Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Origins - Madras Cloth

I've mentioned madras as a description of a few pieces in recent posts, and I'm sure you've seen the fabric everywhere, especially in these summer months, used for everything from shirts to blazers to ties. But where does the term come from and what exactly does it mean? 

Madras Cloth
Madras cloth is named for the city in India where it originated (the city is now called Chennai). As you can imagine, India is a pretty damn hot country, so their prowess in cool, breathable cloths shouldn't really come as a surprise. This particular cloth is crafted from a lightweight cotton fabric, but what really sets it apart is the traditional pattern. Nine times out of ten, a piece described as madras is going to involve a bold plaid pattern, usually emphasizing strong reds and greens with undertones of blue and yellow. This is my favorite kind of madras, and will be featured in an upcoming post on seasonal ties.
Traditional Madras Shirt by Bonobos
Madras Tie by J. Press

The other type of madras that you will see is called patchwork madras, and is really just that, a patchwork collection of smaller madras squares. This creates a bold look that has really been embraced in prep styling. Once again, this fabric is used for a wide variety of garments, but I've seen it most often in shorts and blazers.
Patchwork Madras Shorts by Brooks Brothers
Patchwork Madras Blazer by Just Madras c/o Country Club Prep

Personally, I love madras as a slightly more rugged summer cloth, allowing you to stay cool and embrace some bright summer colors. Where seersucker and linen tend to project an image of southern gentility or maybe even British colonialism, madras is more a 'cloth of the people,' and is a great transition for lovers of plaid flannel into a more warm-weather appropriate fabric.

So there you have it, and expect to see more madras in upcoming posts. It's hot out there, y'all. Try to stay cool.

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