Madras patterns are considered a staple of the summer wardrobe of preppy style enthusiasts. The pattern became very popular in the 60s in the form of shirts, pants and jackets. But how did it become so popular and what are its roots? The madras fabric is named after the Indian city of Madras (now known as Chennai) from where it first made its way to the west. Madras was originally known as “Madraspatnam” and has a long history stretching back to at least the 2nd century.
At the begining, the original Madras fabric was plain cotton muslin, overprinted or embroidered in elaborate patterns using natural vegetable dyes. The weave was simple and loose and rice gruel was used as an adhesive. The predominant colors were shades of blue, black and red checks. At this point, an important ingredient in the process was the quality of water used in dyeing, as water from different regions would affect the colors differently.
The modern day Madras fabric has a plaid or checked and sometimes even striped pattern in generally bright colors. These patterns, especially plaid, first made their appearance about a hundred and fifty years ago and were the result of the tartan craze which started with thevisit of the King George IV to Scotland in 1822. As was to be expected, this influenced the British in India and tartan started to be incorporated into Madras. The Harris Museum in Preston, LAncashire has two swatches of Madras fabric dating from 1866; one is a tartan and the other very similar to modern day Madras.
Nowadays, Madras fabric is basically a check–patterned cotton cloth that comes in three varieties: Dyeing cotton thread in different colors and then weaving them to make various plaid patterns, patchwork of pieces of cotton cloth of different patterns stitched together and Bleeding Madras a pattern that has a unique story of its own.
Other than for shirts or pants, the pattern also makes for great accessories such as ties, bow ties and underwear. That’s the reason why Boxer Union bet for Madras style with The Tyler Navy model.