Moderated—restrained—muted? I’d say the preponderance of evidence suggests that these aren’t general characteristics of my sartorial manifestations. And why should madras ever be moderated? It is by its very nature a casual, happy and festive textile. There isn’t a mourning madras or a funeral cortege replete with an age-old time tested and tradition bound black madras. There’s no evidence that Prime Minister Gladstone, in his exasperation about the reclusive and mournful Queen Victoria refusing to carry out state obligations, demanded of John Brown to “get that damned Queen out of Mourning Madras and back on her duties!”
The closest I've come to finding what might pass for mourning madras is the shirt above from Union Made. It MUST be made in Union shops...assembled in various factories across the realm, each one completing a vital step in the ultimate aggregation of said contrivance--similar to the Airbus and the Mini Cooper business models in Europe. Several constituents, Union moderated of course, contributing to the final outcome. Why? Because the MSRP on this one is five hundred and thirty freakin' clams.
Madras should be happy and my best evidence to support the assertion is one three year old, happy madras clad Miss LFG, on the cusp of having her head of corkscrew curly hair just explode in abundance—after two previous years of head hair sparsity. She’s a little madras gal in full—obviously excited, seat belted safely therein, game face on for a g-forced circular go challenge to her motor-sports skills. At the ready—in madras.
“So what’s this about moderation? If madras is supposed to be happy and casual and fun and colorful and you, ADG are known to contrive some of the fuzziest of fuzzy versions of it, where does the moderation come in?” Well first let me say that my noggin full of drivel to posit on madras has become so voluminous that this now has to be a two-part installment. I’m not sure of the original source to whom the above photo should be attributed—I think the first time I saw it was on Bunny Tomberlin’s old blog—but none the less, it helps me make a point. Too much of a good thing—even in my Trad-Redneck point of view—ain’t a good thing.
Further…I banned madras for the summer of 2010. You can read it here. Draconian, extreme and tyrannical I know. But desperate times call for desperate measures and when madras ended up in the beach-front head shops and skateboard emporiums …or is the plural “emporia?” ...it was time for a madras sabbatical. Every joint had some version of madras hootchie-cootchie and to me the most egregious misapplication was madras cargo shorts.
You know, the ones that when worn even by tall people, come below the knee and thus make every wearer look—I don’t know—like they ought not to be wearing them. Throw on a mini-brimmed straw fedora with your madras cargos...one that could be purchased from the same place and you’ve got yourself a “Brooks Brothers was bought-out by a Collins Avenue—South Beach investment group” bling-bling look. Or substitute the straw fedora with a baseball hat—turned either direction and you’ve got a “J.Press Pimped and Punked—Pawn Stars—Swamp People” thing going.
Yes, I’ve let this issue work me up inordinately. Mainly because I remember my third grade year at Royall Elementary School in Florence South Carolina. I wasn’t a clothes horse back then. The only swathing-shodding event that I cared about was my annual back to school clothes getting trip that always included a pair of Acme cowboy boots from Phil Nofal’s fine shoes on Evans Street. One pair a year—always in the fall. Otherwise, I didn’t give two hoots and a damn what was chosen for me. I don’t know how you grew up but when I was in the third grade, my mama told me most everything. Everything. Including…What I was going to eat, what I was going to wear, where I was going on a particular day and what exactly I would do when I got there. It was all wrapped in stereotypical Southern mama love but it was anything but a dialogue. Socrates’ ass was nowhere to be found in this approach to interaction.
I wore the clothes that my mama bought me—after seeing me come out of the dressing room and assuring herself—with the affirmation of the saleslady at the Children’s Shop—also on Evans Street—that the waist was loose enough and the cuffs—turned up enough to stop below the kneecaps—would last through the entire school year.
But I do remember getting madras pants and an alligator belt with a silver buckle monogrammed with my initials that year too. The alligator strap courtesy of the Children’s Shop. The silver (plated I’m sure) buckle courtesy of and engraved by Jones-Smith Jewellers, also on Evans Street. And the rig looked just like what the big boys were wearing…and I that I was the shit. And I was. In madras. Shut up.
So you see, my decision to ban madras a few seasons ago—to give it a rest—to let it wash out of the always transient fashion fascinations of the blingerati—was based on some deeply held Evans Street memories of how it should be worn. That's Evans Street above--probably a decade and a half before my pediatric clothing needs were met on the High Street. Now back to madras...you can get crazy with it. Fuzzy it up somewhat and surely allow it to be a key plank in the GTH trouser line-up. But at some point there must be moderation.
Moderation. The earliest version of madras had a built-in governor that assured such. It faded. The loudest in-your-face colors eventually became a muted, post impressionistic painterly version of themselves. Bleeding madras? You bet. And now some purveyors of madras today are labelling their garments prominently with a bleeding promise. Bleeding madras essentially went away when color-fast dies and advanced textile production processes trumped the role of the original fabric. Scale, production consistency, ease of laundering and care, cost of goods…you know…progress. Progress stemmed the bleeding stuff. Surprise…things are cyclical and obviously there are folks who weren’t around for the bleeding madras phenomenon and want to know what all the fuss was. They must want to experience how it was to have a garment that literally transformed itself over time through an attenuation of color—courtesy of dyes letting-go, making way for a more muted, mature version of the original manifestation.
You might recall my delight when I discovered the new-old stock of bleeding madras over at O’Connell’s a few years ago and I provided visual evidence of the bleed. Read here if you want. I ordered three pairs of them and would consider myself now adequately stocked with the real deal from a time when not only was the fabric legit but the cut of the trousers is of the same era—slightly higher rise and a mildly tapered leg—unlike the low rise skinny jeaned Thom Brown cuts of today’s “heritage-artisanal-legacy” caca. Hush.
So where am I with spring and summer madras 2012? The weather is getting warm and the need for lighter weight clothes and the desire to switch out closets for the season demands that I soon declare a position. And I’ve essentially done so—having worn madras to church on Easter Sunday. So the one man self-appointed madras board for America will render a verdict post haste. Moderation will be the theme for 2012 and I’ll further my moderated madras discourse—with verdict—in another post.
Onward. In an anything but moderated-modulated patch madras robe.