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
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
Vampire Weekend’s 2008 song M79 references bleeding madras: “No excuse to be so callous/Dress yourself in bleeding madras/Charm your way across the Khyber Pass….” Madras, a lightweight cotton weave usually with a plaid pattern, is perhaps the most versatile and definitively preppy article of clothing, used for jackets, shorts, pants, shirts and even ties. On Labor Day, I put away all my madras clothes (and seersucker/poplin) for use next summer. However, now that it’s October in New York City and still hot (80s all week), I’ve been tempted to bend the sartorial rules a bit and break out a madras shirt today.
In early madras shirts and pants, the dyes used were not stable and literally bled during washing, yielding slightly different hues that faded with time. Jackets and ties that had to be dry cleaned maintained their vibrant color. Below is a vintage (1960s) Gitman Brothers bleeding madras shirt. The bleeding variety is harder to find these days, as most dyes are stable. I rarely see madras in thrift stores. Vintage shops are your best bet to find the real deal. If you come across a madras piece you like that fits, don’t second guess yourself. Buy it. It won’t be on the rack when you come back.
Vintage Gitman Brothers Bleeding Madras Shirt
Vampire Weekend Lead Vocalist Ezra Koenig In A Madras Plaid Shirt
Here is a blast from the past – a shot of me in my college dorm in an actual bleeding madras button down shirt from Gitman Brothers, which I had for years. I’m also wearing cotton shorts – most likely from Brooks Brothers – and a nautical belt (sailboat motif). For more on madras, you might want to check out this post from Ivy Style.
For more about Vampire Weekend and the preppy connection, check out this article from Billboard.