Midsummer Madras

Wear at 30 Degrees

I dug out the old Madras patch jacket for a family picnic this weekend. The British Isles are having some fairly Mediterranean temperatures right now. It had to be the Madras. And it had to be jugs of Pimm's. I fell into a Pimm's-induced torpor, truth be told. The jacket makes for a good picnicking jacket - not too formal and hides stains.

Madras cloth, a lightweight cotton fabric that originates from the Indian city and gained popularity in Empire days, seemed to fade out of public consciousness in Britain after the 1960s, when mods were lapping up its loudest manifestations.

A general aversion to Madras followed, although it might be seen on an elderly old colonial dowager out walking her retrievers, or by the contrary Dexys Midnight Runners giving it full-on Ivy League.

Long identifiable as a typical summer Ivy look, our Anglo-American cousins kept the faith and appreciation for the cloth was never in danger of disappearing.

It's nice to see interest in the cloth blossoming in the UK again. Trousers by Hackett below.

Be it jacket, belt, tie or trousers, add a little Madras to your wardrobe. Don't go head to toe in it though. That would be silly.

Turn Up the Volume

That's one hell of a jacket above. Conservative and punch-in-face rebellious by equal measure. Something of an ideal to strive towards perhaps. It's the idea of subversive conservatism and edgy gentility we've talked about before, pushing against a mass culture of vests and flip-flops and letting it all hang out.

The jacket was shown at Ivy Style, an exhibition at The Museum at FIT (The Fashion Institute of Technology) in New York earlier this year. It was made in the 1970s by Chipp, an imprint of the classic men's label J. Press, now owned by Japanese company Onward Kashiyama. Chipp specialized in a 'go-to-hell look' of bold colours.

Small Faces, Big Checks

I can't help being reminded of The Small Faces in their 60s heyday when I think about Madras. They had something of a penchant for bold checks in their jackets.

And look at the one worn by Ronnie Lane in the photo at the bottom. Similar to the Chipp jacket.


  1. Madras was a year-round staple growing up in Florida and I still have short sleeve sport shirts and ties that I break out for summer. Town and Country magazine had a interesting article on the history of madras from July '15. In the mid '50's Brooks Brothers had to think fast when their large order of the fabric showed signs of fading when cleaned. What followed was probably the first ad campaign featuring "guaranteed to fade" to salvage their vestment. Ralph Lauren Polo reintroduced madras decades later with "guaranteed not to fade".

    1. Thanks DG. The 'guaranteed to fade' made me chuckle. Now that's when marketing earns its money. Ingenious and deceptive at the same time.


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