Archive for August, 2023

End-On-End Madras by HTJ

This is a re-post from the now defunct and my favorite trad blog ever, Heavy Tweed Jacket (HTJ). I stumbled on this old blog post as I was researching the fabric of old end-on-end shirt that I have. In this post from May 2013 HTJ goes in depth on his favorite summer fabric, end-on-end Madras. He touches on all the reasons that I like end-on-end fabrics in the summer, introduces a term that I was not familiar with (end-on-end madras), and of course takes us down memory lane. Buckle you seatbelt and prepare for a blast from the past.

As far as favorites go, end-on-end Madras runs a pretty close second to oxford cloth for me. Though this very thin fabric looks great with tweed and can be worn year round, it really comes into its own in the warmer months of the year. End-on-end Madras is both light in weight and highly breathable, hence its great utility in the warmer seasons of the year. In the past, these shirts were often seen in both solid colors as well as candy stripes. Many men’s clothiers also offered shirts made of end-on-end Madras in both button-down and straight point collars. End-on-end is a very thin fabric that looks great when starched to paper thinness and worn with a jacket, though it also dresses down equally well with khakis and loafers for those who like a bit of casual rumple. The shirts pictured above are from bottom to top: Brooks Brothers Brookscloth (blue); Mercer & Sons (blue); Huntington Clothiers (blue): Brooks Brothers (blue): Brooks Brothers Brookscloth (brown candy stripe); Brooks Brothers Brookscloth (spice candy stripe); Brooks Brothers Brookscloth (blue candy stripe); and Brooks Brothers (blue candy stripe).

End-on-end Madras is a fabric known for its alternating warp yarns, usually one in white and one in color. It is also known for its distinctive box weave formed by slightly thicker yarns repeated at intervals on the weft. I’ve always understood that this bit of texture created by the thicker yarns why it is referred to as ‘Madras’. J. Press used to offer shirts made from their own unique fabric called ‘Madralyte’ which did not have the box weave effect. I’ve never had one of these shirts, but I imagine it would have been like an end-on-end broadcloth: a shirt with the feel of end-on-end but without the box weave. With end-on-end Madras, when seen from a distance, solid colors such as blue or pink appear as truly solid, but when examined closely, a very fine white box or check-like pattern gives the shirt a subtle texture. The true character of end-on-end Madras lies in its durability and thinness, becoming softer with age. This is a very light and breathable fabric that is at its best when the collars and cuffs are unlined or lined with only the thinnest of fabrics. When starched, the collars and cuffs become as thin as paper offering an elegant counterpoint to tweeds or summer linen, silk and wool blends. Shirts made of this cloth were once a very common staple for men, but today these shirts have become somewhat hard to find. About the only places that I can think of that still offer shirts of this fabric are Mercer & Sons, O’Connell’s, and J. Press (more on that below).

However, I thought that it would be interesting in this post to take a historical look at how venerable clothiers such as Brooks Brothers, Chipp and J. Press have offered these shirts over the years. It remains mystifying to me why more clothiers do not offer this unpretentious, hard-wearing and yet elegant shirt.

Brooks Brothers, Spring & Summer 1962. Brooks Brothers offered an English end-on-end broadcloth button-down shirt in this catalog from half a century ago.

Brooks Brothers, Christmas 1971. The striped shirts in #143 (a) certainly look like they were made from end-on-end cloth. They also have that very definite heavy-early-’70s-vibe happening. It really is hard to believe that only nine years separate this catalog from those immediately above and below.

Brooks Brothers, Spring and Summer 1980. The Brooks Brothers solid blue end-on-end Madras was the gold standard for this shirt. Brooks unlined polo collar and narrow unlined cuffs gave this shirt a certain understated yet beautiful simplicity.

Brooks Brothers, Fall & Winter, 1982. Brooks Brothers used to offer these shirts year round and the fall and winter catalogs seemed to feature them more than the catalogs for spring and summer.

Brooks Brothers, Fall & Winter 1981. Throughout the 1980s Brooks Brothers also offered a solid blue end-on-end shirt with contrasting collar and cuffs.

Brooks Brothers, Fall 1987. I had one of these in the broadcloth version in the 1980s, and it wore well with suits or with a blazer.

Brooks Brothers, Christmas 1980. Brooks Brothers also offered an easy care polyester and cotton blend called ‘Brookscloth’ that came in both solid and candy striped end-on-end versions. The shirt construction was the same as the all cotton shirts, and to me at any rate, it was also far superior to the contemporary non-iron shirts made by Brooks Brothers today. As I’ve said before, the non-iron shirts of today are almost too well made – perfection rendering them somewhat lifeless. These older Brookscloth versions were, if I might say it this way – pretty cool.

Brooks Brothers, Fall 1988. A somewhat rare photo catalog showing both solid and striped end-on-end versions of this shirt. Other than oxford cloth, I can’t think of a more useful cloth for daily wear wear than this.

Chipp (The New Yorker, 10/16/1954). However, in addition to Brooks Brothers, Chipp also offered a ‘Peppermint Stripe Madras’, which I am betting was their version of a candy stripe end-on-end Madras. These were offered in blue, grey and brown stripes. I wish I could call Chipp up on the phone and order a couple of these.

J. Press, Fall & Winter 1977. Of course, J. Press also offered end-on-end Madras in solid blue with that distinctive box weave. J. Press also offered ‘Madralyte’, a fabric with much of the same character as end-on-end Madras, but without the box weave effect. The J. Press stripes were also very distinctive, with hairline and block striped Madralyte offerings.

J. Press, Fall & Winter 1980. This page from the 1980 J. Press Brochure is a great example of their lineup with solid blue end-on-end, hairline Madralyte, pencil stripe Madralyte, block stripe Madralyte, as well as crayon stripe broadcloth and the old standard oxford cloth candy stripes. I would also like to have a telephone that would connect me with J. Press in 1980. Now that would be my kind of smartphone.

I’ve included some photos that show mainly Brooks Brothers’ end-on-end shirts from the 1980s, as well as Huntington Clothiers and Mercer and Sons’ shirts.

‘Makers’ All Cotton, Blue Candy Stripes. Late 1980s.

Brookscloth (65/35 blend), Blue Candy Stripes. Late 70s, early 1980s. A 60/40 cotton/polyester blend came out after this (see below).

‘Makers’ All Cotton, Blue. Late 1980s.Brooks all cotton solid blue version was a lighter shade of blue.

Huntington Clothiers, Egyptian Cotton, Blue. Late 1980s. Huntington’s version was closest in color to Brooks’ all cotton version.

‘Makers’ Brookscloth (60/40 blend), Blue. Late 1980s. The 60/40 blend version. Pretty nice collar roll.

Mercer & Sons, All Cotton, Blue. Mercer’s version is very nice indeed. I like a full cut shirt, and these shirts are absolutely comfortable to work in all day long.

A new-old-stock Brookscloth in a brown candy stripe. This Brookscloth blend may be a decidedly ‘unhip’ 65/35 poly-cotton blend, but these shirts are just as well made as their all cotton cousins and have that “Brooksy” button-down collar roll. If this makes me unhip, then so be it. I wouldn’t have it any other way. Brooks Brothers seems to have forgotten how to make shirts like this. I keep hoping that they will wake up like Rip van Winkle and reclaim their place as ‘Makers’ of ‘The Most Imitated Shirt in the World’.

So whether one needs solids or stripes, end-on-end Madras shirts are a classic choice that can be worn all year round. Today, one might be a bit hard pressed to find these shirts at Brooks Brothers. I couldn’t find much that looked like this on their website. However, one need not lose hope. O’Connell’s, J. Press and Mercer & Sons all still offer shirts cut from this cloth. O’Connell’s selection, though not wide, offers a standard blue end-on-end button-down. J. Press offers a solid blue end-on-end in a not often seen straight point collar; a pink button-down; as well as a hard to find blue thin stripe end-on-end button-down. Mercer & Sons can make shirts in a various shades of end-on-end blue, as well as the colors “thistle” and peach. They also offer a candy-stripe-like “Bold” stripe end-on-end in blue. So choices are still available for this type of shirt. The weather is only going to get warmer, so it is only natural that shirts like this will no doubt find a frequent place in the rotation. End-on end Madras: A classic workhorse of a shirt that I can only hope will continue to be offered for years to come. The world needs more living traditions such as this.

Brooks Brothers: “American Made Heritage OCBD Dress Shirt” Review

This week we are lucky to have another guest post from trad, ivy, prep enthusiast M.J. Lacayo (IG profile).

Recently, Brooks Brothers has tried to capture some of the IVY PREP flame with their new iteration of the Oxford Cloth Button Down Shirt, and for once, I’m pleased. Ever since the “Fall” of Brooks Brothers in 2020, the oldest American Haberdashery has struggled to keep its identity and has fallen to the wayside of trying to capture the attention of the youth, rather than keep its most loyal customers. With the disastrous release of their “Original Polo® Button-Down Oxford Shirt” which came in a weirdly fitting alpha sized fragile oxford cloth, many fans of the brand, like me, were left defeated. The beloved OCBD was to never come back.

Two months ago, Brooks Brothers finally debuted their OCBD in full colors, made out of an untreated pure cotton with Mother of Pearl Buttons and their perfect collar roll, the brand had finally listened to its customers. I quickly placed an order for it at the store and wrote a review of it on this blog a couple of posts back (AN OVERVIEW OF THE NEW BROOKS BROTHERS OXFORD). Personally, I was satisfied. The brand had finally produced something worth wanting without messing it up through some bureaucratic penny-pinching move. Yes, the missing gussets, lined cuffs and collar were annoying, but they at least brought it back. One day, while checking out their new arrivals, I was greeted with a newer OCBD. This time, a more traditional six button front, gusseted sides, and generous shirt tails. I placed an order immediately.

The shirt is practically the same as the one I reviewed earlier, that being, the same fabric, buttons, and fit. Funnily enough, the Heritage OCBD only comes in a Traditional Fit, so if you’re on the slimmer side, not only could you use it as a shirt, but a makeshift parachute. I fit in between a Regent (Regular) or Madison (Traditional) fits depending on how many hamburgers I had that day, so I’m familiar with this cut. Seeing that the shirt is only offered in blue and white and only comes in the traditional fit, I feel that it will stay that way, as it is not common for Brooks Brothers to debut a new product without having all the fits available to purchase. 

Mail Time

After waiting a couple of days for my shirt to arrive, everything looked pristine. I really like “extras” with my purchase, so I appreciated this little card attached to the shirt. 

Apart from everything else, including the whopping $198.00 price tag, I found a bit of glue residue on the collar, which, for first impressions, was a bit disappointing.

Thankfully, a regular cold wash was enough to get rid of the residue and the shirt was good as new. 

Collar Roll

I seemingly ignored the collar in my previous review, so here are the measurements.

The length of the collar measures 3 ¼ inches long. For some odd reason, the left collar is more curved than the right collar which looks straighter. It’s impossible to notice once buttoned down. Thankfully, the collar has its beautiful S curve that we all know and love. If the buttonholes were down closer to the tips of the collar, we would’ve gotten a full S shape! I ordered a 16.5 neck, but from what I’ve read, Brooks Brothers leaves some extra room and doesn’t give you an exact 16.5” neck. From end to end, it measured 18.5”, and from button to buttonhole (center) it measured 17.5”. I don’t have a problem with this at all, and I’m not left with an excess collar gap. When I wore it with a tie at work, there wasn’t any puckering in the back. 

Regrettably, the collar isn’t unlined like the 2016 oxfords, yet, they seem to have pulled back on the heaviness of the lining compared to the pink OCBD I covered. 

Collar Length

Total Collar Length

Collar Length from Button to Buttonhole

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Collar roll is still there, if the buttonholes were cut a little lower, it would’ve made for an even better roll!

Torso, Sleeves, and Length

For the Heritage OCBD, the total length from the top of the collar down to the hem was 34.5 inches. The torso from pit to pit measured 24.5”, midsection 23.5”, placket 1.5” wide, pocket 4.5” x 4.5” and the spacing between the 1st and 2nd button was 3 ½” while the following are 4 ¼”. Obviously, being a Traditional Fit, the sleeves are going to be very roomy but taper down to the wrist like any normal shirt (measurements were taken at shoulder, mid sleeve, and cuff). Regarding true-to-size sleeve length, they measured from the shoulder seam down to the cuff at 25” and measured 35” from the center of the box pleat down to the end of the cuff.

Thankfully, the cuff isn’t fused or as heavily lined at the Pink OCBD!

In my last review, I covered the length more than any other feature on the shirts. I don’t wish to reclaim my findings so I’ll shorthand it. My 90s Brooks Brothers OCBD is the longest in the middle, but has less fabric on the sides, so if it were to come untucked, it would be via the sides at first. It is the widest one of the group. 

90s OCBD Compared to the Heritage OCBD.

The 2022 Pink OCBD which I reviewed last is the same length and width as the Heritage one. Lastly, the 2016 era OCBD was the shortest. Note, only the 2016 OCBD and the 2022 Heritage OCBD have gussets. 

2022 Pink OCBD Compared to the Heritage OCBD

2016 OCBD Compared to the Heritage OCBD

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2016 OCBD Gussets Vs 2022 Heritage OCBD Gussets, the Heritage model has a more substantial gusset. I really like the sharper “curve” of the Heritage’s shirt tails, appears very similar to the Oxfords of old. 

Wash, Care, and Wear

Made out of 100% cotton, I washed the shirt in a cold cycle and hung dried it promptly after in order to avoid the risk of shrinking the shirt. I personally dislike it when someone blames the company for their shrunken shirt, as if cotton would magically retain its form after multiple runs in the dryer. But that’s beyond the point. I will say that ironing this shirt is a pain, and you will not have a perfectly pressed shirt, but one that is less wrinkly. This is fine however, being that it’s a thicker cotton and it will resist wrinkling throughout the day, as is seen in my experience at work.

The first outing with this shirt was a rough one, I was reorganizing the shelves in the back room, going up and down the stairs with boxes and hangers and the such, bending down to pick things up, and reaching up to bring things down. Throughout the day my full range of motion was not restricted nor did the shirt ever come untucked (finally!). I have the body heat of a brick oven, so when I broke out in a sweat, the shirt dried out relatively fast. Obviously, everyone will have different experiences with their body temps so my experience will not be like yours, but it is worth noting. As I threw it in the wash again and again, the shirt began to soften up nicely. Personally, I am beyond satisfied with the heavier fabric that Brooks Brothers has opted for, even if it’s not made of Supima Cotton.

Who are the Makers? And the Mystery of Supima Cotton

Being a recent development, one of my supervisors at the store notified me that the previous iteration of the OCBD and this Heritage model are being made by our friends over at the Garland factory. Although being shut down during the pandemic, Garland has seemingly done the impossible and started up operations in making shirts and the such. Their website shows a variety of big-name brands that they currently work with in producing the products we know and love. Welcome back.

During my trials I have been asked by members of the IVY PREP community whether the shirt is being advertised or has any evidence of the fabric being made out of the venerated Supima Cotton. Brooks Brothers has historically stuck to the brand and has it labelled throughout its most of its staple items like dress, sport, and polo shirts, its chinos and shorts, and sweaters. However, nowhere on the tags, advertisement, or even on the display cards does it clearly state that the shirt’s fabric is made out of Supima Cotton. I would dare speculate that this was a way to cut costs on an already expensive shirt, and the brand opted for a no name maker. It is regrettable to see this, as Brooks Brothers’ most loyal fans will probably turn their noses up to the non Supima shirt.

Final Thoughts

Is this shirt for you? Its difficult to say, there are so many options in the Oxford Cloth market that this new shirt doesn’t warrant much excitement, the Heritage OCBD is a very small fish in a very large pond that is dominated by other, more consistent brands. Will they ever bring a rear collar button model? Or flap pockets and a loop? Could there be an option to customize the shirt to your liking? It’s hard to tell what the direction is for Brooks Brothers with this new debut, and what that means for the future of the brand. My store recently acquired a whole stock of American made Oxfords and we have already seen a warm welcome back from fans of the brand. However, the steep price for a plain white or blue shirt doesn’t excite the senses, and personally, it leaves me wanting more. Hopefully, if the MiUSA line of shirts succeeds, we might see a larger selection of colors, stripes, and patterns. Personally, I am pleased with the shirt through all its facets, I can only hope that we may find ourselves in a revival and possibly, a pink university stripe shirt… 

Thank you to the community for your questions and I hope that I did a good enough job in reviewing this shirt, I would also like to thank Mr. Jerrod Swanton for allowing me to contribute my work on his site. 

How to Dress for a Wedding: The Trad Edition

Invited to a wedding and you aren’t sure what to wear? Join the club. I don’t know all the ins and outs of formal dress, but I can share a few tips that will help point you in the right direction. There are a few variables that will help you figure out what to wear not only to a wedding, but anywhere. These variables are: occasion, host, venue, weather, and time of day.

I will walk you through how I applied the above to the latest wedding that I attended. Lets get started. The occasion is a wedding which gives us a general idea about what’s acceptable and what’s not. Let’s dig a little deeper. Does the wedding invite specify the dress code? If it says black tie then the problem is solved. My invite did not indicate that it is black tie. Let’s look at some other clues

Next up is host. I don’t know the couple that is getting married very well. I do know that they are younger professionals and were relatively well put together the few times that I have seen them. Not too much to work with so far. Let’s see if the answers to other questions paint a clearer picture. The venue is outdoors, it’s summer, and it’s a daytime wedding. These all point to the more casual spectrum of wedding attire. This I can work with.

Based on the answers above I have an idea of what I want to wear. I know the shirt will be white because that’s what has been drilled into my head to wear to formal events. I won’t go the spread collar route, but will keep it trad with a white OCBD. I’m nixing the suit because from the last few weddings that I have been to suits have been few and far between. Plus it’s outside in July. It will be hot. So I predict even fewer suits will be worn.

I went with a classic trad look that’s often gets ridiculed as the security guard look. White OCBD, blue blazer, grey wool pants, tie, and burgundy penny loafers. I chose a tasteful vintage YSL patterned tie even though I know that a “wedding tie” is more correct. The outfit was perfect for the occasion. I was neither the best nor the worst dressed guest which is exactly where I want to be. There were more suits than I expected which was not many, but it’s good to see them still in action. I was happy with my decision. Not one single person mistook me for a security guard or employee by the way.