The Almanac of What a Man Needs to Know: MADRAS

MADRAS, or madras cloth, is a set of colorful plaid patches sown together into one garment made of lightweight cotton. You know the stuff… it’s everywhere these days and with spring and summer around the corner it’s a perfect no brainer for your summer lineup.

I have to be honest. I didn’t always get madras, I thought it was tacky, stupid, and just plain retarded (that comment is not directed towards Sarah Palin). I have dim memories of my grandfather taking me to the park wearing ankle-high white socks with madras shorts—and for a long time this has been my take on it: stuff old people wear.

But this is 2010, and stuff old people wear (or wore) is hot, trendy, and all the rage. Clothiers are offering such oddities (they would have been impossible to find a mere four years ago) such as sock garters, collar stays and braces (suspenders) of all colors and persuasions.

So why not madras?

The move to make madras cool in the mainstream and in main-street started in earnest some four to five years ago when the New England-preppy look filtered down from somewhere around the Kennedy compound in Cape Cod to the shops of New York City and Miami via Gap, Abrercrombie & Fitch and J.Crew. At that time most madras items limited themselves to shorts and the occasional trousers but not too long after that Ralph Lauren had a lauded madras attack on the runway and madras became cool, very cool. But better yet, madras is cool to wear, and by this I mean comfortable.

A lightweight pair of madras shorts, or pants for that matter, are rarely lined thus making wearing a pair no unlike going ‘mando. Honestly, they’re very comfortable. But, in truth, why wear madras? Why not? You wear madras for the very same reason you paint your face in preparation for your football team’s big game, or for the same reason you bedazzle the outside of your house (or your window pane) in colorful small lights around December, or why you choose to get really drunk and light up fireworks at New Year’s: because you can.

And it is because you can there are myriad of silly thing that we can wear in the summer that make it fun (yes, more fun than the beach). In this realm there exists things like linen, brightly colored pants, seersucker, gingham shorts, and white (lots of it without looking like a gigolo). That’s the whole point, “cuz you can.”

The Key to Madras: Confidence

Like so many things in “fashion” (or like so many things in life) half of being able to pull it off is confidence. So if you’re new to madras start slow—do not make your first attempt a madras suit, or you will look like a clown, come to think of it no one should ever, ever, wear a full madras suit. Start with a pair of shorts. This is easy—wear with a white shirt or polo shirt. Madras has enough color, so I would advice the following: always wear a madras piece in contrast with solids, i.e. a madras jacket with white pants and a light colored polo. Play off the smaller colors of the madras, the yellows, blues etc. If you’re the squeamish type no worries, a madras tie can look good with as conservative as a look as white pants and navy blazer. Experiment, and do it and if anyone asks you why you’re wearing madras tell him or her “…because I can…”

Primer:

The Mistake: Way too much madras!

Madras pieces and Looks for the Beginner…

  • Ties

  • Pants & Jackets

The Leap: Trousers with Seersucker (notice a plain white shirt)

Leap Two: The madras Jacket (note the confidence...)

  • The Look…

2 thoughts on “The Almanac of What a Man Needs to Know: MADRAS

  1. Pingback: 5 Things of the Moment: Summer Flash-Forward « The Young Gentleman's Guide

  2. I realize this blog may have been from March of 2010, but I am just curious if you know where I can purchase the brown/yellow madras plaid material pictured in The Alamanac of What a Man Needs to Know: MADRAS? Thank you –

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