Continuing the pattern of things I never really appreciated in my younger days, we have Madras. Madras is loud, busy, and generally quite hard to wear. But I've noticed a pattern -- one dead simple way to make madras look good. Layer something over it.
Sounds too easy, right? I mean, surely, you've thought of layering something over your shirts before? Well, I think that in the case of Madras, you see something really transformative. It's too busy to wear raw, if you ask me, but as soon as you nestle it into something, you tone it down in a way that makes it not just palatable, but genuinely cool.
The name of this album was Chuck's idea. "Bleeding" madras is madras whose dyes are intended to "bleed" or run over the lines that comprise the inconsistent check, making a pattern even less consistent, even more unique. It also happens to be a Vampire Weekend lyric.
But the inspiration for the album itself came from this old classic from Gerry Nelson.
Gerry, an Australian legend on Styleforum, wormed his way into my heart with the one fit above. You'll probably see him in most of my inspo albums as a result of this one fit shoving its way into my brain, but he likes Madras in general, so here are a few more of his executions:
It's worth noting, at this point, the history of the Madras fabric. If you search Google, you might just see information about the city of Chennai, also known by the name Madras. In fact, one way of defining the fabric would be to focus on the city -- ideally, the fabric should be woven there.
But this history is more complex than that. It's more complex than that of other colonial textiles -- many of which Ezra Koenig is obsessed with. As Heddels explores here, Elihu Yale built his fortune, in part, on Madras. We imported into the United States and treated it as our own. Is it appropriative? Is it so closely tied to American history, now, that it's silly to ask? Is it okay as long as it comes from weavers in Chennai? Eh, I think you're safe, but it is good to know the history, and it tends to be better.
It is also worth recognizing that cotton madras is, historically, cheap and strong. Patchwork madras may be, in part, historically tied to those features -- I can't seem to find many details on the history of patchwork madras, specifically, so if anybody has a source on the matter, I'd be happy to read more.
Although it usually comes in Cotton, Simon Crompton of Permanent Style has made this beautiful Madras linen fabric, for those of you who have a shirtmaker handy. The same fabric is worn by Charlie, also of Styleforum fame, below.
Now is where I would normally make a few brand recommendations. And I suppose I should, but I should really give the caveat, first, that your madras shirt should make you happy. As a loud, unique, pattern, it has to resonate with you, personally. So don't worry too much about the value, or buying formally "approved" brands -- just buy one you like. That said, here are a few worth considring.
- Turnbull and Asser (non-tracking link), suspiciously the least expensive option here. I honestly didn't like any of the cheaper ones I found.
- Polo Ralph Lauren, particulalry if you want a loud patchwork.
- The above Permanent Style Madras linen cloth. Please note that this is not a full shirt, just the fabric.
- Beams Plus
- Left Field NYC