J.Crew MadrasJ.Crew Madras

J.Crew Madras Close-upThe other two shirts are J.Crew.  While I have not found J.Crew shirts to be the best choice for office attire I do think that they make great casual wear. The two madras shirts that I picked up from them will actually work for both.  I found a blue/green plaid one which is great for when I don’t to be so loud.  It has a nice picnic vibe and a flap pocket. The other madras has a plaid that features hot pink and lime green. However, the colors do not look nearly as bold as they sound. The rest of the plaid pattern calms these colors and it creates a very nice plaid in my opinion.  These two were sports shirts as well and I had to have the sleeves shortened.

J.Crew Madras BlueJ. Crew Madras

J.Crew Madras Blue upcloseThe madras that I purchased last year have already came in handy this summer. My casual Friday’s have been a bit more colorful and the hot weather has not been quite as hot. I would have to say that the J.Crew madras have been my favorite. This is mostly due to fit. I purchased a medium (in dress shirts I am a 14.5/32) in all four shirts, but the j.Crew has more room in the shoulders. Although, I am not sure that these shirts can be considered authentic madras, but they are colorful and cool which is probably more important. With all that being said, let madras madness begin!

oxford cloth button down
Jerrod Swanton is a simple man interested in simple, classic, and traditional style.

2 Comments on "Madras Madness"

  1. LIn says:

    In the early 70’s everyone wanted madras that was guaranteed to “run”, the colors would run into each other and then gracefully fade. I had lots, mostly blue, and I liked it a lot!

  2. Acton Baby says:

    Madras is a great summer fabric and, like you pointed out,a great way to freak-out your workmates who may be used to your normaly sober wardrobe.
    My hunt for vintage ‘Bleeding Madras’ has become a bit of an obsession, but I have made a few great finds over the years.
    Orvis currently have a ‘tea stained madras’ which is very tasty and on sale.

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