Introducing: The Madras linen
There is a certain preponderance among men to order bespoke shirts in loud checks.
This must be the case, because most patterned materials offered for bespoke are bright and loud. Even though the ones available in a mill’s full collection - offered for brands to buy in bulk - are rather subtler.
I generally dislike those loud checks. They can be fun, but are more often crass. And they’re not easy to wear. As a result I have very few checked shirts.
So last year while at Milano Unica, when I saw a pattern I particularly liked in Thomas Mason’s full collection, I decided to order it in bulk myself.
This is the cloth - a Madras-inspired riot of blue, orange, pink and yellow, woven and washed to look faded, almost vintage.
It is 100% linen, and is clearly inspired by the bright cottons imported by the British from Madras, and made famous by Brooks Brothers in the US with its ‘guaranteed to bleed’ shirts.
This is not designed to bleed, but it was deliberately woven with delavé yarn, which is used in textiles to create a faded effect: the dye fades with industrial washing, allowing the mill to pick the look they want.
I went through a few different washes before settling on this one: not too bright, but too so faded that you can’t make out all those different colours (I count eight in total).
Once in this state, though, it shouldn’t fade more than a regular shirt when washed at home.
I find the pattern and its washed look goes with jeans (as pictured) as well as smarter tailoring. It helps that those colours themselves are so appealing: tobacco brown and turquoise, navy and burnt orange, mustard yellow and cream.
I’ve worn it with jeans and loafers; with a tan blazer and green trousers; and with white-linen trousers and espadrilles.
It’s particularly nice with warmer colours like green and tan, I find; but it helps if those colours are fairly strong, so there is enough contrast with the shirt.
In the pictures, it is worn with Blackhorse-lane jeans, Alden full-strap loafers, and a green tweed jacket*. The shirt was made by Simone Abbarchi.
The cloth is available for readers to buy in 2-metre lengths, like the PS denims and oxfords. And launched now so there’s time enough before the summer to have it made into a shirt.
It is not, for the moment, available as finished shirts. This is partly because the cloth has been bought by a few brands from the same Thomas Mason collection, and so shirts wouldn’t be exclusive to PS. You will probably see it this season being used by Emmett and Sid Mashburn, among others.
It is exclusive to PS as cut lengths, however, for all those that have their shirts bespoke or made-to-measure.
- The linen cloth weighs 123-129 g/m2
- Like the other PS cloths, it is shipped in 2m lengths, which is generally good enough for someone up to 6’3’’ in height. But it also depends on your other measurements, so best to check with your shirtmaker
- If you want to send it straight to a shirtmaker, put them as the shipping address, including your name as a reference. And let the maker know it’s coming
- It is available to buy on the PS Shop here
I love this shirt, and really look forward to wearing it this summer. It’s so rare I find colour and pattern that I really like, so this is an enjoyable exception.
It’s an added bonus that it already looks like a lived-in favourite.
Photography: Jamie Ferguson
*This was the second jacket Biagio made me, which also didn’t fit especially well - it looks fine unless you do it up! I’ve since given it away.
I think this is the first time of selling a third party product that you’ve had no hand in designing… I understand it’s servicing a need but wondered if this will be the start of a new direction?
Oh, so that’s how the second Biagio jacket ended up. I had mistaken it for your Zizolfi tweed jacket.
This new shirting is a superb offering. So striking without looking like it’s shouting for anyone’s attention!
Oh good. Precisely the aim
Gosh, a bit of a mash up.
The origins of Madras cloth call for cotton, designed to be worn in the very warm climate in India, but subsequently exported, mainly to UK.
So to make from linen and then match to tweed is quite imaginative.
It then gets into what our American friends call plaid; a pattern they use to make trousers!!
I would keep with the original idea, wearing “Madras” inspired shirt on hot days with shorts.
Yes the tweed is quite adventurous in that respect, but I’m liking linen shirts at the moment, particularly in transitional weather and under knitwear.
Personally I think it’s almost nicer in linen than cotton, but then the origins don’t matter to me that much.
It complements the faded colours on the GMT bezel of your watch quite nicely. I’ve always considered the combination of linen, which I largely associate with warm temperatures and sunny environments, with dark denim a little incongruous, perhaps because so much of the linen shirts I see knocking about are either very flouncy in appearance or are very brightly coloured. This seems to work rather well however.
Thanks. I think it helps that both are fairly neat cuts.
That said, it goes as well and possibly even better with mid- or light-wash denim
Simon, any plans to release fully made-up shirts in this madras linen?
Also, even if the fit of the jacket didn’t live up to expectations, the cloth looks beautiful. Is it the same as your Zizolfi jacket?
No, sorry John, no plans.
No, the cloth is different – it was from Abraham Moon I believe.
This is an amazing color scheme that blends well with jeans, a pair of khakis or linen trousers. I’m curious did you wear boots or loafers in this shoot? I’m considering purchasing this shirt and need some helpful recommendations.
A loafer – Alden colour 8 burgundy. Would be nice with something light as well though, like tan
Love it. I do think that Permanent Style and tailoring more generally can be a bit po faced sometimes. Life isn’t just about looking good, it’s also about having fun. And you can do both as this shirt nearly shows.
“Neatly shows” not “nearly shows”. Damn you autocorrect.
amazing cool linen fabrics, just reserved the length.
thanks, you always find the valuable items.
I think this is a great looking cloth, well suited to summer wear with, as you say, a wide range of colour match options.
Why though, if it is evidently not Madras, do you use the word? Wouldn’t nice checked linen suffice?
I think it’s clearly Madras-inspired – in a similar way to Donegal being used as a pattern on a cashmere jacket, say.
That material is beautiful in colour and subtlety (compared to traditional madras cloth) and I love the shirt . Are you going to do a separate post about the shirt itself? I ask as I bought some (less subtle) linen madras shirting material from the Baird McNutt factory in NI on a recent visit, so I am very keen to know more about the choices you made and the rationale behind them – especially the collar construction. I always associate Madras with BD, but I was a bit concerned about how a BD collar would sit with such a loose weave of material.
Finally, will you have some material at the pop-up? I may be tempted if you do…
The shirt is my standard cut from Simone Abbarchi, so there is some content in the shirt if you search.
I was 50:50 between this and a button-down, and the latter would have been a more natural fit, but I think this works too thanfully
That fabric would be exceptional as a broad-fall spearpoint collared Western shirt with snap buttons in caramel streaked faux ivory. It reminds me of one that one of my Uncles had, when I was growing up. If memory serves, and I’ll have to check the photograph to be sure; his shirt had faded red bandana material for the shoulder yokes. I might consider purchasing some to have one made up, for memories.
Couldn’t see it clearly in the photos – is the collar a button-down? What collar style do you prefer for this type of shirting?
No, it’s a spread collar, but a button-down would have worked nicely as well
VAT wasn’t taken off from my purchase (from USA). How come? Thanks
We quote prices without VAT. If you had been in the EU, 20% would have been added at the checkout
Simon the color of your jacket would look great as a darker green on the green Escorial cloth you’re offering. Maybe more muted, but certainly darker would be good. Would you consider that?
Perhaps in the future, yes.
Do you have a breast pocket on this Simon? Why or why not? It can look cute, in a good way, with the playful colors.
No. Personally I don’t like breast pockets on shirts like this, unless they’re more casual in material (cord, brushed cotton, heavy denim etc)
Simon—I notice your predilection to wearing shirts open at the collar with two buttons undone, winter or summer. Do you wear undershirts or tanks? If so, which do you prefer and when?
Yes, I think this is more flattering, on me and actually on most men.
No, I don’t wear an undershirt or vest. (It’s rare in the UK)
Would really appreciate your response Simon, for those who wear dress shirts but have issues with nips showing (with a shirt or not). Any advice?
A more densely woven shirt is probably the best option – usually a twill or a herringbone. Or a heavier version of most cloths.
Aside from buying new clothes, I’d think the best option is a vest or undershirt?
Not a fan. Keep it simple.
Hi Simon, this is an interesting and unique cloth. I have purchased one.
How do you decide on which shirtmaker to use for your shirts, e.g. Luca Avitabile, Simone Abbarchi and 100hands?
A combination of cost and style. Simon is the cheapest, then Luca, then 100 Hands, largely in line with extra hand work.
And in terms of style, it’s about collars – eg nearly all my button-downs are from Luca, because I like his particular button-down collar so much.
I love the pattern och color scheme! Looking forward to making a shirt in this material! Do you have any thoughts in regards to interlining if I’m planning on having a button down collar similar to your everyday denim shirt?
If you want something similar to that, then you want a lightweight fusing for the interlining. Which is what I prefer on all my shirts anyway.
Simon I am surprised that you promote the idea of having a soft fused interlining on so casual a linen short.
I personally find fusing on any kind of collar a poor option, but on something like this is just seems the wrong way to go. And if you fuse the collar you also have to fuse the cuffs.
To be honest, I think there’s a little snobbery around fusing. I’ve always found it performs better and looks better than any other construction. It rolls naturally yet moulds its form over the day. It’s not as unshaped as no lining, nor as unforgiving as a floating lining. The fact it involves glue is irrelevant compared to the effect.
I hope that makes sense. There’s obviously a longer conversation to have there at some point, should we wish.
I would not say it had anything to do with snobbishness. Unfused collars were how things were traditionally done. Same with the canvas of a coat. Fusing was developed as an aid to mass production.
In the same way that you would never advocate a fused canvas, I would never advocate a fused interlining on a shirt. Neither are snobby though, are they?
I’d probably have a shirt in this fabric made without any lining actually though.
All the best.
Yes good points about it being the original production method, and introduced to help mass production. I don’t think either affect the view that the fused collar looks and performs better though, which are surely the most important factors.
By snobbishness, I meant that I know some men think fused collars must be worse, because of those reasons you mention, or because they are easier and cheaper to make than a floating collar. But that is to have the logic rather back to front. The important thing is the end product.
History is full of examples of products that have been improved by newer, often mechanised techniques. A small example would be hand linking on socks – I wrote a while ago how it’s one thing that’s quoted as being a sign of quality in socks. But actually when I visited Bresciani years ago, they said there was a machine that could do it just as well – they just couldn’t afford the machine yet.
Anyway, good points and discussion. Thanks for them David, and I hope the shirt with unlined collar and cuffs looks great.
Thanks for the comments and suggestions in regards to collar fusing. I would find i interesting as an area for a future post. I’m guessing it boils down to that there is no “optimal” type of interlining/fusing, but that different types produce different results. My own experience is that not having interlining or fusing with some types of cloth produces a collar that quickly collapses (especially linnen and flannel). But I’ve found that a sturdy oxford cloth works great without interlining or fusing to create a less formal collar without becoming to sloppy.
Curious as I am it would be fun to see the results from others using the same cloth. Could it be an idea to create a common hashtag for people to use in instagram so that it would be easy to search and get inspiration? The same idea would also apply to the other cloths you sell.
Nice idea on the post, yes. Unsure whether the hashtag would catch on but we can try!
I grew up with regular trips to India, and spent many years at school not far from Madras (or Chennai if you prefer) and my associations with this pattern aren’t particularly positive. I must say though, what you’ve pulled off here is imaginative and has given me pause to reconsider those associations.
A lovely perspective, and a lovely compliment, thank you. It is nice when something that is often associated with cheap fabrics (denim as well) is improved in quality yet still keeps some of the original character, I think
I opened the article first thing this morning and thought you had gone a little mad….I have revisited the photos about 3 times today and now I am seriously seeing the appeal and thinking about ordering and how to wear it… you have done it again!! Incidentally Do you have a stock of the cloths available at the pop up?? I noticed the white and stripe are now sold out online.
No, sorry Adam, the stock in the shop will be the same as online
Simon how do you think this would look as a short sleeve?
Ooo, good question. I hadn’t even thought of that.
I think it would be really nice – just as long as the short-sleeve shirt is a good cut. Which for me would be a slightly shorter sleeve, slightly narrower, perhaps with a turnback.
Simon do you think the outfit would look a little too loud if the madras were worn the beige linen trousers you recently posted on IG (worn your Drake’s polo)?
It would look very summery and southern European, but then most things do worn with light linen trousers like that.
Personally I’d only wear the combination when it was very sunny, or when travelling to somewhere like that.
Simon, you mentioned this cloth has gone through some washing process hence the muted and very much more subtle look to it and I noticed the Emmett version you referred to looks very much brighter on their website. I was wondering if the PS version is different (or whether it’s down to website presentation?) and if so given the prices for RTW shirts then a MTM option from Simone seems doubly attractive.
Yes, good point Kev, it is different in terms of washing. Every brand picks a different level of washing from the mill, and mine is different to the Emmett one.
Slight tangent: what differentiates Madras from plaid? Is it mostly about Madras having bright, vibrant colours while plaid are darker or deeper colours? Or are there characteristic Madras patterns also?
Plaid is originally Scottish and a tartan check. In the US, it is used today to refer to almost any kind of check, but not really used at all in the UK.
Madras retains a narrower use, with patterns often being in tartan checks though not necessarily, but really defined by its colours, and uneven/hand-woven/faded look. In some ways the slubbiness and openness of linen is good in that respect, being similar to the original rough, hand-woven cottons from India.
Reda do some superb Madras for sports jackets. My next project.
Is this the Emmett version (£175) – https://www.emmettlondon.com/products/multi-colour-summer-linen-check-shirt3297931940? It looks slightly different to me.
Also, will next week’s pop-up in Savile Row be affected by the Coronavirus crisis? I am very wary of taking a 45-50 minute journey, by train and tube, into central London. I suspect others will be too.
It is, but the wash and therefore overall colour will be different to the one we used.
I should have been clearer about that – the exact washes used by the RTW brands are different and therefore the cloth won’t be the same as ours.
On the pop-up, we’ve just announced it has had to be postponed… very frustrating
Yours looks much better. Strangely Emmet claims theirs is 100% cotton.
Huh. I was told it was the same as mine, just a different wash. Perhaps a typo their end
My guess is that it’s a typo, their title is: “MULTI COLOUR SUMMER LINEN CHECK SHIRT”, but in specifications it says 100% cotton, so they have missed something…
Ahh mate, give me a jacket in that!
How does shrinkage work on this shirt? Do you have a one button rounded cuff?
No significant shrinkage – 1-3%, like most high-end cottons. It will wrinkle and shorten the arms a little though, as with all linen.
Yes, one button and rounded.
As for care, you’d just iron this shirt on a linen setting?
I think this a really great cloth. I would not have thought about it looking at bespoke fabrics but will probably order the cloth.
I like the idea of the western style shirt somebody mentioned, but I would keep the cut simple.
If I wanted to wear with just trousers with it in a British summer – assuming no rain and the current zombie apocalypse ending favourably- any recommendations on (post-apocalyptic) trousers to wear with the shirt.
Also is your shirt tight around the chest? The check is distorted at the third button- or is it just due to movement/position ?
Just movement really, it’s not tight.
In terms of trousers I’d suggest:
– cream linen
– pale beige cottons/chinos
– dark olive linen or cotton
Hi Simon, on a side note, any plans of a PS Chino maybe in the same colours as the shorts? Love the material, even though the colours are out there, they compliment each other. Great choice!
But no, no current plans. There’s nothing I specifically want in a chino that’s really lacking in the market – which is what all PS products need to have.
I have a question Simon,For a first denim shirt would you go for light denim or everyday denim? I live in LA. Cheerio
I think it depends how much you like and already wear denim shirts.
Everyday Denim is more like another denim shirt in its colour, and would be worn as such. It’s a bit more unusual that other shirts, and some people can find it harder to combine with tailoring.
Lighter Denim is more like a regular smart blue shirt in its colouring, but with that denim touch and fading. If you’re mostly going to be wearing the shirt with tailoring, that might be an easier place to start.
Would it be possible to offer the button-down Friday polo as a cloth? And maybe the light-weight version too? I’d love to have the cloth made bespoke since RTW doesn’t fit me.
Of the three button-down Friday polo colors, which is the most versatile Simon?
The cloth is readily available – it is from Caccioppoli, and any shirtmaker can buy it and use it.
When we offer cloth, it is because that cloth is not available anywhere else – it is something we have usually developed ourselves, or bought uniquely, because it is not available otherwise.
I hope that makes sense.
I think the navy is the most useful probably, followed by the white
beautiful fabric and I will probably order one length for a shirt.
Wondering if this fabric is suitable for some shorts? What do you think?
Thanks a lot in advance and best regards,
No, it would be too light in weight for shorts. Sorry!
I had completely forgotten that I had bought a length of this fabric until I received an email from Luca Avitabile saying my shirt was ready. A nice surprise for summer!
What do you think of camp collar shirts, and what colour would go best with jeans and chinos?
As a casual option, loose in the body, short and untucked, I think they can look nice. Just be aware that the low collar and square body is not that flattering or longer necked or slimmer guys.
White linen would be a great colour for summer, or navy or chambray. I also like them with a vest or tee underneath. They’re fairly versatile in that way.
Hi simon i intend to use the cloth to do a camp collar long sleeve shirt to be worn untucked in the summer with shorts. Besides navy, what other color shorts would work?
Certainly cream and olive
hi simon, am looking to purchase your madras linen cloth to be made up as a shirt. I’m considering washing the fabric first before sending them to my tailor. Would you recommend this?
No I wouldn’t Shem. Firstly because it is already washed, so shouldn’t need it. And second because it’s worth letting the shirtmaker assess the cloth and see what it needs, rather than guessing for them.
Hey Simon – curious, are you planning to do a linen make-up of your own? I’m wondering if there are any gaps you can fill there. Many thanks,
You mean selling linen shirts ourselves? Not at the moment. The only gap I could see was good patterns, like this Madras. But if you think there are any do let me know!
I don’t have enough perspective, having only looked through a couple linen shirting books, to offer a worthwhile suggestion on the gap. But what I can point to is the feeling that the cloth is different somehow.
It strikes me that what you identify as the vintage characteristic of the cloth is unique in more than just the faded patterning. I find the weave to be atypical as well.
Again, I don’t have a wide perspective to draw on here. But I would like to find more linen like this.
Thanks Miles, and that’s all still very useful.
Hi Simon, i just bought a length of this for a button down. I decided not to have a placket and chest pocket because they will break up the check pattern and look messy, i think. For the same reason, i am considering having no box pleat as it will likewise make the back look messy (i am having it made up according to a house block as i cannot get to a shirt maker for bespoke, hence i though a box pleat might help the fit). Am i worrying too much about these things features breaking up the pattern, or is the effect small? I guess this applies to all checked shirtings.
I wouldn’t worry too much about any of those point John. And the breast pocket could potentially be matched to the body for the check, presuming there’s enough cloth
Great, thanks for your thoughts Simon. As you have no doubt noticed across PS, when someone is new to good clothing like this there can be a tendency to over-think things, and it is only through experience that we learn what makes a difference and what doesn’t. That’s just one of the reasons why PS is such a fantastic resource, and reduces the number of mistakes newbies like me make. Cheers.
Oh good, pleased to hear it John
Just a quick follow-up to say that i had the shirt made up by Prologue remotely under their very well-priced MTO option (according to their house block) and i received the shirt today. Very happy with it, and the subtle burst of colours/patterns is a great addition to my almost all-blue shirt collection.
Thanks again for bringing this fabric to us, Simon.
Oh good, so pleased to hear that John. Thanks for following up and letting me know
Bought this from you and love it! I had also made up by Simone.
One question i had, not a criticism at all.. more something I wanted to know for my own ability to commission shirts well – I wondered why you didn’t choose a front placket on this? I find many casual shirts have one.
All the best,
True Chris, they do and this would look good with one. In retrospect I probably should have had one.
Interesting you say that – why out of interest? My thinking as to your choice was probably that the placket might curl up due to the linen, and perhaps be harder to wear under tailoring.
No, there wouldn’t be any functional downside like that.
It’s just that a placket is a bit more casual, so it might have suited the pattern better
With summer coming up, any chance this madras cloth will be available again in your PS shop? Please?
Yes, we have reordered it so it should be in fairly soon. As ever, waiting list with the support team is the best way to get first notification
Dear Simon, will it ever restocked?
No, I’m afraid not. The mill say they cannot produce it any more
Shame really, but perhaps some other madras linen could be made? They seem to be quite unusual compared to cotton.
They are, yes. That would be great, we just need to find a different mill as Thomas Mason don’t seem to be able to get the washing right anymore