Now that we’re past Memorial Day, the color barrage begins. It’s full on madras go-to-hell season, and the colors run bold. A few months ago, I thrifted a great pair of flat front 100% cotton madras plaid Bermuda shorts from Lands’ End. The color pattern is red, navy, yellow and white. I also thrifted a braided cotton belt with leather tabs (unknown maker) of very good quality. Yesterday, I got a shirt that finishes off the quintessential look of summer – a short sleeved navy Lacoste that I bought on eBay. These items can be worn with Sperry Topsiders (leather or canvas), Weejuns or Bean Blucher Moccasins.
Lands’ End Madras Shorts: $15.00
Braided Cotton Belt (Leather Tabs): $4.99
Lacoste Shirt: $16.00
Total of all items: $35.99 (less than 1/2 the cost of a new Lacoste at retail).
Posted in Belts, Go To Hell Style, Shirts, Shorts
Tagged 100% Cotton, Braided Cotton Belt, Go To Hell, Lacoste Shirt, Land's End, Madras Shorts, Preppy, Summer
Lifetime Members of the Preppy Anti-Defamation Lague (L to R): John J. Balderdash III, Buffy Balderdash and John J. “Skip” Balderdash IV.
Now is the time to consider joining or renewing your annual membership with PADL: Preppy Anti-Defamation League. Memorial Day is just around the corner – the official beginning of summer or, as I like to call it, go-to-hell season. This is a time when Nantucket Reds, madras patchwork plaid and other clothes of blinding primary colors are worn to the consternation of the polyester clad general public. Other than a trust fund, your PADL membership is the best support mummy and daddy can give.
I’ve been gearing up for summer lately. Some recent buys include a pair of patchwork madras shorts, a ribbon belt and a pair of Nantucket Reds. Today a Brooks Brothers long-sleeved, patchwork plaid madras shirt arrived via US Postal Service.
This shirt was a recent eBay purchase. Price: $24.94 + $3.65 shipping = $28.59. Compare that with the current Brooks Brothers retail price of $89.50 (not including shipping, although I could have gone to their Madison Avenue store). That’s a savings of $60.91. In addition, the brethren are only offering a short-sleeved madras shirt, and I specifically wanted long sleeves.
Nothing says summer more than the light, breathable fabric of an India madras shirt. It is a key item for the prep wardrobe. I like this pattern much better than the current Brooks Brothers offering. For more about how madras clothes are made, head over to Ivy Style for Christian Chensvold’s interview with Cape Madras cofounder Brian Sisselman.
Posted in Brooks Brothers, Go To Hell Style, Madras
Tagged 100% Cotton, Brooks Brothers, Christian Chensvold, Ivy Style, Long Sleeves, Madras, Patchwork Plaid, Preppy, Summer Shirt
Original Nantucket Reds from Murray's Toggery Shop
I won an eBay auction today for a pair of original Nantucket Reds, a summer prep staple from Murray’s Toggery Shop. These pants of go-to-hell color are 100% cotton with a flat front and cuffs (1.25 inches). They appear to be in excellent condition, gently worn, with no stains or tears, and are well on their way to achieving the perfect faded tone. Price: $35.00 + $6.00 USPS shipping – for a total of $41.00. Murray’s asks $72.50 for a new pair. I spoke with a sales person at the store this week to find out their shipping charges. If the pants are ordered directly from the store, a $10.00 shipping fee applies, but they don’t provide tracking. If they are ordered online, they ship via UPS with tracking for somewhere around $15.00 (total cost = $87.50). So my eBay score gets the the original item at less than half the cost of buying them at retail + shipping. I love it! Was this a good bit more than I would pay in a thrift store? Absolutely, but you don’t find Nantucket Reds in a thrift store every day.
Nantucket Reds Won on eBay Auction
The over the top style known as “go-to-hell” in the preppy world is characterized by a blend of sensible and shocking clothing – a blue blazer and white oxford cloth button down paired with Nantucket Reds or a pair of lime green pants embroidered with little yellow tennis racquets, or perhaps a nautical motif. The look might venture into a patchwork plaid madras jacket paired with khaki pants, a neutral colored shirt and penny loafers without socks.
As a style that emerged at country clubs and areas where preppies summer, go- to-hell clothes are a form of fun loving one-up-manship, a way of stating two messages at the same time. The sensible clothing says, “I know perfectly well how to dress with good taste,” while the outrageous item says, “I can be more bold than the next guy and if you don’t like it, you can ‘go to hell.’” But the style still has certain parameters. Not all of the items should be loud and over the top, or the ensemble will look clownish. I refer you to the horrible combinations @ 1:12 and 3:13 in the video above to support my claim.
There is subtlety in nonchalance, a point which the preppy redux in men’s fashion often fails to take into account. Certain designers have gone too far in the go-t0-hell direction. They would do well to consider the wisdom of Tom Townsend’s line to Audrey Rouget at the end of the film Metropolitan: ”You look really great, and that’s what’s important. You don’t want to overdo it.” For example, I wouldn’t wear a motif belt with motif pants, nor would I wear a brightly colored shirt with brightly colored pants. I would not wear a wild tie with a madras plaid jacket. The more moderate elements of the wardrobe hold the chaos of color in check, which is part of the code for this style.
Classic Go-To-Hell- Preppy (c. 1980): Blue Blazer with Nantucket Reds
Not surprisingly, whenever comedians or Hollywood filmmakers want to make fun of preppies, they train their sights on the go-to-hell style. It is an easy mark. Nothing sets off class resentment and laughter more quickly than a “fancy pants rich kid” getting his comeuppance. The assumption is that preppies are stereotypically mean and arrogant people, which I don’t think is true at all. But that’s the whole point of the Alden the Pompous Preppy sketch on Letterman.
Just know that if you wear go-to-hell clothes, you will be asserting the most confident and carefree preppy style there is, but you will also be opening yourself to ridicule from certain people. You have to really own the fun , slightly self-deprecating attitude behind the clothes and display indifference to criticism in order to pull it off. You can’t be preppy if you don’t feel preppy.
One Pair of My Go-To-Hell Pants - Ralph Lauren Khakis of 100% Cotton Embroidered With Lime Green Tennis Racquets. Thrift Store Purchase ($7.99)
Warmer weather is coming. Soon we’ll be into spring and then on to Memorial Day, which is the gateway to the summer prep wardrobe – linen, poplin, seersucker and, of course, madras. As with traditional retailers, thrift stores begin to shift focus to the coming season(s). Today, while shopping at Unique Thrift Store in Riverdale, NY, I found not one, but two pairs of excellent madras plaid shorts. One pair was the much sought after patchwork variety, a true summer prep staple, known as “go to hell shorts.” Those bold enough to wear them simply could care less what anyone else thinks.
100% Cotton India Madras Patchwork Plaid Shorts
These flat front, Bermuda length shorts were made by Gap (not my favorite retailer by any means and hardly preppy on many things). However, they got it right with these shorts made of 100% cotton India madras. The stitching is first rate, and I’m willing to bet that side by side you couldn’t tell the difference between this pair and ones from much more expensive outlets such as J. Press, Brooks Brothers or O’Connell’s. The asking price for mine: $14.00. Brooks asks about $90 to $100 for theirs.
Detail of Patchwork Plaid Madras Shorts
With a navy blue Lacoste or Polo shirt (or even a white button down), paired with a surcingle belt, these madras shorts will look great in summer. It’s unusual to find madras of any kind in a thrift store. So when you see it, snap it up. It won’t be around long. It’s even more rare to come across multiple madras items on one expedition, but I was lucky this time. This second pair I found was flat front in Bermuda length with a basic plaid pattern — not patchwork — from Land’s End. The price was $14.00 as well. For another $9.00, I picked up a white 100% cotton oxford cloth button down from Ralph Lauren. It was in perfect condition!
100% Cotton India Madras Shorts from Land's End