If there is one fabric that is quintessentially Preppy, it’s Madras. True Madras, of course (patchwork madras screams go-to-hell even louder). The real thing is one of the oldest fabrics in the cotton trade, a fine, hand-loomed cotton that is imported from Madras, India. If you go looking for it on a map, it’s name to has been changed to Chennai. Interestingly enough, what sets true madras apart from imitations is that it “bleeds”; the murky colors-navy blue, maroon, mustard yellow-of its distinctive plaids are imparted by vegetable dyes that are guaranteed to run.
Photographed in Wailuku, HI
Since the colors are unstable at best, madras has to be treated very carefully. Shirts, shorts, and items that aren’t going to be dry-cleaned must be soaked in cold salt water for at least twenty-four hours before they’re washed for the first time. This sets the dyes. Then they should really be washed separately for months thereafter, because the colors will still run. Old madras takes on a lovely soft look and feel with many washings (the crux of the fabric’s appeal to Preps), though jackets, which are dry-cleaned, of course, maintain that sharp plaid.
I began proselytizing the shorter inseam last summer. A recent sneak peek of Rugby's S/S 2011 collection only confirms the return of rising inseams (it also grants the appearance of additional height). These boast 5"—thanks to my tailor, Nam. When your oxford cloth boxers occasionally peek out, you've hit the sweet spot.