Monday, April 16, 2012

Madras—Moderated

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.

ADG, II

21 comments:

The Leopard said...

I am a madras fan, a madman for madras if you will, down here in south Texas you need the cool fabrics to get you through the spring and summer. I have invested heavily in madras through the years, trousers, shorts, bowties, long ties, sport coats, this said I have never owned anything patch madras, I just don't get it, where is all this beautiful fabric they are cutting up to make patch madras clothing from? Because I would like to see some more unadulterated whole madras cloth items available, and yes please bring back more bleeding madras while your there, it was always my favorite.

Scott Alexander said...

Yesterday, I broke out a madras blazer (NOT of the patchwork variety) for the first time this year. There's no reaction you'll receive to a choice of clothing that compares to when wearing madras. For that reason, I'll be wearing my assortment more and more frequently this summer.

However, I'm on the verge of a personal ban on "Nantucket" Red. Even though I just picked up new shorts and chinos of the infamous tone, I'm now seeing offerings from the likes of Old Navy, American Eagle and H&M. Ugh. Your thoughts?

ADG said...

Scottie...Nantucket Reds are passe man. Passe. It's Ocala Oranges now. See my tumblr.

Leopard...I hear you on the patch stuff versus the old-elegant non-patch thangs. See part two of this post when it hits.

ilovelimegreen said...

If you know the lady in aqua flanked by the two dandies each in a killer patch madras jacket, could you tell me the details of the necklace she is wearing?

Silk Regimental said...

And, pray tell, what is in store for the bloke who ventures out donned in the bleedin'(possibly patch) madras sport jacket, shorts, shirt, tie, (and now I hear Sperrys). btw - the blue/white original madras jacket offered by J. Press was so conservative - one would hardly notice it.

Anyway.......

ADG said...

Silk Reggie...no doubt I've got some insight regarding what would be in store for THAT rig. Somebody's gonna get beat like a borrowed mule. No way 'round it.

LimeGreen...oh, of course, I've got all the skinny on that necklace. I'll get back to you on it.

Toad said...

You are too young to remember but high styling in the mid 60's for school age gents was the JCP special. White band collar, 3 button bleeding madras pullover. High Style for high times

Anonymous Texan said...

Broke out the madras last week in the Astrodome City for the tennis tournament. Circa 1978 BB madras trousers, as well as the Jos B patch jacket. Not enuff wear & tear on the jacket to qualify for patina. No Planters Punch, everyone knee deep into the Pink Jacket. Go figure, big dose of sore hair.

Anonymous said...

Have ye ever noticed that Paisley, a city in Scotland, gives its name to a fabric pattern usually associated with India, while Madras, a city in India, gives its name to a fabric pattern very closely kin to tartan?

Park it in the Driveway, or
Drive it on the Parkway

PS, you know what is great about Orange? You can wear it to the game on Saturday, huntin on Sunday, and to pick up trash by the roadside all week.

Youngeth Fogeyeth said...

Picture the Third (3-year-old LFG): cute as the proverbial button.

Picture the Fourth (patch madras jackets): tools.

Bling: inherently BAD (see Paul Fussell).

Madras-clad wee ADG: also cute as the proverbial button.

Thom Browne: (*shudders*)

Patch anything: (*upchucks*)

Laguna Beach Fogey said...

Recently rocked the Madras in s/s sport shirt form. I love Madras and I looove Swamp People. Now that's the real South. ;-)

ADG said...

LagunaBeachWhitey...now you are lying your ass off. You don't watch Swamp People.

YoungethFogeyeth...I'm kinda opening up to the fact that maybe just PATCH things should be banned for 2012. While I have it and love it, the resistance is starting to make sense. But my paternal grandma used to make quilts and that's a patch item. And I have two of them.

AnonOrangePaisley...It's a crazily patterned-colored and texturalated world ain't it?

AnonTexan...I hear you on all of what you said. Butcept 'specially on the sore hair.

Toad...I may be a decade or so beyond remembering those things but the guy, one of my surrogate fathers, who owned the little trad haberdashery that I worked part time in, remembered ALL the fads and crazes. He'd owned the store since 1947 and regaled us with the stories.

Anonymous said...

ADG, I also have a faint memory of a pullover madras windbreaker with a hood, very popular in the early 1960s. Somehow, in those days, there was a strong surfer- madras tie in. You may want to add this to your hoodie post.

I have found that wearing madras seems to help people break wind, even today.

Jean Luc Petard

Dave T said...

Don't know if I'm on the ban patch bandwagon as I like my nicely faded patch pants. Maybe tread carefully. The blazer your mother picked out is perfect.
Also, I admire your courage at that young age. My family had a Santa like your's, and I avoided him like the plague.

yoga teacher said...

ADG: Maybe that robe will bleed out a little bit?
Anon Texan: Pink jackets? No wonder no one was in yoga class Monday.

ADG said...

YogaTeach...let's hope so.

Dave T. I too have some old old faded patch pants...just now after fifteen years, preening their muted patination. So I'll take it under advisement.

Oh, and the Santa...LFG and I now have that Santa at our house--so I can keep an eye on his ass.

Jun Luk Retard...I hear you re the idea of a 60's hooded madras break o'the wind. And it seems correct and good...in kind of a Jan Michael Vincent Big Wednesday way.

Unfortunately, today's interpretation would net-out as Larry the Cable Guy--Sleeveless Patch Madness Hoodie Thursday.

Anonymous said...

Max, I heard you unlocked the door, you sure you want people like me gettin in here again? Well, in trade for the privilege, you can count on me to summon discipline and restraint, except this one time I feel compelled to speak from the marginalized population of Medicare Madras wearers, you just leapt right over this elite corps without so much as a nod. I happen to be wearing Medicare Madras right this minute, I wear my Medicare Madras every single morning and evening, house pants if you will. Elite Medicare Madras Corps Rule #1: four muted colors, perhaps five, main color muted navy, secondary color dull medium/light navy, third color some form of muted red, fourth some variant of white/ecru. Absolutely no neons, no vivids, no sherbets. Medicare Madras Rule #2: wear with pride, but go no farther than the mailbox.

-Flo

ADG said...

Flo: This...

..."main color muted navy, secondary color dull medium/light navy, third color some form of muted red, fourth some variant of white/ecru"...

Sounds like a big ass bruise--on day eleven of its healing journey.

Youngeth Fogeyeth said...

I guess I have to make one exception: patchwork quilts.

But then again, you don't wear them (except kinda sorta sometimes, maybe when you're sick, or really cold, and even then, only in the house, so they don't really count anyhoo).

Suburban Princess said...

Thanks for reminding me...there is a madras dress I wanted to order!

Cleary said...

I still have my 1961 madras raincoat with black velvet collar. My favorite garment from that era! Purchased at Heery's Clothes Closet in Athens. It is the combination of colors described by Flo. Where can one find any authentic madras? My husband's shirts are dwindling, and I need more. They call seersucker and all sorts of permanent press fabrics "madras". Love your blog, BTW.

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