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.
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.