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The Best Madras Shirts - Your Style Guide

Posted May 03 2021

The madras shirt: light, airy, breathable, and super bold. Just the way we like it! While from a distance, you may refer to the madras style as simply “plaid”, it is, in fact, much more than that.

Madras style cloth has become a prominent feature in the world of prep style fashion, becoming nearly as much of a staple as the classic polo. But with such a bold fabric, you may find yourself wondering how you wear this trend and what you should pair with it.

In this style guide, we give you the breakdown of the best madras shirts, as well as tips on how anyone can rock this trend in style.

What Is Madras Cloth?

Traditional madras cloth is a distinctive type of Indian cotton muslin that originated in Madras, India and started being offered globally as early as the 1600s.

Madras cloth has become famous for its distinctively dyed plaid, patchwork, and sometimes striped patterns and can often be seen on the golf course, the country club, or on the yacht of prep enthusiasts.

Madras clothing is a summer staple for this type of fashion due to the fact that it’s ultra-lightweight and breathable.

 There are several ways in which you can tell madras apart from traditional plaid, which include the following:

  •  Plaid is only printed on one side of the fabric, while a traditional madras cloth is always printed or dyed on both sides of the fabric
  • Clothing made with madras fabrics always come pre-washed due to the fact that they shrink as much as ten percent when washed
  • There will be small flaws in the cloth due to the fact that it is handwoven

Why Did Madras Cloth Become Preppy?

The madras cloth was once the fabric of the Indian peasant class and became a symbol of both wealth and privilege in the US and England in the 20th century. With such a radical change in uses, how did the madras fabric come to be in prep style fashion? There are several reasons.

 In the first half of the 20th century, madras fabric was already high in demand by Americans who were vacationing to the English-controlled Bahamas, who were already regularly sporting the authentic madras fabric.

While initially worn as a way to keep cool, madras fabric had quickly grown to become a symbol of leisurely vacation due to these wealthy vacationers. However, the Brooks Brothers also had a lot to do with it.

The Brooks Brothers “Guaranteed to Bleed”

In 1958, a fabric buyer sold 10,000 yards of Madras fabric to Brooks Brothers, who were hoping to capitalize on this rapidly growing trend. With authentic madras fabric still being a new sensation in the United States, the Brooks Brothers didn’t get the instructions that it was to be washed only in cold water.

This resulted in the Brooks Brothers sending their madras clothing to their customer with the wrong care instructions. The result? Thousands of confused and unhappy customers who found their madras patterns bleeding and rapidly losing color.

 While it initially seemed like the Brooks Brother may very well be ruined by the scandal, advertiser David Ogilvy managed to turn this disaster into a clever marketing ploy: that only authentic, madras fabric was “Guaranteed to Bleed''.

Suddenly, the fabric bleeding that customers were experiencing became a sought-after quality that would only be noticed in the most authentic madras fabrics. Very clever!

 While at the time, this bleeding fabric was only to be seen in true madras fabrics, this type of dyeing is now only available in some types of madras fabric. It is not the only defining characteristic of an authentic madras fabric.

When the madras fabric entered mainstream fashion, it was important to find a way to prevent this bleeding for customers who didn’t wish to risk ruining the fabric by forgetting to wash it in cold water.

Are Madras Shirts Still in Style?

With the long history of madras shirts, are they really still in style in 2021? Absolutely! Madras shirts are just as in style now as they ever were and are a great choice if you’re aiming for a preppy look.

Madras shirts are available in different patterns, colors and styles to fit every fashion preference and always suit the latest fashion trends. While a head to toe madras look may not be considered currently in fashion, it’s truly about your confidence and how you choose to rock the look!

How to Style Madras Shirts

When it comes to madras fabric, you may initially think of the bright plaid pants that could be seen on golf courses in the 1960s and 1970s. However, madras shirts have become a summer staple due not only to the fact that they’re bright and bold but that they keep you cool. While matching head to toe madras attire is available, we like the look of complimenting these colorful shirts with a neutral bottom half.

 When styling madras shirts, you’ll most commonly see them paired with a pair of tan or khaki shorts or chinos that have been complemented with a solid colored belt and a pair of boat shoes. To add to the light, airy, and casual nature of these shirts, we like roughly rolling up the sleeves a few times.

 While madras shirts can easily be complemented with any solid color that is found in the fabric, we recommend staying away from black and navy and staying on the lighter end of the spectrum.

Madras shirts look best when steering clear of contrasting bright colors and patterns, as there is plenty going on with these shirts already!

 Keep your shorts or pants on the lighter end of the spectrum as summer looks steer away from black and navy. Be careful, adding any other bright colors or patterns, as you’re almost guaranteed to clash. There’s enough going on with the shirt already, and you don’t need to add any other visual intrigue.

Can I Wear Madras Shirts in the Fall?

Absolutely! Even though madras fabric was originally designed to be light and breathable in the hot weather, that doesn’t mean that it can’t be transitioned into both fall and spring. Choosing the right colors to compliment a change in season is key for a madras fall look, as well as opting for long-sleeves over short-sleeves. In this case, it is wise to choose a darker pant such as a black or navy to compliment some madras shirts, which can also be accented with a matching belt and boat shoes.

The Best Madras Shirts for 2021

Looking for the best madras shirts to wear this summer? We’ve got you covered. All of our madras shirts at indiaboatshow are created by our master shirt maker in Madras, India.

Our shirts are made up of only the best 100% Indian cotton, which is grown and spun into yam right outside of the city of Madras.

 The cloth is then woven into traditional looms to create colorful, breathable and lightweight madras plaids and patterns, offering comfort and breathability during the hottest of weather. In this guide, we’ve gathered the best madras shirts on the market to present you with a modern take on this bold and colorful trend.

The Chase Shirt in Lincoln Patch Madras

The Chase Shirt in Lincoln Patch Madras

Using our most classic summer patch madras fabric, the Chase Shirt in Lincoln Patch Madras offers a beautiful quality patchwork that is lightweight and breathable for summer wear.

Wear this shirt untucked with the sleeves casually rolled up and a pair of khaki shorts, and you’ll be rocking this classic prep style and fit. Looking for an alternative to the more traditional tan or khaki pants? Try pairing this shirt with liberty blue.

 Features of the Chase Shirt in Lincoln Patch Madras:

  •  Long-sleeved, lightweight shirt
  • 100% Indian cotton
  • Pre-washed
  • Front chest pocket
  • Button-down collar
  • Classic fit
  • Lifering logo on bottom of button placket

The Chase Shirt in Bristol Madras

Not all madras fabric has to be super bold, bright, and colorful, with some preferring more of a subtle look in their madras fabric. The Chase Shirt in Bristol Madras embodies classic summer prep and sunny days on an island with this subtle pastel plaid.

Try tucking in this beautiful, lightweight summer Madras plaid to a pair of Wayfarer 5-Pocket Stretch Pants in Stone, complemented by a classic brown leather belt.

 Features of the Chase Shirt in Bristol Madras:

  •  Long-sleeved, lightweight shirt
  • Subtle pastel plaid summer fabric
  • 100% Indian cotton
  • Pre-washed
  • Front chest pocket
  • Button-down collar
  • Classic fit
  • Lifering logo on bottom of button placket

The Chase Shirt in Chatham Patch Madras

Chase Shirt in Chatham Patch Madras

 If you prefer your madras shirts in a short-sleeved fabric to keep as comfortable and cool as possible, then the Chase Shirt Short Sleeve in Chatham Patch Madras is a great option for you.

Our authentic Indian Patchwork Madras Shirts are quintessential summer pieces, offering a classic madras patchwork pattern in a bright pastel. This fabric reminds us of spring, Easter, and those first days back out on the golf course, and we are absolutely here for it.

 While you may wish to let the shirt speak for itself and pair it with a khaki, tan, or cement pant, you can also match it with any of the beautiful pastels that are contained in the fabric. We like the Cisco Short Stretch Twill in Pink!

 Features of the Chase Shirt in Chatham Patch Madras:

  •  Short-sleeved, lightweight shirt
  • Bright pastel plaid summer fabric
  • 100% Indian cotton
  • Pre-washed
  • Front chest pocket
  • Button-down collar
  • Classic fit
  • Lifering logo on bottom of button placket

The Chase Shirt in Blue Oxford with Baja Madras Trim

Don’t feel like going all the way with your madras shirt and want to wear your plaid in the form of a trim? Rolling up your sleeves helps show your style with the Chase Shirt in Blue Oxford with Baja Madras Trim.

 Our classic blue Pinpoint Oxford Shirt gets a madras makeover with plaid cuffs and placket, offering more of a subtle way to incorporate madras fabric into your wardrobe. This beautiful, lightweight shirt is best complemented with a light, neutral pant or short for a super clean, put-together look.

 Features of the Chase Shirt in Blue Oxford with Baja Madras Trim:

  •  Long-sleeved, lightweight shirt
  • Madras trim on cuffs and placket
  • 100% Indian cotton
  • Pre-washed
  • Front chest pocket
  • Button-down collar
  • Classic fit
  • Lifering logo on bottom of button placket

 The Chase Shirt in Gingham Patchwork

The long-sleeved Chase Shirt in Gingham Patchwork is the definition of a classic summer patchwork with its beautiful, lightweight pattern and design.

This shirt contains plenty of colors to compliment your bottom half if you wish to stray away from khaki, plaid or cement (although we’d still recommend staying away from black or navy for a summer look!).

Roll up your sleeves and pair this shirt with your favorite pair of boat shoes, and you’ve got the perfect summer outfit.

Features of the Chase Shirt in Gingham Patchwork:

  • Long-sleeved, lightweight shirt
  • Bright patchwork design
  • 100% Indian cotton
  • Pre-washed
  • Front chest pocket
  • Button-down collar
  • Classic fit
  • Lifering logo on bottom of button placket

Where Can I Buy Madras Shirts?

Our madras material at indiaboatshow is bold, colorful and authentically sourced from the shores of India. Madras shirts are one of the most popular summer choices for plaid enthusiasts due to the fabric's lightweight and breathable nature.

When styling madras shirts, keeping the rest of your outfit plain and simple with a tan or khaki short or chino is always a great option. However, we offer all of our madras fabrics with matching pants and shorts, as well as blazers, so you can choose how you wish to wear your madras!

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