Know Your Terms: Madras

Because dropping the lingo is half the fun of dressing well.

Short-sleeved Madras shirts by Engineered Garments.

Because daylight saving time doesn’t actually raise the mercury, we’re trying to bring the heat the only way we know how: by laying out our clothes for spring. And the first thing that pops to mind for lighter, brighter attire is that preppiest of plaids, Madras. Taken from the English name for the Southeastern Indian city of Chennai, Madrasi checks are composed of quilted layers of super-saturated, color-blocked squares—and look great just about anywhere, on a tie, blazer, or shorts. Bright and baroque in appearance, the fabric is not always made colorfast, but is almost always identical on both sides. Its linkage with preppy style was locked by its appearance in S.E. Hinton’s 1967 novel The Outsiders (published when she was 18!) as a staple in the Socs’ (or rich kids’) wardrobes—an association it hasn’t lost since.

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