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The Best Madras Shorts - Your Style Guide

Posted April 06 2021

Best Madras Shorts

When it comes to the world of prep-style fashion, madras patterns are considered an absolute staple. While you may recognize the plaid madras style from the golf courses of the 1960s and 1970s, it began emerging in mainstream fashion in the early 1930s, symbolizing wealth and status.

 Named after the Indian city of Madras (now known as Chennai), the madras pattern found its roots in Indian before making its way to the west, where it quickly became a popular choice among prep style enthusiasts in terms of pants; it also became popular in the form of shorts, skirts, and of course, shorts.

 With the madras patterned short having become a regular feature in the world of prep style summer fashion, you may find yourself unclear on how to best represent this trend.

In this style guide, we give you the lowdown on the best madras shorts, as well as some helpful background on how madras fabric came to me and how it found itself in prep style fashion.

What Exactly is Madras Fabric?

Before we dive into how to best wear this fabric, it’s important to understand what madras fabric is in the first place. It’s easy to simply refer to a madras fabric as “plaid” - after all, at first glance, the madras fabric does give off the general appearance of plaid.

However, madras fabric only resembles plaid in terms of vibrant coloration and material. The process of making an authentic madras fabric can still be found today, which employs the use of vegetable dyes, natural oils, and sun setting.

 As mentioned, madras patterns generally have a brightly colored plaid or checked appearance, with a striped pattern also making an appearance.

The first mainstream madras pattern came into existence about 150 years ago, with a visit to King George IV in 1822. It was then that the tartan craze began to influence the British in India, with tartan beginning to be incorporated into madras fabric.

Plaid Becomes Preppy

There are a number of reasons why madras fabric made its way into preppy style fashion. A mass demand in authentic madras fabric was made by Americans who were vacationing to the English-controlled Bahamas in the first half of the 20th century, who regularly sported authentic madras fabric to represent their wealth and leisurely vacationer status.

 While madras fabric was already quickly becoming a staple for prep style enthusiasts, the original Brooks Brothers capitalized on this trend in the late 1950s, cementing the madras style in their already popular line prep-inspired clothing.

One of the functional benefits of madras material is that it is light and breathable, making it a great choice for hot weather. This is ideal for a day out on the golf course, sailing on the yacht, or vacationing on a tropical island.

How to Wear Madras Shorts

Wearing shorts made out of madras fabric is a great way to stay cool and a bright and bold statement all on its own. Men’s madras shorts are often seen with a 9” inseam, making them the perfect length to make a true statement without committing to madras pants.

 Due to their bold nature, madras shorts are best worn with muted solids that should be taken from one of the many colors that you will see in the madras fabric.

A polo shirt in a white or muted pastel color is an excellent way to compliment your preppy summer look. A white linen shirt with carefully rolled up sleeves is a slightly more dressed up alternative to any pair of madras shorts.

Ideally, it is best to avoid wearing madras with other plaids and other busy patterns like stripes or paisleys, simply because this may be seen as too much pattern! Having said that, a matching madras shirt and short combo will certainly make its own bold statement.

The Best Madras Shorts

Looking to see where you can buy madras shorts? In this guide, we’ve gathered some of the most high-quality madras shorts on the market to present you with a modern take on this bold and colorful trend.

 All of our madras shorts at Castaway are created by our master shirt maker in Madras, India, who has collaborated with us to bring you our all-cotton Indian madras shorts.

Our madras fabric is made out of 100% Indian cotton, which is grown and spun into yam just outside of the city of Madras.

 The cloth is then woven into traditional looms to create colorful, breathable, lightweight madras plaids, offering comfort during hot weather and during summer activities.

Cisco Short Sconset Patch Madras

 Cisco Short Sconset Patch Madras

The Cisco Short Sconset Patch Madras is our most classic pair of patch madras shorts. These comfortable and breathable shorts can easily be complemented by a wide color range of polos, including white and navy, as well as muted yellows and greens. They can also be accented by a solid colored or leather belt.

 Features of the Cisco Short Sconset Patch Madras:

  • 100% Indian cotton
  • Pre-washed
  • Tailor adjustable seat and waistband
  • 9" Inseam
  • Button closure and zip fly
  • 1/4 top front pockets
  • Welt back pockets, with left button closure and right open
  • Lined waistband and lined pockets

Cisco Short Chatham Patch Madras

Cisco Short Chatham Patch Madras

 The Cisco Short Chatham Patch Madras is our most colorful pair of madras shorts yet! These shorts give off a pastel, Easter feel and are best matched with a crisp white Oxford or linen shirt or white polo. Add a solid tan belt to this look, and you’re ready for a day out in the sun with your breathable madras.

 Features of the Cisco Short Sconset Patch Madras:

  • 100% Indian cotton
  • Pre-washed
  • Tailor adjustable seat and waistband
  • 9" Inseam
  • Button closure and zip fly
  • 1/4 top front pockets
  • Welt back pockets, with left button closure and right open
  • Lined waistband and lined pockets

Cisco Short Gingham Patchwork

Cisco Short Sconset Patch Madras

The Cisco Short Gingham Patchwork brings a strikingly colorful patchwork, which is a great alternative to the slightly more traditional plaid madras material. Several neutral and muted pastel tones can be drawn from these colorful shorts, which can complement these shorts in the form of a polo and a solid black belt. Feeling exceptionally bold? Try the matching Chase Shirt in Gingham Patchwork for a long-sleeved alternative!

 Features of the Cisco Short in Gingham Patchwork:

  •  100% Indian cotton
  • Pre-washed
  • Tailor adjustable seat and waistband
  • 9" Inseam
  • Button closure and zip fly
  • 1/4 top front pockets
  • Welt back pockets, with left button closure and right open
  • Lined waistband and lined pockets

Madras Shorts Alternatives

Like the look of madras material, but are looking for something a little different? Have a look at these alternatives to the madras short!

Harbor Pant Sconset Patch Madras

Harbor Pant Sconset Patch Madras

Our Harbor Pant Sconset Patch Madras are authentic, all-cotton Indian madras pants and offer the same classic plaid pattern as our Cisco Short Sconset Patch Madras. The Sconset Patch Madra pattern also comes in the form of the long-sleeved Chase shirt and the short-sleeved Chase shirt, offering a bold top to bottom matching statement. If head-to-toe plaid isn’t for you, consider pairing these pants with a white linen long-sleeved shirt.

 Features of the Harbor Pant Sconset Patch Madras:

  •  100% Indian cotton
  • Pre-washed
  • Tailor adjustable seat and waistband
  • Plain front
  • 30", 32" or 34" length
  • Button closure and zip fly
  • 1/4 top front pockets
  • Welt back pockets, with left button closure and right open
  • Lined waistband and lined pockets

Ali Skirt Chatham Patch Madras 19”

We love traditional patchwork Madras in bright summer colors, and our Ali Skirt is a great way for women to show it off. The Ali Skirt Chatham Patch Madras has a flattering fit, exposed back gold zipper, and a classic A-line shape. With a perfect length of 19”, this is an ideal length for wearing on the golf course. Pair this look with a white polo and some jewel sandals, and you’ve got the perfect feminine summer outfit.

 Features of the Ali Skirt Chatham Patch Madras:

  •  100% Indian cotton
  • Prewashed
  • Ideal 19" length
  • Exposed center back gold zipper

Madras Accessories

Looking to add a touch of madras into your wardrobe but don’t want to commit to shorts, pants, or a skirt? Madras accessories are a great way to bring a splash of bold color and pattern to your outfit without committing all the way to the statement look.

Camden Madras Bow Tie

The Camden Madras Bow Tie is perfect for a casual summer wedding or soiree and can be paired with a pair of crisp tan pants, a white Oxford shirt, and a smart pair of boat shoes. While a madras bow tie will make a subtle statement, the bold print is enough to pull any outfit together into something special.

 Features of the Camden Madras Bow Tie::

  •  100% cotton
  • Authentic Indian madras material
  • Hand-sewn
  • Fits neck sizes 13 3/4" to 17”

Face Mask Patch Madras

Face Mask Patch Madras

With face masks now becoming a major part of our everyday fashion routine, you can help try and flatten the curve in style thanks to our Face Mask in Patch Madras! Our face masks are made in the US and are a great way to add a little bit of style to an accessory that we’d all rather not be wearing!

 Features of the Face Mask in Patch Madras:

  •  100% cotton
  • Masks are secured with elastic loops positioned over the ears
  • Machine washable
  • Reusable
  • Double layered, non-medical grade face mask
  • White, soft cotton interior facing

 Unique Characteristics of Madras

How can you tell madras apart from the more traditional plaid? The madras fabric has certain unique characteristics, with its all handwoven cottons containing the same bold pattern on both sides of the cloth.

With traditional plaid usually only running on one side of the fabric, this is one of the easiest ways to authenticate true Madras.

 Madras fabrics also usually shrink in size by as much as ten percent when washed, which is why you’ll see items made from a madras material being advertised as “pre-washed.”

You’ll also traditionally notice small flaws in the cloth due to the fact that it is handwoven. These small flaws do not take away from the fabric’s quality but can be considered a true sign of authenticity.

 Although you may have heard of the traditional bleeding madras, this is rare to come by these days and does not mean that your madras is not authentic. This is now simply known as one of three different types of madras fabric, with non-bleeding fabrics being by far the more ideal choice for washing.

Where Can I Buy Madras Shorts?

Castaway has curated a staple selection of madras and patch madras fabric shorts using this legendary spring and summer fabric.

Our madras material is lightweight, breathable, and colorful and imported directly from India's shores. Wearing madras shorts is a great way to display your love of plaid without committing to the whole pant.

 Pair any of our madras shorts with a white polo or a crisp white linen shirt, and instantly have a colorful, put-together outfit that is sure to make a lasting impression! Looking to make a head-to-toe impression?

Our madras patterns also come in long and short-sleeved Chase shirts and Spinnaker blazers and can be seen as a trim on our Chase Shirt White Oxford with Philip Madras Trim.

 As you can see, shorts are only one option when it comes to enjoying madras fabric. Feel free to get creative with styling your madras, and don’t be afraid to experiment with matching solid colors to the various different colors found in the fabric!

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