Real People: Madras and Brown Grenadine
It can be quite difficult to wear madras, the bold Indian cotton, without looking like a clown. I love The Thrift Gent’s approach. A plain white Brooks Brothers button-down shirt and a simple blue pocket square are mainstays, here, but the real masterstroke is the brown grenadine tie.
As you can see, there’s a bit of earthiness in the color palette of this old Polo jacket, with the reds being a little rusty and the greens a little mossy. The tie grabs those and settles down the look. A brown tie isn’t what you’d necessarily think to grab in the height of summer, but it works really well to ground the whole outfit, and tie it to a pair of plain brown bluchers.

Real People: Madras and Brown Grenadine

It can be quite difficult to wear madras, the bold Indian cotton, without looking like a clown. I love The Thrift Gent’s approach. A plain white Brooks Brothers button-down shirt and a simple blue pocket square are mainstays, here, but the real masterstroke is the brown grenadine tie.

As you can see, there’s a bit of earthiness in the color palette of this old Polo jacket, with the reds being a little rusty and the greens a little mossy. The tie grabs those and settles down the look. A brown tie isn’t what you’d necessarily think to grab in the height of summer, but it works really well to ground the whole outfit, and tie it to a pair of plain brown bluchers.

Madras Shirting

Readers interested in getting madras shirts for the summer may want to know that Atlantis Fabrics has a ton of new madras shirtings right now (shirting means shirt fabrics, just as suiting means suit fabrics). There’s about eight pages worth, many of which seem to scroll endlessly. 

To turn these into shirts, you’ll need to find a custom shirtmaker. If you don’t have someone local you can go to, I can recommend our advertiser Cottonwork. They’ll make a custom shirt for you according to body measurements you supply, but if you’re feeling iffy about the process, they can also copy the cut of any existing shirt you have. Just send them your best fitting shirt along with any notes about what you’d like to have tweaked (if anything). They charge about $45 per shirt if you’re supplying the fabrics. 

Atlantis’ shirtings cost about $6/ yard. You can find higher quality madras fabrics at Rosen and Chadick, but you’ll have to call in to request swatches. They charge about $15/ yard once you order. Be sure to ask how wide are the fabrics, and then ask your shirtmaker how many yards you’ll need based on a fabric of that width. You should expect to order two to three yards, depending on your size. 

Of course, good ready-to-wear madras shirts can be found in O’Connell’s Sport Shirt and New Old Stock sections. For something more affordable, check out Brooks Brothers and J Crew

Vintage Madras Archive

Emma McGinn has some beautiful photographs from her visit to the Handicraft and Handloom Export Corporation’s fabric library in India. In it is an archive of real vintage madras, the collection of which spans an impressive sixty years. Emma notes that the library is a bit dusty and dank, but I can’t imagine a good madras archive being any other way.

As many readers know, madras is a colorful fabric that’s been popular in the US since at least the 1960s. It actually comes by way of Chennai, however, which is where this fabric archive is located. During British colonial times, the city was called Madras, which is where the fabric gets its name. As the story goes, it was invented here in the 1800s when Indians reinterpreted Scottish tartans with their own local color palettes. They put these designs on the loosely woven, lightweight cotton fabrics they wore – which were designed for the hot and humid weather in India – and the result is what we now call madras.

The original stuff wasn’t colorfast, which meant the colors faded easily and bled into each other with each subsequent wash. For enthusiasts, this is what made madras charming - the fabric evolved and changed over time. Today, however, these qualities are considered to be defects, so almost all madras fabrics are colorfast (no bleeding, no fading). I actually still like modern madras shirts for spring and summer wear, especially on hot, sunny days, but they’re not the same as the stuff you see here. This is the truly good stuff. 

For $50 You Can Buy …

I love madras shirts, and every spring and summer, J Crew offers the most affordable madras-inspired shirts around. They’re not technically madras in that they don’t have the same faded look, but that also means they don’t bleed in the wash.

J Crew’s madras-inspired shirts are on sale at the moment for about $65 in their sale section, but you can take an additional 30% off with the checkout code SUNSHINE. That knocks these down to about $45. 

Bill Murray and Madras Trousers 

One of my favorite films of 2012 was "Moonrise Kingdom", which I found to be fun to watch as all Wes Anderson movies tend to be. Of course, I couldn’t help but notice the northeastern nautical and costal style of the wardrobe and that aesthetic probably added to my enjoyment of the picture. 

After watching the film, I instantly wanted to buy a pair of madras trousers — as obnoxious as they might be — after watching Bill Murray’s character wear them in such a comfortable and carefree way with a white OCBD and the occasional navy cardigan. Or perhaps shirtless when he decided to go chop down a tree

I ended up buying a pair of madras trousers from Howard Yount, which are on sale right now for $65, and they’re definitely comfortable to wear — if you’re comfortable wearing boldly patterned madras. 

Madras probably isn’t appropriate for the office, but they make for great weekend trousers. You don’t notice stains on them as much as you would a solid linen pair of pants because of the patterns, which I think makes them ideal for eating food at street festivals. I’ve been patiently waiting for warm weather to arrive so it’ll be appropriate to wear them again. 

-Kiyoshi

Colonel Alexander Gardner, 1864
Now that’s what I call a Madras suit.
From Wikipedia:
Gardner was involved in numerous gun fights and sword fights during his career. He was described as being six foot, with a long beard, an all around warrior and fighter. Gardner was known to have saved the City of Lahore in 1841 when his comrades abandoned him and he fired the guns that killed 300 enemies. He is described by Keay as continuing to suffer the effects of 14 wounds in later life.
(Thanks, IM.)

Colonel Alexander Gardner, 1864

Now that’s what I call a Madras suit.

From Wikipedia:

Gardner was involved in numerous gun fights and sword fights during his career. He was described as being six foot, with a long beard, an all around warrior and fighter. Gardner was known to have saved the City of Lahore in 1841 when his comrades abandoned him and he fired the guns that killed 300 enemies. He is described by Keay as continuing to suffer the effects of 14 wounds in later life.


(Thanks, IM.)

Cool-Wearing Shirt Fabrics for Summer
Warmer temperatures call for open weave shirtings - those lightweight, airy fabrics that allow your skin to breathe and body heat escape. My favorite summer shirting is linen. It’s so gauzy and open that it allows you to feel every gentle breeze passing through, but it’s also quite prone to wrinkling. Personally, I find a lot of charm in that, but it’s not to everyone’s taste. Additionally, depending on the quality of the linen, you may find that new linen can feel a bit rough. You can trust, however, that it will soften considerably over time.
In addition to pure linen, there are all of its variations. Linen-cotton blends, for example, will give you some of the benefits of linen but look less messy. I also recently came across a pure cotton that’s woven to feel and look just like linen. You can find any of these - pure linen, linen-cotton blends, and pure cotton woven to feel like linen - from a variety of makers. Brooks Brothers, J. Crew, and Howard Yount are good starts. Brooks’ shirts are better in their slim to extra-slim fit cuts, depending on your size. For more affordable options, you can check Uniqlo (which you can shop at through Suddenlee) and TM Lewin. For higher-end models, browse the stock at Ledbury, Mr. Porter, and Barney’s. The latter two are holding sales right now, which means you can get particularly nice ones at a more affordable price. 
I’m also a fan of pure-cotton oxford cloth (the stuff used to make OCBDs), but not everyone thinks they’re well suited for summer. For example, Michael Anton, author of The Suit, has written that he thinks they’re too warm for high temperatures. On the other hand, Alex Kabbaz, arguably the best custom shirtmaker in America, has recommended them. Personally, I find that my OCDBs wear cooler than many of my other dress shirts, but you should try wearing some for yourself and seeing how you fare.   
For those who have shirts custom-made, I also recommend cotton-batiste, cotton voile, and chambray. The first two are rather popular in Southern Italy, where the weather can get quite warm, but they have the problem of often being too translucent. Fortunately, A Suitable Wardrobe has some cotton voile shirting that’s very wearable, as well as a very nice, fine chambray. I would heartily recommend either of those if you can afford them. If you’d like to find other sources, check with your shirtmaker. He or she should have some from a variety of makers such as Thomas Mason.
And last, but not least, there’s madras, which we’ve already talked about here.
Of course, being that the world of shirting is wide and varied, it’s best for you to always check for yourself whether a particular fabric is good for hot weather. One trick you can employ is holding the cloth up to the light. If the fabric is lightweight and you see a lot of light passing through, it’s more than likely perfect for summer. 
(Pictured above: Bolts of fine chambray shirting at A Suitable Wardrobe. Photo taken from StyleForum.)

Cool-Wearing Shirt Fabrics for Summer

Warmer temperatures call for open weave shirtings - those lightweight, airy fabrics that allow your skin to breathe and body heat escape. My favorite summer shirting is linen. It’s so gauzy and open that it allows you to feel every gentle breeze passing through, but it’s also quite prone to wrinkling. Personally, I find a lot of charm in that, but it’s not to everyone’s taste. Additionally, depending on the quality of the linen, you may find that new linen can feel a bit rough. You can trust, however, that it will soften considerably over time.

In addition to pure linen, there are all of its variations. Linen-cotton blends, for example, will give you some of the benefits of linen but look less messy. I also recently came across a pure cotton that’s woven to feel and look just like linen. You can find any of these - pure linen, linen-cotton blends, and pure cotton woven to feel like linen - from a variety of makers. Brooks BrothersJ. Crew, and Howard Yount are good starts. Brooks’ shirts are better in their slim to extra-slim fit cuts, depending on your size. For more affordable options, you can check Uniqlo (which you can shop at through Suddenlee) and TM Lewin. For higher-end models, browse the stock at Ledbury, Mr. Porter, and Barney’s. The latter two are holding sales right now, which means you can get particularly nice ones at a more affordable price. 

I’m also a fan of pure-cotton oxford cloth (the stuff used to make OCBDs), but not everyone thinks they’re well suited for summer. For example, Michael Anton, author of The Suithas written that he thinks they’re too warm for high temperatures. On the other hand, Alex Kabbaz, arguably the best custom shirtmaker in America, has recommended them. Personally, I find that my OCDBs wear cooler than many of my other dress shirts, but you should try wearing some for yourself and seeing how you fare.   

For those who have shirts custom-made, I also recommend cotton-batiste, cotton voile, and chambray. The first two are rather popular in Southern Italy, where the weather can get quite warm, but they have the problem of often being too translucent. Fortunately, A Suitable Wardrobe has some cotton voile shirting that’s very wearable, as well as a very nice, fine chambray. I would heartily recommend either of those if you can afford them. If you’d like to find other sources, check with your shirtmaker. He or she should have some from a variety of makers such as Thomas Mason.

And last, but not least, there’s madras, which we’ve already talked about here.

Of course, being that the world of shirting is wide and varied, it’s best for you to always check for yourself whether a particular fabric is good for hot weather. One trick you can employ is holding the cloth up to the light. If the fabric is lightweight and you see a lot of light passing through, it’s more than likely perfect for summer. 

(Pictured above: Bolts of fine chambray shirting at A Suitable Wardrobe. Photo taken from StyleForum.)

It’s On Sale: Howard Yount Made in the USA
The good folks over at Howard Yount are offering significant discounts on all of their American-made products in honor of Independence Day. Among the choices are a few beautiful (but outrageous) madras pants like the ones above for less than a hundred bucks, as well as a bunch of surcingle belts for $27.50. Check out the action here.

It’s On Sale: Howard Yount Made in the USA

The good folks over at Howard Yount are offering significant discounts on all of their American-made products in honor of Independence Day. Among the choices are a few beautiful (but outrageous) madras pants like the ones above for less than a hundred bucks, as well as a bunch of surcingle belts for $27.50. Check out the action here.

Casual Summer Weekends
This is a great photo of maomao. Here he’s wearing a madras shirt, pair of sunglasses, and a beat up Panama hat. It’s a casual, easy-going summer style that’s perfect for weekends. Good for an afternoon drink with friends, stroll in the city, or general laying around at the park. 
What I like most is that every item here is easily obtainable at almost any price point. I’ve already written about where you can get madras shirts. I was recently at Ralph Lauren and J Crew, actually, and was fairly impressed with the colorful patterns they’ve chosen for this season. If you decide to not get something custom made, these are some pretty good options off-the-rack. Just make sure you know how they should fit before you buy. 
You can also read this post about Panama hats. Panama Bob is generally recognized as one of the best places to buy an authentic Panama, and he has two stores. His main store sells hats made from finer weaves. These will look better, and you’ll get to own something that’s from a dying cottage industry. If you can’t afford those, he also has an eBay store with more affordable options. These will be made from rougher weaves, but on the upside, they can be more breathable on those hot, humid days. Note that it’s generally easier to buy hats online if you’ve already had some experience with them. If this is your first hat, you may want to buy one from a local shop, just so you can try a few on in-person. Pay particular attention to the shape and height of the crown, as well as the width of the brim. 
Finally, I co-wrote this five-part series on sunglasses with my good friend Agyesh Madan. That should put you well on your way to getting a good pair. Of course, you can also search eBay for deals. Not everything in that search link looks good, but it contains the brands that Agyesh and I talked about in our series. You can use eBay’s navigation filters to make the search results more managable.
Not pictured here are maomao’s pants and shoes. I imagine he’s either wearing cotton or linen trousers, and maybe some leather slip-ons (e.g. penny loafers, boat shoes, driving mocs, and the like). I’ll cover those another time, but in the meantime, consider madras, sunglasses, and a straw Panama for your casual summer weekends. If you need to, you can throw on a linen sport coat, but even without one, you can look quite good. Just check out maomao. 

Casual Summer Weekends

This is a great photo of maomao. Here he’s wearing a madras shirt, pair of sunglasses, and a beat up Panama hat. It’s a casual, easy-going summer style that’s perfect for weekends. Good for an afternoon drink with friends, stroll in the city, or general laying around at the park. 

What I like most is that every item here is easily obtainable at almost any price point. I’ve already written about where you can get madras shirts. I was recently at Ralph Lauren and J Crew, actually, and was fairly impressed with the colorful patterns they’ve chosen for this season. If you decide to not get something custom made, these are some pretty good options off-the-rack. Just make sure you know how they should fit before you buy. 

You can also read this post about Panama hats. Panama Bob is generally recognized as one of the best places to buy an authentic Panama, and he has two stores. His main store sells hats made from finer weaves. These will look better, and you’ll get to own something that’s from a dying cottage industry. If you can’t afford those, he also has an eBay store with more affordable options. These will be made from rougher weaves, but on the upside, they can be more breathable on those hot, humid days. Note that it’s generally easier to buy hats online if you’ve already had some experience with them. If this is your first hat, you may want to buy one from a local shop, just so you can try a few on in-person. Pay particular attention to the shape and height of the crown, as well as the width of the brim. 

Finally, I co-wrote this five-part series on sunglasses with my good friend Agyesh Madan. That should put you well on your way to getting a good pair. Of course, you can also search eBay for deals. Not everything in that search link looks good, but it contains the brands that Agyesh and I talked about in our series. You can use eBay’s navigation filters to make the search results more managable.

Not pictured here are maomao’s pants and shoes. I imagine he’s either wearing cotton or linen trousers, and maybe some leather slip-ons (e.g. penny loafers, boat shoes, driving mocs, and the like). I’ll cover those another time, but in the meantime, consider madras, sunglasses, and a straw Panama for your casual summer weekends. If you need to, you can throw on a linen sport coat, but even without one, you can look quite good. Just check out maomao. 

A selection of some very, very bright madras plaids from France. Obviously only to be worn in the summer, and only on days when you’re feeling extra, extra happy. 

(Hat tip to StyleForum member ltontheqt for the link. Also, in case you were wondering, I don’t think that French store will ship to the US, so this is for eye-candy purposes only)